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Wednesday, November 5, 1997 Published at 07:05 GMT


Formula One tobacco sponsorship ban scrapped

A ban in Europe would have encouraged races to be held elsewhere

The British Government has scrapped plans to ban tobacco sponsorship in Formula One motor racing.

The Government says it will instead work with the sport's governing body for a global reduction of tobacco advertising at its events.

A spokesman for the Department of Health insisted the Government had had to make a choice between a "grand gesture and effective policy."

The decision was immediately welcomed by the Tobacco Manufacturers' Association, which said the exemption from the sponsorship ban should now be extended to cover other sports as well.

Clive Bates, the director of Action on Smoking and Health (Ash), accused Formula One and the tobacco industry of forcing the Government's hand by threatening to hold Grands Prix in parts of the world where advertising is unregulated.

"The tobacco industry and Formula One have heavied the Government by threatening to take events away events from Europe," he said.

"Formula One is central to the tobacco industry because it has a great appeal to teenagers - it is glamorous, has heroic drivers and fast cars. We are very depressed indeed."

The decision emerged after a meeting in Europe between officials to discuss a proposed EU directive on controlling tobacco sponsorship.

British Public Health Minister Tessa Jowell is understood to have written to her opposite numbers in the EU saying it would be best to exclude Formula One from the ban.

The Department of Health spokesman said: "We faced the very real prospect that a European ban would encourage Formula One to go to eastern Europe or the Far East or other places where there are no tobacco controls.

"Because we have no powers to stop television transmission of races abroad, the end result could perversely be that we see more tobacco advertising on our television screens rather than less.

"We are working with Formula One to deliver a strong and rigorously-applied voluntary agreement which will lead to a global reduction in tobacco advertising in the sport."

The EU directive will be discussed by ministers at an EU Council meeting in Brussels on December 4.

Health Secretary Frank Dobson announced in June that the Government would ban all sports sponsorship by tobacco companies.

Political correspondent Carol Walker talking to John Humphrys on BBC Radio

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