28 May 2019, Bangkok – A French court ruled against tobacco advertising in Formula 1. Upon request for interim measures by the French civil society group CNCT (Comité National Contre le Tabagisme), the judge prohibited Philip Morris Products SA and Ducati Spa Motors from “making any use of the mark, the logo, or the expression ‘Mission Winnow,’ whether contiguous or not to the name “Ducati” “during the MotoGP races in France or on any related communications. The French races were to be held on 17-19 May 2019 at the Bugatti circuit in Le Mans, France. This is despite the court’s acknowledgment of the companies’ claims that they did not intend to use or display such brands at the races. Both companies were also ordered to pay the CNCT the sum of € 10,000 based on civil laws.
The order came after the World Health Organization (WHO) urged sports companies not to allow tobacco advertising and sponsorship of events and urged governments to enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship at sporting events, including when hosting or receiving broadcasts of Formula 1 and MotoGP events. The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) Secretariat statement on 13 March 2019 states that “brand stretching” and “brand sharing” could reach billions of viewers, including children.
FCTC Article 13 obliges Parties to the Convention to implement a comprehensive ban (or restrictions) on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship covering those that have the likely effect of promoting a tobacco product or tobacco use either directly or indirectly.
Cigarette sponsorship of Formula 1 races had been ubiquitous from 1997 to 2006 but was eventually stopped, owing to pressure from advertising bans. 2018 and 2019 saw the revival of such sponsorships as Philip Morris International partnered with Scuderia Ferrari and launched a “Mission Winnow” using the Marlboro red-and-white chevron, and sponsored team Ducati of MotoGP, while British American Tobacco engaged in a multi-year partnership agreement with McLaren (Formula 1), through the “A Better Tomorrow” campaign to market its new tobacco devices. Formula 1 races can be seen in television and streaming services around the world.
The global tobacco control treaty, ratified by 181 states, obligates governments to protect policies against commercial and vested interests of the tobacco industry, under FCTC Article 5.3. Its Guidelines urge governments to hold the tobacco industry accountable for its actions and raise awareness of the industry’s tactics. It also recognizes that “nongovernmental organizations and other members of civil society not affiliated with the tobacco industry could play an essential role in monitoring the activities of the tobacco industry.”
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