Anti-smoking momentum continues

Rubens Barrichello, Italian GP 2003

Rubens Barrichello, Italian GP 2003 

 © The Cahier Archive

The number of signatories of the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control continues to rise and has now hit 70 with the signing of Argentina, Chile, Guatemala, Slovenia, Samoa, Tonga and Trinida & Tobago. The inclusion of Argentina will have serious implications for any bids for a Formula 1 race although the country's economic problems in recent months have been such that a revival of the race in Buenos Aires was never really very practical, even if Bernie Ecclestone recently met Argentina's vice-president Daniel Scioli to discuss the possibility of a race. The new government in Buenos Aires was considering using F1 to improve its international image in order to attract foreign investment. The last Argentine Grand Prix took place in 1998 but Ecclestone has said that he would like to see F1 returning. That however is now very unlikely.

The world's anti-tobacco treaty will come into force as soon as 40 of the 192 signatories ratify the agreement. At the moment only two of the 70 signatories have ratified the deal and it is expected to take two or three years for the necessary numbers to complete ratification. Beyond that there will still be time for racing to take money from the tobacco industry because countries will still have to enact their own local legislation but all signatories are bound to "undertake a comprehensive ban of all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship" which will include a comprehensive ban on cross-border advertising, promotion and sponsorship originating from its territory.

The tobacco companies recognize that their time in bed with F1 is running out and have anticipated a global ban by the end of 2006 and have even agreed a document called "International Tobacco Products Marketing Standards" in which they created a common advertising and sponsorship standards which included an agreement to end sports sponsorships on December 1, 2006.

The FIA supports the WHO program but is still fighting the EU over the decision to bring in a Europe-wide tobacco advertising ban starting on July 31, 2005, 18 months ahead of the original EU plan. It cannot insist that racing teams stop using tobacco money but has issued a recommendation that promoters, circuit owners, event organizers, teams, and drivers "should cease all forms of tobacco sponsorship from October 1, 2006".

Increasingly, tobacco sponsorships will no-longer be cost-effective as new restrictions arrive making the sport less and less attractive to tobacco companies. The trend towards ending the racing link with tobacco has been seen with the withdrawal of Winston from NASCAR and the announcement that Players is stopping all of its motor racing activities because of Canadian government legislation.

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