FIA president backs WHO call to ban tobacco firm sponsorship

WHO asks governments to penalise motorsport teams carrying branding.

FIA president backs WHO call to ban tobacco firm sponsorship

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Jean Todt, the president of the International Automobile Federation (FIA), has backed a World Health Organisation (WHO) demand for tobacco sponsorship to be banned at all sporting events, including motorsports.

Tobacco advertising has been banned from FIA-organised events since 2006 after the World Motor Sport Council voted on its expulsion in November 2001.

However, the WHO insists more can be done to ‘reduce the consumption of tobacco products’ after some companies have announced branding campaigns as part of partnerships with Formula One and MotoGP racing teams. 

The WHO is urging governments to pass new domestic laws that ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship at all sporting occasions their nations either host or broadcast.

The body is also calling on racing bodies to make their events smoke-free and to ensure their activities and participants, including race teams, do not carry branding by tobacco companies, and has even suggested introducing penalties for those that do.

Its demands follow Ferrari’s and McLaren’s decisions to drop branding by tobacco sponsors for this weekend’s Formula One season-opener in Melbourne, amid pressure by health authorities in Australia.  

Speaking in a press conference ahead of the Australian Grand Prix, Todt said: “Since many years tobacco advertising is forbidden, so I mean I completely support WHO position. There’s little more we can say on that.

“But we are aligned very closely with the WHO [and] Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, the director general of the WHO. We are aligned with their position.”

The US tobacco Philip Morris International (PMI), a long-term partner to Ferrari, returned branding to the Italian Formula One racing team’s car and driver overalls last season, by introducing its ‘Mission Winnow’ campaign.

The company claims that the branding, which is also carried by the MotoGP team Ducati, promotes its research on ‘less harmful alternatives to cigarettes’, while McLaren announced last month the launch of a similar promotion called ‘A Better Tomorrow’, as part of a multi-year partnership with tobacco producer British American Tobacco (BAT).

Though both teams say the campaigns are not geared towards promoting tobacco-based products and have agreed to remove branding for this weekend’s Formula One return, the WHO says it is not convinced.

In part, WHO’s statement read: ‘In making this announcement, BAT indicated that the multi-year partnership will provide a global platform to drive greater resonance of certain products, including glo, a heated tobacco product. This statement suggests that the company’s intent is to promote tobacco use,’ WHO’s statement read.

‘In the case of Philip Morris International (PMI), the company has created a new logo Mission Winnow to be carried by Ferrari on cars, and Ducati on motorbikes, that previously carried branding for the cigarette brand Marlboro.’

‘The actions of the companies result in advertisement and promotion of tobacco products and tobacco use to the world at large, including young people. Tobacco product advertising and promotion occurs both in countries that host events and in countries that receive transmissions of these events.

‘[The] WHO urges governments to implement their domestic laws banning tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship in the strongest possible ways. This may include issuing penalties applicable under domestic laws and taking preventative action, such as by preventing screening of events that violate domestic laws.’