FIA Says It Can’t ‘Interfere’ With F1’s Private Tobacco Sponsorship Deals Amid Criticism

FIA President Jean Todt stressed that they remain “firmly opposed to tobacco advertising” in Formula One.

A study published by Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products (STOP), an international anti-tobacco industry group, has warned that Formula One and MotoGP remain the only major global sports competitions that still allow tobacco companies to advertise to fans via lucrative sponsorship deals with teams.

STOP estimates that Formula One has generated in excess of $4.5 billion of revenue from sponsorship deals with tobacco brands in the sport’s 70-year history.

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Tobacco companies spent over $100 million over the course of the 2020 F1 season alone, STOP noted.

It warned that there has been a marked increase in tobacco sponsorship in Formula One in recent years, with the 2019 and 2020 seasons having the highest level of tobacco sponsorship since 2011.

McLaren and Ferrari have both been the subject of criticism in recent years due to their sponsorship deals with tobacco companies.

Ferrari has long been a partner of Philip Morris International, and during the 2018 season their cars appeared with Mission Winnow branding in what is considered to be an attempt by the tobacco manufacturing giant to circumvent anti-tobacco advertising laws and the FIA’s regulations on the matter.

Meanwhile, McLaren has a similar sponsorship partnership with British American Tobacco’s “A Better Tomorrow” initiative.

Tobacco advertising in Formula One was outlawed by the FIA at the end of the 2006 season, and many F1 fans and stakeholders have been understandably critical of the industry’s continued attempts to use the sport to increase brand awareness and generate sales.

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“Making lung cancer and addiction cool is a tall order; F1 sponsorship hits the spot perfectly,” Professor Gerard Hastings, founder of the Institute for Social Marketing and Health, said in a recent interview with CNN.

Reacting to STOP’s recent report, FIA President Jean Todt said F1’s governing body remains “firmly opposed to tobacco advertising and continues to stand by its 2003 recommendations.”

However, he stressed that they “are not in a position to interfere with the private commercial arrangements of teams and their sponsors”, adding “we will continue to monitor the compliance with the applicable laws.”

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