Formula One team BMW Williams has joined anti-smoking group ASH in attacking the Formula One governing body, the FIA, for its U-turn on tobacco advertising, which will allow the tobacco industry to continue to sponsor the global racing event.
Last week, the FIA reversed its decision to comply with the European tobacco advertising ban in 2005, instead only “recommending” that teams drop their tobacco sponsors.
Tobacco companies are expected to enter talks to renew their sponsorship deals past 2006. A closure of European races to circumvent the ban is anticipated, with races in Belgium and Austria already axed in favour of tobacco-friendly Bahrain and China.
BMW Williams is one of the only leading racing teams without tobacco sponsorship, which is estimated to generate more than 150m for Formula One, instead signing up Budweiser last week (MW July 3).
BMW Williams head of marketing Jim Wright says: “The FIA has backed down under pressure from a few tobacco-controlled teams. It means a lot to them. Malaysia, Bahrain, China, Monte Carlo and Japan are fine for tobacco sponsorship, while Canada, Brazil and America give special dispensation to international events.”
Deborah Arnott, director of ASH, adds: “We are unhappy with the decision, but sooner or later the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which was signed by192 nations, should restrict sponsorship globally.”