Tobacco & formula 1: hole in the Government case

Thursday 20 November 1997

ASH/ Press releases/


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Press release21 November 1997 ASH
Action on Smoking
and Health

Tobacco and Formula One – holes in the Government’s case

The Government’s case for exempting Formula One from a ban on tobacco sponsorshiprests on a series of untested assertions. A particularly concerning aspect of this sagahas been the way in which the Government appears to have no substantial analytical basisfor its arguments and the ease with which it has uncritically repeated the case made bythe Formula One industry.

  1. Market for replacement sponsorship not assessed. It is assumed that no replacement sponsorship will be found if tobacco is driven out. However, it is a fantastically attractive TV sport and there are Formula One teams that do compete without tobacco money, for example Stewart Racing, or with far less than Williams or Ferrari. Tobacco money may actually be a block to potential sponsors because of inflated entry-prices and negative associations of tobacco.
  2. Voluntary agreement will not work. It is claimed that a world-wide voluntary agreement limiting tobacco advertising will deliver more than an EU advertising ban. The deal proposed by the Formula One industry would only remove tobacco logos from helmets and tunics, but leave the far more important trackside and on-car advertising in place. The tobacco companies have already side-stepped UK restrictions on logos by using Bitten and Hisses in place of Benson and Hedges and R? instead of Rothmans. The Formula One offer is a central plank of the Government’s case, but it is basically worthless. Also, by publicly conceding its position before negotiating the agreement, the Government has lost its bargaining power.
  3. TV regulation could be used. It is assumed that the sport will move out of Europe and that unrestricted tobacco advertising will be beamed back to Europe by TV. The Government has not even properly examined the option to place duties on broadcasters to prevent tobacco advertising at Formula One events being shown in the EU. TV cigarette advertising has been banned since 1965: why not extend this to Formula One and require the broadcasters to negotiate removal of tobacco advertising?
  4. Trade-off with health not examined. The interests of motor-sport have been regarded as paramount in this debate. At no point have Ministers conceded that it might be right for motor-sport to reduce its dependence on tobacco if it means a reduction in the addiction and death attributable to smoking. A small reduction in tobacco consumption makes a huge difference to health, even 2% would save over 1,000 lives per year. There is no analysis available from the Government that shows how the value of Formula One has been traded off against health.
  5. Jobs. The spectre of extremely large job losses has been raised, with numbers approaching 50,000 mentioned. In fact F1 employs 7-8,000 and the prospect of these disappearing is remote as the F1 teams are unlikely to simply up and move as they are too heavily integrated into the local economy. The most likely casualty of reduced sponsorship would be the massively inflated drivers’ salaries – rather than lay-offs of mechanics or component manufacturers etc.

To our best knowledge, there is no detailed analysis that challenges any of thesepoints or the equivalent and opposite arguments made by the FIA. It is unlikely thatMinisters will continue to make their case without being challenged on these points inSelect Committees or the Council meeting on 4th December.

Contact Clive Bates, Director (020) 7739 5902
Amanda Sandford, Communications Director (020) 7739 5902

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