Formula One “Blackmailers” threaten global tobacco treaty

10 Sep 2003

As teams prepare for the Italian Grand prix at Monza this weekend, new evidence has emerged to show that Formula One is still trying to press Governments around the world to allow tobacco sponsorship of motor racing to continue. Formula One is the world’s biggest sporting receiver of tobacco money and has fought hard to undermine the global treaty on tobacco control [1], which requires countries to act to ban tobacco advertising and sponsorship.

Recent F1 bullying tactics include the overturning of the tobacco advertising ban in Belgium, after the sport’s governing body the Federation Internationale d’Automobile (FIA) pulled Belgium from the F1 circuit, following the passing of a tobacco advertising law. Since then the race has been re-instated in the F1 calendar.

The most startling evidence of the way FIA chief Bernie Ecclestone operates was revealed when he was recently tricked by a Canadian radio prankster into thinking that he was talking to Canada’s Prime Minister, Jean Chretien. Referring to Canada’s Tobacco Act which will require the ending of all tobacco sponsorship by 1 October 2003, Mr. Ecclestone referred to the “beautiful relationship” the FIA had had with the Canadian Government in the past and then asked if there was “any way we could continue the exemption we had in the past?” [2].

So far the Canadian federal Government has resisted F1 pressure to extend its exemption for tobacco sponsorship. But the Quebec provincial Government may give in to Ecclestone’s threat to end the Montreal F1 race, by delaying the implementation of the province’s own tobacco sponsorship ban.

Earlier this year, the FIA reneged on its agreement with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to support the phasing out of tobacco money from the sport, supposedly because the EU had brought forward its ban on sponsorship by one year to July 2005 [3]. Since then the FIA has lobbied one country after another to extend exemptions or weaken laws, to allow tobacco sponsorship of F1 to continue.

Deborah Arnott, Director of the anti-tobacco campaigning group ASH, said:

“Formula One’s grubby rulers are clearly determined to see tobacco money continue to flow into their sport. “Glamour” advertising of this kind encourages young people in particular to smoke, and smoking kills. Apparently the FIA could not care less about the misery the tobacco industry causes to millions all over the world.

We applaud the Canadian Government’s resistance to the FIA’s crude blackmail attempts. We urge all countries, particularly those being pressurised into hosting Formula One races, to ensure that tobacco money is kept out of the sport and that effective advertising bans are put in place as soon as possible. Under global and regional agreements, tobacco sponsorship is being phased out and it is therefore in the interests of all sports to sever their ties with the tobacco barons at the earliest opportunity.”


Contact: Deborah Arnott 020 7739 5902 (w) 079 7693 5987 (m)
or Amanda Sandford 020 7739 5902

ASH has an ISDN line available for radio interviews


[1] The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control was adopted by the 192 members of the World Health Organization in May 2003. For further information see:

[2] The transcript of the interview with Bernie Ecclestone and humorist radio presenter Marc-Antoine Audette can be viewed at: BernieEcclestone.pdf. Audio version:

[3] See: Formula One – driving up the smoking rate.

[4] A report ‘Driving Business Through Sport’ by International Marketing Reports Ltd, investigated the likely impact of the forthcoming EU ban on tobacco sponsorship of sport and revealed that Formula One motor racing can survive without tobacco investment. Link to press release Further information, including an extract from the above report see:


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