Tobacco companies have spent billions on advertising with Formula One (F1) teams over the years, and are again increasing their spending despite a supposed ban a new report has revealed.
The report, titled Driving Addiction: F1 and Tobacco Advertising F1, is the initiative of industry monitor Formula Money and the tobacco industry watchdog STOP.
In its pages, the report noted that in F1’s 70 year history, its teams and events have garnered $US4.4 billion in advertising and sponsorship from the tobacco giants.
Many countries that host an F1 race banned tobacco advertising well over a decade ago. That forced teams sponsored by tobacco companies to either cover or change the livery on their cars.
Tobacco advertising was banned at the Australian Grand Prix way back in 2007 and the sport totally phased it out by 2011.
However, the new report says some $US100 million was poured into F1 racing in 2019 alone. The highest fugure since the ban was imposed in 2011.
The spending, by tobacco giants Philip Morris and British American Tobacco on the F1 Ferrari and McLaren teams, is this year expected to rise to $US115 million, the report noted.
The tobacco companies are no longer advertising their traditional cigarette brands, but are instead pushing new, so-called “smoke-free” heated tobacco products, although they do not mention them by name.
The report’s findings has prompted concern from the World Health Organisation (WHO), with health promotion chief Ruediger Krech saying in a statement that “we must not go backwards in the fight against tobacco”.
“Promoting these products attracts new tobacco users, especially among young people, causing harm for generations to come,” Krech said.
WHO has estimated that seven million people die each year from smoking cigarettes.
The report also lambasted F1’s peak body, the International Automobile Federation (FIA), for turning a blind-eye on tobacco dollars re-entering the sport.
A spokesperson for STOP commented: “The FIA claims that it wants to promote a net positive contribution to society. That’s not possible while it is still linked to an industry that causes such harm.”
FIA has repeatedly said it “remains firmly opposed to tobacco advertising” in the sport, but has added: “We are not in a position to interfere with the private commercial arrangements between the teams and their sponsors.”
“We will continue to monitor the compliance with the applicable laws,” FIA has previously stated.
Both Philip Morris and British American Tobacco have denied the claims made in the report.
A spokesman for Philip Morris labelled the report as an “ideological attack” and a “misguided campaign” against the company, insisting its partnership with Ferrari “does not and will not be used to advertise or promote any PMI-branded tobacco or nicotine-containing products”.
“Our partnership activities respect all applicable laws,” the spokesman added.
The report noted that the 2019 F1 season alone generated exposure worth “at least $US150.3 million” for Philip Morris and a further $US27.6 million for British American Tobacco.
“For tobacco companies, the benefits are clear,” the report said. “This is a global sport that draws more than 500 million fans worldwide, mostly young and male – a prized demographic. And tobacco companies receive a real return on investment.”
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