Minority stall as tobacco ban starts

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The Independent Online

Ferrari (with Marlboro), Renault (with Mild Seven) and BAR (with British American Tobacco) say they intend to defy the ban and carry logos in EU countries. On Saturday, however, McLaren bade farewell to primary sponsor West cigarettes and revealed the Diageo giant's Johnnie Walker whisky brand in its place. They will invest £15m annually, together with a further £2m to promote responsible drinking.

It is possible that other giants, such as Unilever, Mattel, Pepsi, Coca-Cola and McDonald's may also elect to enter Formula One as major sponsors once it is free of tobacco, but that may take a while longer. The Secretary of State for Health, Patricia Hewitt, has informed FIA president Max Mosley that until a pending case before the European Court of Justice on the EU tobacco advertising directive is resolved, the European Commission is unwilling to give guidance to member states on the implementation of its provisions for tobacco sponsorship across them. However, Hewitt stressed to Mosley that the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act of 2002 does not apply to broadcasting.

The FIA has pledged to meet governmental guidelines to rid Formula One of all tobacco advertising by 1 October 2006, but for now the sport appears to have been given clearance to broadcast races from non-EU countries in which tobacco logos appear on cars without risk of prosecution. Print and electronic media do not appear to be exempt, but neither does it seem likely prosecutions will follow where they transgress.

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