STOP Warns Tobacco Companies Are Increasingly Using Formula 1 to Target Global Fanbase
UPDATE Oct 6, 2020: Jean Todt replied to our original letter but did not commit to any meaningful change or action on the part of the FIA. View STOP’s response here.
New York (August 20, 2020) — An international group of 101 organizations and individuals from 36 countries—organized through STOP, a global tobacco industry watchdog—has written to the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile) urging an end to all tobacco advertising and sponsorship.
The move coincides with news that all 10 F1 teams have signed a new Concorde Agreement to cap spending and guide the sport through the next five years. The agreement, however, does not apply to marketing expenditures. The door remains wide open for tobacco companies to continue spending freely to get their messages out to F1 fans.
The letter cites new research, Driving Addiction: F1 and Tobacco Advertising, that finds Philip Morris International (PMI) and British American Tobacco (BAT) spent almost $100 million in 2019 and will spend $115 million in the 2020 season to target F1’s 500 million global fans. The sport has the second-highest proportion of fans under age 25 of all global sports series.
Tobacco companies are using F1 to get their messages to the sport’s large fan base, including its many young fans, online as well as through racing and team media coverage. Just a few weeks into the 2020 season, British American Tobacco has already sponsored an online computer game competition and an online race afterparty for F1 fans.
According to the letter, the promotion of tobacco company brands on and off the track could make F1 complicit in tobacco marketing to youth and cross-border advertising that violates national laws. According to World Health Organization, only 44 countries have not implemented any national laws banning tobacco advertising, promotions and sponsorship. A total of 182 countries have ratified the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) that mandates a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, promotions and sponsorship.
The letter criticizes the FIA for claiming that it supports the WHO FCTC, while dismissing WHO’s calls for F1 to end tobacco sponsorship. The authors also note that furthering the tobacco industry’s interests puts the FIA in conflict with United Nations (UN) norms. The FIA has made commitments to UN global road safety and climate change initiatives and its President, Jean Todt, is the UN Special Envoy for Road Safety. Tobacco growing, production, marketing and consumption causes widespread environmental degradation around the world, and the WHO FCTC is included in the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Agencies of the UN System are urged to reject partnerships with organizations furthering industry interests.
“There is a conflict between Mr. Todt’s role as President of the FIA, the governing body of a sport that is promoting tobacco industry interests, and his public health commitments as a UN representative. FIA’s claims about being ‘PurposeDriven’ ring hollow when you look at its resistance to ending tobacco industry involvement in the sport,” said Phil Chamberlain from the University of Bath, a partner in STOP. “The tobacco industry is a major driver of disease and death; it targets youth, women, minorities and other vulnerable groups; it profits from the exploitation of vulnerable workers in tobacco farming, and it harms the environment.”
Mary Assunta, from Global Center for Good Governance in Tobacco Control, a partner in STOP, said: “We are calling out the FIA – it can’t keep ignoring this problem. While it committed to removing tobacco from the sport, under its watch the industry’s spending is on the increase. FIA cannot claim to be the regulator if it cannot control its races and shirk its responsibility by giving excuses. We ask the FIA to require F1 to quit tobacco.”
Please contact the STOP press office for more information or to speak to a STOP spokesperson.