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Wednesday, November 5, 1997 Published at 14:42 GMT

Despatches: Europe
Harry Peart
From British

The decision by the British government to exempt Formula One motor racing from a proposed ban on tobacco sponsorship has brought criticism from other sports as well as anti-smoking campaigners. Golf, rugby league, cricket and snooker are among the sports who receive backing from tobacco companies, and will be affected by the ban. Under the new proposals, motor racing is being urged to introduce a voluntary code to reduce the level of tobacco advertising at race-tracks. Sports correspondent, Harry Peart reports.

"Earlier this year the Health Secretary, Frank Dobson said the British government would ban all sports sponsorship by tobacco companies without exception in an effort to reduce smoking as part of a European Union directive. The government denies it has been forced into an embarrassing policy reversal, claiming a ban on motor racing would be counterproductive. Tobacco sponsorship is worth about $170 million to Formula One racing, and most racing teams are based in Britain. 50,000 jobs are dependant on the sport. The danger of a total ban was that motor racing would move its Grand Prix away from its traditional strongholds into Eastern Europe and the Far East where rules on tobacco advertising are less stringent. The British government acknowledged that it couldn't stop television pictures coming back from a Grand Prix anywhere in the world, and that there was a real risk of more tobacco advertising being visible rather than less. It said it was trying to find a solution to a unique problem in a unique sport. A tough voluntary code on a global scale is being proposed which could include smaller advertising logos.

Other sports are unhappy at the decision. The president of Snooker's governing body, the former British minister Lord Archer thinks that other sports who benefit from tobacco sponsorship should receive the same treatment as motor racing. It's expected that these sports will be given three years to honour their current contracts with tobacco companies."

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