Honda website
Honda website

SEPTEMBER 21, 2004

When does tobacco sponsorship stop?

For most of 2004 there have been attempts going on behind the scenes to get the British government to do something about its Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act of 2002 which makes any person who is party to a sponsorship agreement guilty of an offence if the purpose is to promote tobacco products in the UK.

This means that any tobacco sponsorship involving a British-based company is illegal even if there is no race in Britain because TV pictures of the cars will be broadcast from aboard into the UK. There are five teams in F1 that rely on tobacco funding: Ferrari (Marlboro), BAR (Lucky Strike), Renault (Mild Seven), McLaren (West) and Jordan (Benson & Hedges). All would run into trouble with this law as all involve companies which are based in Britain.

But at the moment the lobbying does not seem to have been successful although teams say that things will be sorted. However, it is hard to see how this will happen as tobacco sponsorship is still a political hot potato because of the 1997 scandal over donations made by Bernie Ecclestone to the Labour Party. An election is due in Britain at some point within the next few months, with the latest possible date being June next year. Obviously the government is keen to avoid any move that would lead to bad publicity. The new law comes into effect on June 30, 2005 and will be enforced because if it is not the very active anti-smoking lobby in Britain will take legal action. At the moment, therefore, none of the F1 teams can plan on having tobacco sponsorship beyond June 30 next year.

International tobacco advertising is due to end on December 1, 2006 thanks to an voluntary deal known as the International Tobacco Products Marketing Standards Agreement which was agreed by the biggest tobacco companies in 2001. This undertakes to remove sponsorship from any event unless there is no less than 75% adult attendance, unless there is a reasonable basis upon which to believe that the event will not appeal to youth, and unless success does not require above-average physical fitness for someone of the age group of those taking part. It is very clear that Formula 1 does requires above-average physical fitness.

This deal was signed by representatives of Philip Morris (Marlboro), British American Tobacco (Lucky Strike) and Japan Tobacco (Mild Seven).

In America there is no doubt that motor racing sponsorship will stop on December 1, 2006, Philip Morris USA being quite open with the information that the sponsorship of Team Penske in the Indy Racing League will end.

"We will voluntarily discontinue our brand sponsorship of auto racing by December 1, 2006," the company says on its website.