Formula One to drop its links with tobacco

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The Independent Online
FORMULA One could sever its ties with tobacco advertising within four years. Max Mosley, president of the FIA, motor racing's world governing body, took the sporting world by surprise by announcing that a ban could be in place by 2002 in advance of a European Directive deadline aimed at outlawing tobacco sponsorship.

The European Directive would have banned the pounds 200m a year spent on the sport by tobacco companies by 2007 if proof were found that it caused people to start smoking. Yesterday, however, during preparations for the Grand Prix in Melbourne, Mr Mosley said the sport would act well in advance of the deadline if the link could be proved.

"The FIA has consistently said that, if presented with evidence of a direct link between tobacco advertising-sponsorship and smoking, it would act to eliminate tobacco advertising-sponsorship from Formula One," he said

The news was music to the ears of the European Commission, which feared that a Europe-only ban would result in more Grands Prix being held on other continents, particularly Asia. A spokeswoman for social affairs commissioner Padraic Flynn, who has consistently campaigned against tobacco advertising, said: "We strongly welcome today's announcement. They have the power to make this a worldwide ban while we can only oppose it at EU level.

"We can furnish the FIA with any evidence or studies they want to show this link."

Tobacco manufacturers were less pleased. "We feel the FIA has bowed to political pressure," said John Carlisle, spokesman for the Tobacco Manufacturers' Association in London. "All the evidence points to advertising not being linked to people starting smoking."