Ferrari Mission Winnow logo, Circuit de Catalunya, 2019

Todt backs calls for F1 to ban tobacco sponsorship

2019 Australian Grand Prix

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FIA president Jean Todt has backed the World Health Organisation’s call for Formula 1 to ban sponsorship by tobacco producers.

Two F1 teams, Ferrari and McLaren, are sponsored by tobacco producers. The WHO made its demand in response after the teams ran slogans from tobacco producers Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco on their cars.

“WHO is urging governments to enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship at sporting events, including when hosting or receiving broadcasts of Formula 1 and Moto GP events,” it said in a statement.

“WHO also urges all sporting bodies, including Formula 1 and Moto GP, to adopt strong tobacco free policies that ensure their events are smoke-free and their activities and participants, including race teams, are not sponsored by tobacco companies.”

The WHO specifically named PMI and BAT’s F1 sponsorship campaigns.

“British American Tobacco (BAT) recently announced ‘a new global partnership’ with the Formula 1 team McLaren using the logo ‘a better tomorrow’. In making this announcement, BAT indicated that the multi-year partnership will provide a global platform to drive greater resonance of certain products, including glo, a heated tobacco product. This statement suggests that the company’s intent is to promote tobacco use.

“In the case of Philip Morris International (PMI), the company has created a new logo (Mission Winnow) to be carried by Ferrari on cars, and Ducati on motorbikes, that previously carried branding for the cigarette brand Marlboro. PMI has also registered the Mission Winnow logo as a trademark, including for use with respect to tobacco products. Ducati carried this branding at a recent Moto GP.”

The WHO called for governments to use “the strongest possible ways” to implement laws preventing tobacco promotion at sporting events.

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Speaking in a press conference at the Australian Grand Prix, Todt confirmed his support for the WHO’s position.

“Since many years tobacco advertising is forbidden,” said Todt. “So I mean I completely support WHO position. There’s little more we can say on that.

“But we are aligned very closely with the WHO, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus the director general of the WHO, we are aligned with their position.”

McLaren announced its partnership with BAT last month, while Ferrari signed a new “multi-year”deal with PMI in 2017. Neither team is running the tobacco producers; branding at this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix after local media and health groups raised concerns over the legalities of the promotion.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...
Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...

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  • 41 comments on “Todt backs calls for F1 to ban tobacco sponsorship”

    1. Well, that’s not too bold a declaration, I feel.

      I was happy for McLaren to have a new sponsor, but I do have to agree with the principle behind Todt and the WHO’s position.

    2. Whilst I adore seeing the cars of the 1990s covered in tobacco decals for all its nostalgia, I don’t want to see tobacco logos back in F1. Indeed, I doubt anyone really does and those days are over.

      That said, why shouldn’t a legitimate company place a legal image on the side of a car? It’s not inspiring anyone to buy tobacco or even necessarily think about it. That’s wholly been whipped up by the reporting.

      My real concern is where does the limitation on what’s considered ‘legel’ sponsorship end? For example, PMI used to hold a significant stake in Kraft whose brands include Cadburys, Capri Sun, Cool Whip and Oreo – would anyone object to these brands being advertised?

      On another note, I’d be willing to bet an awful lot of money on Mr Toet’s pension having tobacco investments – an awful lot of us do, whether we know it or not.

      1. @joshgeake “It’s not inspiring anyone to buy tobacco or even necessarily think about it.” – then why are these companies paying millions?

        1. Absolutely. I quit smoking before tobacco advertising was banned and it really peeved me seeing fags, fags, fags every time I watched a race!

        2. A cynic would say it’s because it’s caused an awful lot of talking about cigarettes! Indeed all this attention and scrutiny has probably caused more cigarette advertising than the whole of the past 12 years combined.

    3. It’s a bit of an overreacted topic, more virtue signaling than a real issue. A Mission Winnow logo will not affect anybody in their right mind to start smoking any more than a Rokit logo to ditch your iPhone/Samsung and buy a mediocre (at best) IO 3D Pro.

      I’ve been a devoted Formula-1 fan since 1998, and I’ve been smoking between 2003 and 2018. But the two doesn’t have any connection. No matter how much I cheered for Schumacher, or how nice did the B&H Jordans and the Mild Seven Renaults looked, I never liked the taste of those brands. Sponsorship just doesn’t work that way, the preferences of a human being are a lot more complex than that.

      On an unrelated note, energy drinks aren’t exactly good for your health either. Where is the WHO demand about that? That just shows the shallowness of the whole topic.

      1. A Mission Winnow logo will not affect anybody in their right mind to start smoking

        You think a multi-billion dollar company is throwing its marketing money at an F1 team in the expectation it will have no effect? That doesn’t seem realistic.

        On an unrelated note, energy drinks aren’t exactly good for your health either. Where is the WHO demand about that? That just shows the shallowness of the whole topic.

        I don’t see how as they haven’t ignored the matter of energy drinks and it seems to me energy drinks are not as bad for you as smoking and therefore shouldn’t necessarily be subject to the same laws.

