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F1 to ban cigarette ads

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U.S. cigarette maker Philip Morris sponsors Ferrari  

GENEVA, Switzerland -- Formula One motor racing is to ban tobacco advertising from the end of the 2006 grand prix season.

Max Mosley, president of Formula One's world governing body the FIA, announced the move on Thursday at a joint news conference in Geneva with Gro Harlem Brundtland, director-general of the World Health Organization.

Cigarette sponsorship currently brings in an estimated $350 million at all levels of motor sport and top Formula One teams such as Ferrari and McLaren rely heavily on tobacco revenue.

Back in 1998 the European Union set a deadline of October 2006 for an end to tobacco sponsorship -- though the directive was subsequently annulled -- and health organisations had been lobbying Formula One chiefs to introduce a voluntary ban before that.

Mosley is urging motor racing teams to seek alternative sources of funding.

"It is our intention to ban tobacco sponsorship from international motor sport by the end of the 2006 season," said an FIA statement.

"We will seek support for this initiative from all countries that host FIA World Championship events. We will encourage motor sport competitors to diversify away from tobacco sponsorship."

The announcement was made at the launch of the "Tobacco Free Sports" campaign in Geneva.

Also at the launch were the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Fédération internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Said the WHO: "The campaign aims to clean sports of tobacco advertising, sales and consumption. Upcoming Tobacco Free Sports events include the 2002 FIFA World Cup and the 2002 Winter Olympics."

The launch came during the third session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body on the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Representatives of 191 governments are meeting to negotiate an international treaty on tobacco control.

The treaty is meant to cut smoking through measures like tax hikes, restrictions on advertising and marketing and tighter labelling controls. It was scheduled to be ready by 2003 but faces delays due to disagreements between the negotiating countries.

The FIA's statement said that it had "followed closely the widespread concern about the risks associated with smoking" and the debate about banning tobacco advertising and sponsorship.

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Motor racing and cigarette advertising have been heavily linked  

"The FIA recognise the clearly established public health risks associated with smoking and fully respects the responsibility of governments to establish laws curbing tobacco promotion," it said.

"Our interest is limited to encouraging the creation of a regime for the control of tobacco sponsorship that is stable, predictable, and as widely internationally enforceable as possible."

The motor sport governing body said that the rules were inconsistent in different countries around the world for example in France where tobacco advertising was banned but televised races from other nations showed tobacco logos.

On the timing the FIA said: "The time-scale of the end of the 2006 season is consistent with the original terms of the 1998 European Union Directive, which was subsequently annulled.

"We believe that the end of 2006 is a realistic timetable for a world-wide ban on tobacco sponsorship and we advise all motor sport competitors that receive tobacco sponsorship to ensure that their sponsorship contracts reflect this date in any agreements they make."

In the U.S. alone, the major domestic cigarette companies reported spending $113.6 million on sports and sporting events in 1999, WHO said.

"Despite a federal ban on tobacco advertising on television, it is estimated that tobacco companies achieve the equivalent of more than $150 million in television advertising every year in the United States through their sponsorship of motor sports events," the statement said.

The future of several European grands prix had been said to be in doubt over national tobacco sponsorship bans.

The 1999 Belgian Grand Prix was close to a last-minute cancellation due to planned local laws on advertising amid rumours that Spa Francorchamps' slot on the calendar could go to a country -- such as China -- who allowed tobacco ads.

In Britain in 1997 the British government announced it was exempting Formula One from a proposed ban on tobacco advertising.

This brought a furore when it was learned Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone had donated $1.4 million to the ruling Labour Party's finds.



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