Civil Society Calls Out Formula 1 Regulator’s Failure to Take Responsibility for Ending Tobacco Sponsorship

NEW YORK (October 7, 2020) — As the World Motor Sport Council gathers for its quarterly meeting on October 9th, 100 civil society organizations have signed a second open letter to the President of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), Jean Todt, criticizing the FIA’s continued lack of responsibility and action to end growing tobacco sponsorship in Formula 1.

Signatories state that: “Your failure to address the issue, in effect, advances tobacco industry interests that are in conflict with the SDGs (the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals), and ignores the millions who became addicted to tobacco use and died as a result. This tarnishes the sport’s reputation in the global community and the legacy that you and the FIA will leave behind… It is shameful that you/FIA tout international commitments to improve lives while actively aligning with tobacco companies, whose products take lives and whose activities exploit the most vulnerable in our society.”

A letter sent to Mr. Todt in August called on him and the FIA to end all tobacco advertising in Formula 1. Signatories appealed to Mr. Todt as a United Nations (UN) envoy and a self-proclaimed supporter of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In his response, Mr. Todt denied responsibility, claiming that tobacco sponsorship in F1 was a problem for governments, not the sport.

He asserts that “no public enforcer, nor any judge has adopted any adversarial position against the new Winnow Mission (sic) or Better Tomorrow initiatives.” Yet a French tribunal found that the use of Philip Morris International’s “Mission Winnow” brand at the Grand Prix of Le Mans motorcycle event violated the country’s public health law. Australian authorities also launched an investigation into use of the branding in F1.

Mr. Todt stated a classic tobacco industry message—that the industry should be part of efforts to reverse the epidemic it caused and perpetuates. Both current F1 team sponsors Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco are increasing cigarette production capacity in markets where they believe there is opportunity for growth in cigarette sales. They lobby against and oppose policies to reduce smoking, threatening governments with legal action. Both have been exposed for advertising tobacco products to youth—a key strategy to obtain new customers. Mr. Todt’s comment also ignores UN norms and values and the obligations governments have under a global treaty to limit interactions with the tobacco industry.

Mary Assunta, a partner in STOP, said: “The FIA can take proactive steps and exercise good faith without waiting for national governments to pass laws. If it wanted to, FIA could end tobacco sponsorship. As long as it aligns itself with the tobacco industry, Todt and the FIA’s other commitments to the UN agenda are basically a sham.”

A report published in July found that by the end of the current season, Formula 1 teams and events will have sold $4.5 billion in advertising and sponsorship to tobacco companies over the years. The report, Driving Addiction: F1 and Tobacco Advertising, based on data from F1 industry monitor Formula Money and released by global tobacco industry watchdog STOP, shows that 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. According to the research, media coverage of the 2019 races alone generated exposure worth at least $150.3 million for PMI’s “Mission Winnow” brand through its sponsorship of the Ferrari team and $27.6 million for the brands BAT is promoting through its sponsorship of the McLaren team. The Report is available at exposetobacco.org/driving-addiction

Please contact the STOP press office for more information or to speak to a STOP spokesperson.

Text of the letter sent to Jean Todt at the FIA, including the list of signatories, is available here.


About STOP (Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products)

STOP is a global tobacco industry watchdog whose mission is to expose the tobacco industry strategies and tactics that undermine public health. STOP is funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies and comprised of a partnership between The Tobacco Control Research Group at the University of Bath, The Global Center for Good Governance in Tobacco Control (GGTC), the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) and Vital Strategies. For more information, visit exposetobacco.org.