ASH challenges British Tobacco company for using World Cup cricket to market cigarettes to third world children

Friday 28 May 1999

ASH Press Release – 28th May 1999 – 
For immediate release

ASH has today made a formal complaint about the violation of agreements governing tobacco sponsorship of sporting events. British American Tobacco is using the World Cup Cricket tournament to market one of their cigarette brands to children in the Third World, through the Wills sponsorship of the Indian Cricket Team.The Wills logo is clearly visible on the shirts of the Indian team, and child-size replica T-shirts are available internationally (1). On the eve of the big match between England and India at Edgbaston, and in advance of World No Tobacco Day on Monday (2), ASH is calling for World Cup Cricket ’99 to go tobacco free.

ASH is concerned that the use of the Wills logo on the shirts of the Indian team will encourage more children in India to smoke. A study of Indian children published in the BMJ in 1996, concluded that cricket sponsorship by tobacco companies increased children’s likelihood of experimentation with tobacco(3).

ASH believes that the Wills sponsorship contravenes two voluntary agreements between the Government and the tobacco industry, which govern the conduct of the industry (4). We have today written to COMATAS, the committee which monitors both agreements, to lodge an official complaint (5).

The marketing of child-size T-shirts displaying the logo of a BAT brand also contradicts assurances given to an ASH campaigner by BAT Chairman Martin Broughton at BAT’s recent AGM (6). Clive Bates, Director of ASH, has written to BAT asking how BAT’s promotion of the Wills brand on children’s cricket shirts equates with BAT’s new desire to be seen as a “responsible company in a controversial industry” (7).

ASH is also arguing that the organisers of the Cricket World Cup 1999, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), should take steps to make the event totally tobacco-free, following the examples set by the Soccer World Cup and the Olympics. We are calling on the ECB to request that the Indian team cover up the Wills logos on their shirts.

Health campaigners in India have called for the Wills sponsorship of the Indian team to be stopped. Earlier this month, the Voluntary Health Association of India filed a Public Interest Litigation in the Delhi High Court, seeking that the Wills sponsorship contract with the Indian Cricket Team is cancelled (8).

Emma Must, International Campaign Manager at ASH, commented:

“With World No Tobacco Day coming up on Monday, the England and Wales Cricket Board should seize this opportunity to make the rest of the World Cup tobacco free. They should ask the Indian team to remove the Wills logos from their shirts. Indian children must not become victims of the British tobacco industry “.

Taposh Roy of the Voluntary Health Association of India, said:

“The Wills sponsorship has to be stopped. It is not popularising cricket in India, but hooking young people to the deadly smoking habit. The playing fields of India must not be turned into mass graves where children lie buried. It is this realisation which has to seep into the Board of Cricket Control in India who have been accepting tobacco sponsorships.”


(1) Official World Cup Cricket replica shirts in the Indian Team colours, displaying the Wills logo, are available in child sizes from the MCC shop at Lords, in high street sports shops and by international mail order fromthe official Cricket World Cup website.<ahref=”http: .=”” ahref=”” http:”=”” worldcup=””””>

<ahref=”http: .=”” ahref=”” http:”=”” worldcup=””””>(2) World No Tobacco Day is organised annuallyon the 31st May by the World Health Organisation to generate public awareness of the dangers of smoking and stimulate action.

(3) ‘Effects of sports sponsorship by tobacco companies on children’s experimentation with tobacco’, S. G Vaidya, U DNaik, and J S Vaidya, BMJ 313, 17 August 1996.

(4) The Fourth Agreement on Sponsorship of Sport by Tobacco Companies in the UK (1995) and the Voluntary Agreement on Tobacco Product’s Advertising and Promotion (1994).

(5) COMATAS is the Committee for Monitoring Agreements on Tobacco Advertising and Sponsorship. It is composed of representatives from the Government departments concerned (ie Culture, Media and Sport, and Health) and the tobacco industry in equal numbers.

(6) When asked at BAT’s AGM on 29 April about the marketing of child-size t-shirts bearing BAT brand logos in Vietnam, Broughton replied that “there is no company policy to target children”. He added that a specific T-shirt referred to was “probably a counterfeit”.

(7) See website of BAT subsidiary Brown and Williamson ([on July 30, 2004, the U.S. operations of Brown & Williamson merged with R.J. Reynolds, creating a new publicly traded parent company, Reynolds American Inc.]

(8) The Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI) Public Interest Litigation was filed in the Delhi High Court on 13 May 1999.According to VHAI, the litigation “seeks to enforce article 21 of the Constitution of India and prevent irreparable harm being caused to the lives of millions of cricket loving Indian children and youth from cigarette smoking as a result of cigarette advertising and cricket sponsorships”. The next hearing has been fixed for 23rd July 1999.