Put that in your pipe and smoke it

At the same time that Australian Grand Prix chief executive Ron Walker was saying that his race would have nothing to do with the Grand Prix World Championship (GPWC), the Australian government was busy announcing that it is one of 34 countries which have now ratified the World Health Organization's anti-tobacco treaty, known as the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Six more signatures and the treaty will become international law for those countries which have signed. The other recent signatory was France.

The Australian GP currently has the good fortune to enjoy an exemption from the country's Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act of 1992 which took effect in July 1993. This included an exemption from the general ban on tobacco advertising for major international sporting and cultural events that would be lost to Australia in the absence of an exemption. Four events qualify for exemption under the legislation: the Australian Grand Prix, the Motorcycle Grand Prix, the Indy 300 and Rally Australia. The Minister for Health and Aged Care announced in September 1998 that all tobacco sponsorship for international sporting events held in Australia would be phased out by 2006 and in November 2000 the government voted through the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Amendment Act which ruled that there will be no more exemptions after October 1 2006.

While the Formula One group continues to push for events which allow tobacco sponsorship and makes life difficult those who do not allow it (as we have seen in Belgium and Canada), the signs are that Australia may be spared such a conflict as the tobacco companies now seem to be convinced not only that they must stop sponsorships at the end of 2006 but also that it might be wiser to stop before the ultimate deadlines across the world, to curry favour with some of the governments which are looking at cracking down on such lucrative things as cigarette vending machines.

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