OCTOBER 21, 2003
Tobacco and China
According to reports from the Xinhua news agency in China, the Chinese Grand Prix has yet to get clearance for Formula 1 cars to run with tobacco branding at the inaugural Chinese GP next year.
Article 18 of the 1994 Advertising Law of the People's Republic of China the use of "radio, movies, television, newspaper and magazines to disseminate tobacco advertisements is banned. The setting up of tobacco advertisements in public places, including all kinds of waiting rooms, cinemas and theatres, meeting rooms and halls, sports stadia, etc, is banned."
The law also states that other tobacco advertisements must carry a notice that "Smoking is harmful to health".
However since then the Chinese have made exceptions allowing China's tobacco giants to sponsor teams in the soccer first division where the Hongta tobacco company supports the Yunnan Hongta team and in volleyball where the Hangzhou Cigarette Factory's Liqun brand is used to support the Zhejiang Liqun team.
Yu Zhifei, deputy general manager of the Shanghai International Circuit Company, says he is not worried.
"Chinese people are wise enough to deal with such matters," he said. "We are working very hard to negotiate with various departments and will achieve our goal."
Shi Tianshu, the president of the China Motor Racing Federation, says that he does not believe there will be a problem.
"F1 will bring enormous ads and commercial value and improve a lot of related industry and local employment, he said.
"China is a developing country, so development should be a priority. I do not think tobacco ads from F1 will directly lead to an increase in the number of smokers."
But the anti-smoking lobby disagrees.
"It is illegal if there are tobacco ads in next year's F1 event," says Yang Gonghuan, vice-president of China Smoke and Health Association. "It would be a big step backward in our tobacco control."
At the moment, however, China is not a signatory of the World Health Organization's Convention on Tobacco Control. It is, however, a vast and important target for the WHO, being both the largest tobacco producer and consumer of tobacco in the world.
The contract between the Chinese and Formula One is not a public document but it is certain to include a clause which allows the F1 teams to pull out if tobacco sponsorship is banned.
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