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Tobacco sponsorship of Formula One must stop, say health experts

As the British Grand Prix gets underway this weekend, a team of international public health experts is calling for a comprehensive ban on sports sponsorship by transnational tobacco companies (TTCs), and the closing of the loopholes which enable the continuing use of Formula One as a means of peddling the tobacco pandemic.

Writing in today's British Medical Journal1, Jeff Collin of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and colleagues from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, USA are pushing for widespread implementation of the World Health Organisation's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and the development of a more powerful protocol to prevent TTCs from taking advantage of the laxity of Formula One.

Tobacco is the second major cause of death in the world. It is currently responsible for the deaths of one in ten adults worldwide (about 5 million deaths each year). If current smoking patterns continue, it will cause 10 million deaths each year by 2025. Half the people that smoke today - that is about 650 million people - will eventually be killed by tobacco2, and most of those deaths will be in the developing world.

Regulation has curtailed more direct forms of tobacco advertising, making sport sponsorship central to the marketing operations of TTCs, and tobacco sponsorship of motor sports remains an efficient way to reach boys and adolescent males. Races are increasingly being held in key emerging markets throughout Asia with either minimal regulation or negotiated exemptions.

In an unprecedented step, British American Tobacco (BAT) even established its own Formula One racing team, British American Racing, in 1999. This was a new development in the relationship between motor sports and TTCs in that the team was named after the sponsor, rather than the car manufacturer in contrast to, say, the Ferrari team which also has tobacco company sponsorship.

The paper's release coincides with this week
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Contact: Lindsay Wright
lindsay.wright@lshtm.ac.uk
020-7927-2073
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
8-Jul-2004


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