        1. Keith, I’m pretty sure there are quite a number of factors as to why people start smoking. Formula-1 advertising might actually be one, but it must be quite subtle. Peer pressure, wanting to look like an adult, rebeling, stress, bad examples from parents, etc. must be way higher up the list than an obscure logo on the airbox. The tobacco companies could count on a certain amount of effect for their marketing money, but nothing life-changing.

          About energy drinks: the point “Enforcing standards for responsible marketing to young people by the energy drink industry” WHO makes is quite far from actually calling a ban.

          1. My mother smokes, my father smokes, my brother smokes, my grandparents smokes, I think I got like 3 adults who don’t smoke in my family and I started smoking when I started to party at the age of 16.

            F1 never made me feel urge to smoke mild seven of any other crap they got.

            1. @marussi I think you underappreciate the power of subliminal advertising. I don’t want to go into how and why but it’s fair to conclude that if people are paying money for it consistenctly and see it pay off then it must be working. Your own experiences aren’t really helpful here.

        2. credentials please? where do you get your info on the harm sugar does vs, and to be clear, vaping products. People use vaping to get off tobacco. Ludicrous double standards and we’ve not even mentioned hard liquor yet

        3. not as bad for you as smoking and therefore shouldn’t necessarily be subject to the same laws

          Then is more important to banned alcohol first than tobacco. It’s more road relevance too.

      2. I totally disagree with you that a logo will not encourage people to start smoking, the logo still includes a red chevron subtlety put between the M and the airbox. For me as an ex-smoker this makes me think of Marlboro, not another brand that I may have preferred. These companies are absolute experts on marketing and by placing logos on the fastest cars and bikes in the world makes their companies synonymous with those other brands and their success. These companies do not care whether they have you hooked on vaping or the tobacco itself, no sugar-coating of their products by spouting “a better tomorrow” or some PR spin about innovative solutions deflects from the fact that tobacco companies and their products are being allowed back in. Incidentally I am still a drinker and I also don’t believe alcohol should be involved with any sport that involves operating a vehicle.

        1. Anything white and red resembles Marlboro, for me…. It reminds me than Denmark is our annoying neighbor ;)

          1. Hahaha….subliminal advertising has been around for ever. Even last years “scuderia ferrari” logo was subliminal.

        2. It definitely does work. You purchase products from brands you are familiar with and are associated with other brands, people, products or events that you enjoy or trust. By partnering with an F1 team, these brands become accepted by the mainstream.
          How much conversation has happened about Mission Winnow / Marlboro in the last few weeks? Their marketing campaign has been a resounding success!

          1. I agree 100%

      3. When you boil it down what you’re saying here is essentially “advertising doesn’t work” which is not supported by research, which says the opposite.

        I mean maybe for a regular company that can advertise their products anywhere, this sort of tenuous connection between “Mission Winnow” and their real products may seem like a pretty bad advertising move. But for a cigarette company that’s not allowed to advertise anywhere, especially anywhere on TV? It’s better than nothing.

        1. Agree. The power of this sort of ‘background’ marketing is in its repetition and association.

          Wishin’ Minnow marketing millions can only be disrupted by awareness and ridicule. Or by complete global ban. Ferrari have benefited over a decade by taking the vast vats of dirty tar money, more so than their ‘legacy’ payments from FOM.

          One of worst parts of this subversive advertising scheme is it legitimizes hypocrisy as an acceptable part of the sport. It’s not. It erodes the possibility of fairness. While smoking has been shown to have direct link as a cause for cancer, hypocrisy is no less of cancer to the concept of fair play.

          “tobacco advertising and sponsorship by cigarette makers” was banned after 2006. PMI’s sponsorship for Ferrari continued. In 2017, PMI renewed their sponsorship of Ferrari. And yet, Todt has done nothing or spoke about this hypocrisy until now. Is it because he feels McLaren now have gained an unfair financial advantage?

          Liberty/FIA need to either purge the sport of any financial connections with tobacco companies or allow all teams to employ this source of dirty money. While I prefer the former, because smoking is an addictive killer, the later would allow independent teams like Williams to benefit from spending the proceeds of addiction and death in making them competitive again.

          Or the FIA, could allow the subversive tobacco funding of teams to continue – but with the proviso that any team accepting sponsorship from tobacco would not be allowed to accumulate points in either the constructor or driver championships. Would send the message that hypocrisy doesn’t pay. Unlike the message now.

          As fans of F1, we can speak out – the spirit of the rules is just important as the legalize.

          1. EDIT: As fans of F1, we can speak out – the spirit of the rules is just important as the legalese.

    4. I’m not sure where I stand on this. Smoking tobacco is not illegal (in most countries I’m aware of). As a non-smoker, personally I’ve never seen a cigarette advert on one of my favourite cars and been tempted to go and purchase them; as a child as well as now.

      It seems strange and hypocritical to me that Formula One takes the moral high ground on cigarettes, while promoting alcohol, gambling and countries with questionable political backgrounds. In fact, I believe the sport itself is sponsored by Heineken.

      I drink and I gamble occasionally and personally loath cigarettes, but unless it’s illegal I don’t see why Formula One should be passing judgement. Maybe I’m missing something.

