Tougher action needed to counter tobacco industry influence in Formula One

07/07/04

British American Tobacco and Formula One motor racing BMJ Volume 329, pp 104-6

As the British Grand Prix approaches, researchers in this week's BMJ call for tougher worldwide action to counter the tobacco industry's influence in Formula One.

Tobacco companies are increasingly reliant on sports sponsorship to advertise their products as more direct forms of tobacco advertising are curtailed by regulation.

In 1999, British American Tobacco (BAT) established its own Formula One racing team, British American Racing, giving the company more visibility than sponsorship.

The British American Racing car was a strategic decision to accomplish several business goals, write the authors. Internal company documents show that it has played a key part in promoting brand awareness, targeting children and young people through extensive television coverage, and reaching emerging Asian markets through planned race sponsorship.

During its first four years and a $500m investment by BAT, the team has never achieved higher than fifth place, but the partnership has been rather more successful in the business of selling cigarettes, they say.

Furthermore, Formula One seems comparatively content to be reliant on funding by tobacco companies and to be used to advance their global interests, they add. For instance, it has abandoned its commitment to be free of tobacco sponsorship by 2006 and is establishing races in countries with fewer advertising regulations.

Both the BAT documents and these recent events highlight how Formula One has become a core feature in the ongoing globalisation of the tobacco pandemic, say the authors. They urge all countries to ratify the WHO's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control to stop the continued use of Formula One racing to promote tobacco products.

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