Tobacco Advertising and Sports

Why did Cigarette companies move into sport in the first place?

Tobacco advertising was banned on television by the European Television without Frontiers Directive and the implementation of the Television Act 1964 caused all cigarette advertising to be banned from television in the UK in 1965.

Sport and advertising in relation to sport therefore provided the best opportunity for cigarette companies to get their products consistently seen by millions of people worldwide.  

If I want to take my children to sports such as Motor Racing will they be exposed to advertising promoting cigarettes and tobacco?

Cigarette brands have often been associated with various sports such as motor racing, snooker and rugby. All of which attract millions of viewers both on television and at the actual events. Often these events helped conveyed the image to children that smoking was in some way cool and an accepted practice. Motor racing has been the most firmly criticised by anti-smoking lobbyists as often children as young as six years old associated such brands as Marlboro with excitement and fast cars.

How much money was the UK Tobacco industry spending on advertising in Sports?

In the UK the tobacco industry was spending an estimated £8 million a year on the sponsorship of sport which excluded Formula One. The tobacco industry was spending an estimated £70 million on the sponsorship of Formula One.

The sponsorship of sport and sporting events was clearly huge business for the tobacco industry and also for those sports which were attracting the sponsorship.

So what is the position in relation to the sponsorship of sports events by tobacco companies now?

The Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act 2002

Following the introduction of the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act in 2003 most forms of tobacco advertising and promotion are now banned in the UK.

What does the Act say?

The act makes for the following provisions:

  • The Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act banned tobacco advertising in the print media and on billboards as of the 14 February 2003
  • The Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act banned tobacco advertising by direct mail and other kinds of promotions as of the 14 May 2003
  • The Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act banned tobacco advertising around sport (other than global events) on the 31 July 2003.

Was this the case for all sports?

In the case of Formula One Motor Racing the sport was allowed to continue to be associated with tobacco advertising until July 2005.

Further Regulations

Regulations in relation to brand sharing also called indirect advertising were also introduced in 2003 to prohibit tying in tobacco products with other products such as Marlboro clothes and providing advertising that way.

Advertising at the point of sale is now also limited to a single advertisement not exceeding A5 size.

Does the Law in relation to tobacco sponsorship of sport apply throughout Europe or just in the UK?

Throughout the European Union there is a partial ban on tobacco advertising which exists due to the EU Directive on Tobacco Advertising and Sponsorship. The Directive prohibits tobacco advertising with a cross border effect in the following kinds of media:

  • Press and other printed publications
  • Radio broadcasting
  • Information society services
  • Through tobacco related sponsorship events or activities taking place in several European Union Member States 

The EU Directive is a lot weaker than the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act as it only applies to cross-border advertising by radio, internet etc and sponsorship. It does not therefore go as far as the UK legislation in relation to indirect advertising.

What the EU Directive does do, however, is permit European Union Member States to apply stronger measures than the Directive itself so that a ban on indirect advertising can be established in the UK through UK law.

Are there still any sporting events which are sponsored by the tobacco industry?

In 2009 there was much controversy surrounding an Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) event in Switzerland was sponsored by the cigarette brand Davidoff – the brand being manufactured by Imperial Tobacco.

This tournament is believed to be the only one in the world to be sponsored by a cigarette company.

What is the Association of Tennis Professionals?

The ATP is the association which represents the world’s top male tennis players and is responsible for the sponsorship contracts for the international tournaments which these players participate in. it is also a body which is based in London.

Imperial Tobacco is also a UK based company.

How was this possible?

The law in Switzerland is a relatively weak one concerning tobacco advertising as it still allows sporting events to be sponsored by tobacco companies. Tobacco advertising on television is however banned.

Was this event shown on television?

This events was shown on television meaning that the televising of the event would facilitate the tobacco advertising being beamed into the homes of many people worldwide which would suggest that it would be contrary to Article 13 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control which has been signed by 160 countries worldwide constituting a piece of international law legislation.