        1. @ben-n you’re missing a couple of things. Firstly, drinking and gambling can be enjoyable and not damaging in any way. Smoking is always harmful.

          The other point is that definitely alcohol, and possibly gambling, advertisements have to come with certain additional disclaimers. Gamble responsibly. Don’t drink and drive.

          Whether those disclaimers work or not is another matter, but they are there. Tobacco is top of the list for the WHO, but I’m sure the others will follow with increasing persecution.

          Other than corrupt regimes. I’m afraid they’re probably going to go unchecked.

          1. My opinion is simply that we shouldn’t criticise any effort, however ineffectual, to discourage (or at least not ENCOURAGE) smoking.

            Australia has set the standard for persecuting the practice, and I believe they now lead the way in reduction of tobacco users.

            I’m an ex smoker, from a family of smokers, who wants it to end with me.

            1. @gongtong – thanks, fair comments and interesting.

      1. Spot on

      2. @ben-n when I was a lad i was obsessed with McLaren and especially Senna. The cars were glorious and exciting in the red and white Marlboro livery and the drivers were my hero’s. As all the f1 cars carried tobacco advertising i presumed that smoking could not be that bad……. I liked the smell of the smoke and so many people smoked back then. I was in France and I found a Malboro McLaren lighter. The graphics on it were awesome. I could not afford McLaren merchandising i just had a few posters. It occurred to me i could support my team further if I smoked. I would also have a set ( lighter and cigs). As a impressionable young fan it seemed a great idea. I brought some Malboro and I loved the taste. It was splendid. I also thought it made me look cool as it was f1 related. I refused point blank to smoke camel, rothmans, gitanes etc as I would be “letting my team down”. Why would I give Williams money for example when it could go to McLaren? F1 absolutely started me smoking and I had fierce brand loyalty. I stopped at the age of 39 in November as I had an unrelated from smoking abscess in my lung causes by a very rare bacteria that thinks it is fungus. It hospitalised me. Not being able to breathe properly is terrifying. I think any product that can restrict your breathing by using it correctly should not be advertised by a sport. I do understand McLaren probably would not exist without the whole project 4\ Marlboro intervention, but even so…. If I started smoking because of Marlboro advertising I guess other people did to.

        1. Thanks for sharing @darkstar – a really interesting and scary story. I hope you’re feeling healthier now. I think this sparks the discussion on a wider scale around why it’s still legal in the first place.

          As I said, personally, I was never tempted by it, but I’m very interested to hear that you (and presumably many others) have been and likely still are.

          1. @ben-n I am getting better. Depending on my progress i will either stop antibiotics in June or December!! Hopefully June. I think it comes down to two things: governments requiring tax revenue to operate and the public railing against a nanny state that tells them what to do. So I guess governments need both the revenue and the votes. People tend to see themselves as indestructible “it won’t happen to me”. It’s surely one of the biggest health issues of our time and I agree it should be discussed on a wider scale. If tobacco was a new product it simply would not be allowed. I would personally raise the age to buy it by a year every year so it remains available but it’s harder to start. I would couple it with confiscation of cigarettes by police if they are under age smokers and cannot produce age related id.

            1. Strong personal history thank you for sharing that, and I am really glad that you are now recovering @darkstar.
              I think there are two other factors that “help” tobacco being banned @ben-n, apart from what you mentioned above. First of all, there is the money that Tobacco companies put behind all sorts of activities to try and lobby, outright buy influence as well as paying for several “civilian initiatives” to prevent a full out ban.

              But another factor is that smoking IS on the market and we still have millions of addicted people who cannot just simply be made to stop smoking, given how addictive the stuff is and how hard it is to quit. To ban it, one would have to introduce medicinaly prescribed nicotine doses instead.

        2. I also switched to a Vodafone contract around 2007. Part of the reason I thought I’d give them a go was because their logo was plastered all over the McLaren team and a certain Lewis Hamilton at the time.

          There’s a good reason why organisations pay tens of millions for that advertising space.

    5. Meanwhile we have Heineken as global sponsor and Johnny Walker Belgian Grand Prix.

      FIA is consistent as usual.

      1. You can drink a safe amount. You can’t smoke a safe amount.

        1. @petebaldwin

          You can’t smoke a safe amount

          This may be true. However, globally alcohol related deaths are higher than tobacco related deaths.

    6. Just curious, what do the rules say about advertising products that help you stop smoking? Surely there is a market for these? I recall that Williams used to run with Niquitin branding on their cars during the BMW days…

      Also, could anyone explain what a “heated tobacco product” is to a non-smoker?

      1. could anyone explain what a “heated tobacco product” is to a non-smoker?

        @geemac – it refers to vaping. An electric device (e.g. a Juul pen) heats an oil to produce vapours that are inhaled.

        1. @phylyp @geemac – That’s incorrect. A heated tobacco product heats tobacco electrically but still produced tar. Vaping doesn’t produce tar. They are different things.

          1. @petebaldwin – thanks for clearing that up, I didn’t realize there was a third form between classic cigarettes and vaping. I have probably exposed my non-smoker status by this ignorance :)

    7. I remember when The Who were cool

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