Select Committee on Health Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 840 - 859)



840  The point I am trying to make, perhaps I am being a bit clumsy here, is that there does not appear to be any action by the component parts of FIA activity to reduce their dependency which could not have been made when the ban was first proposed.

  (Mr Mosley) I do not understand the question. By "component parts" do you mean the teams?

841  Yes; individual teams. You negotiated on behalf of the industry, which included the teams, that you needed time to get your house in order, get less dependent and fine, the teams are as dependent or some of them more dependent on tobacco sponsorship.

  (Mr Mosley) You must try to understand that these teams are independent businesses which are run under the laws of the land for profit. They operate within a regulatory system which we impose for motor sport and under the general law of the land. You cannot expect them, unless you can give them a good reason to do so, to do anything more than the law requires them to do.

842  Why then do you think, are you confident, that in 2003 the individual components of your sport are going to be less dependent on tobacco advertising than they were in 2001?

  (Mr Mosley) I am confident that if this is what the law requires they will do it, yes.

843  They could have done it in 2001.

  (Mr Mosley) No, it does not follow. You cannot say that because somebody can do something in 2003, therefore ipso facto they can do it in 2001. That is an absurd argument; I am sorry, but it just does not follow. It is quite difficult; it is a long-term process. You are talking about big sums of money which they have to raise and you cannot expect them to change direction over night.

844  We have accepted that and that is why some people reluctantly, not myself but some people reluctantly went along with the argument that you needed more time. You have demonstrated that you do not actually know the dependency of individual teams and we have heard of major new sponsorship being put in by tobacco companies buying existing teams. That clearly is against the arguments you are putting forward for putting off a ban specifically for Formula 1.

  (Mr Ecclestone) I am quite sure you have researched this thoroughly. If you look at your papers, if you read them, you will see quite clearly that the Williams team no longer has tobacco sponsors. You have got that there obviously. Or are you only worried about one team which is partly owned by a tobacco company?

845  I am using British American Racing as an example of the dependency.

  (Mr Ecclestone) It is a bad example, is it not?

  Dr Brand: It is a fairly stark example.


846  In a sense it is a pity you were not in the previous session where we were listening to the advertising strategies to get round the ban, particularly as it relates to Formula 1. All sorts of interesting initiatives had been put forward to dodge this ban. It really is a pity you did not pick up those points because they related directly to the area which Dr Brand is discussing at the moment.

  (Mr Mosley) The difficulty we have is a very simple one. The two things which constrain the teams or anyone are the law and the regulations which we can legitimately introduce, which are of course limited, and persuasion. If we want to persuade them we need to have evidence. We asked and tried to set up this inquiry but we are still waiting, having contacted everyone we could think of, for enough evidence to demonstrate the thing which is probably demonstrable if somebody would take it seriously. In the end somebody needs to know why young people take up smoking, somebody needs to know why young people take up drugs. The teams say to me that young people seem to take up drugs in large quantities without much advertising, so what evidence is there? At the moment I am sitting here waiting for the evidence; lots and lots of argument but no evidence. If I could prove it to the teams, I could talk them into doing it.

847  Perhaps our inquiry might be of some assistance when we make our report.

  (Mr Mosley) It may well be.

Mrs Gordon

848  These tobacco companies are putting in £200 to £300 million. Obviously they are getting something out of that. They are not doing it as a whim. Their aim is to sell their product. This has to be the case, otherwise they would not do it. It is to persuade people. Even though you say you do not have the evidence that it encourages young people to smoke, I would say that because of the glamour side of Formula 1, because of the excitement, macho image, all of those, and lots of young people under 16 love and watch Formula 1 racing, they are involved in it, I would say that does influence them; the images and glamour of it. We have one quote here, a particular cigarette advertisement. It is for anyone who can see himself as a racing driver, the dreamers of the world. This was a survey amongst 11 to 14-year-olds. I would say there is evidence that images do persuade them to think smoking is a good thing and if they take it up they will be like a racing driver. Even given this lack of evidence about making young people take up smoking, we do know that 120,000 people each year die of smoking related illnesses. I would have thought that was enough evidence for the industry to try to discourage tobacco sponsorship. I am glad to see there is a trend, possibly because of the future ban, away from tobacco company sponsorship, even on a fairly small scale. How easy is it or will it be to find major sponsors? You said some of the motor companies are coming in. Will they replace that money?

  (Mr Mosley) The answer is that one could certainly, eventually, foresee the money coming from other sources. If the directive survives, which it may not do, but if it does survive in the EU then it will probably sort the whole thing out. The fundamental difficulty is this. Everyone says the tobacco industry would not spend this money, which is really what you were saying, unless they were getting something very good in return. Therefore this must be to do with selling their product. That is absolutely true. The problem we have is that the tobacco industry say—and we risk getting into detail here but the broad point—it is nothing to do with persuading new people to take up smoking, that happens for other reasons. This is about getting them to move from one brand to another. I am sure you are familiar with the argument. There is some evidence for that. If you look at Philip Morris, nobody smoked Marlboro cigarettes in Europe before 1965. One man turned up, somebody called Walter Thoma, started selling them in 1965 and by the time he retired as the head of the industry in this area one cigarette in three in the EU was a Marlboro cigarette, but the total consumption had shrunk and that was based on motor sport. Therefore people will say to me that was entirely moving people from one brand to another, young people take up smoking for other reasons. This is the argument. That was precisely the question we wanted to investigate.

849  You are talking about the power of a huge amount of money and a huge amount of advertising. Quite honestly it defies logic that if you are losing 120,000 people each year to smoking-related illnesses they have to be replaced. We have heard this morning from the advertising companies that they target adult smokers. We just do not think that is possible. If you are targeting the images of Formula 1 for instance, and you say you are targeting 18-year-olds or 16-year-olds, there is fallover into the younger age groups; you cannot protect children against that.

  (Mr Ecclestone) You quoted an advertisement just now. What was the tobacco company?

850  It was a survey which was done amongst youngsters on recognition of advertisements.

  (Mr Ecclestone) You said something about you can be a racing driver if you smoke or something.

851  They did a survey of children about recognition of advertisements.

  (Mr Ecclestone) Is that what they thought?

852  Yes. These were the various responses to the adverts. It was an aspirational thing. You could become that person, that driver.

  (Mr Ecclestone) I was asked by somebody yesterday to speak to two 16-year-old girls from a school who were more or less writing a thesis on Formula 1 for the school. They came to me with some very good questions—better than most of the journalists actually. One of the questions was about tobacco. Obviously I knew how old they were. I said they obviously followed Formula 1 because they seemed to know more about it than I did. They confessed that they did follow it. So I asked when they started smoking and they said they did not smoke. I said I was sorry but they must smoke if they watched Formula 1; obviously they had seen the advertisements so they had to smoke. They said they did not smoke.

853  There are other factors, of course there are. May I ask you whether you would prefer it if Formula 1 teams did not have tobacco sponsorship, given that you know about the health risks of smoking?

  (Mr Ecclestone) If somebody proved to me that this actually started young children smoking, I would certainly, with Mr Mosley, campaign for the teams to find a way to get the much needed money elsewhere.

854  Let us hope our report will give you that evidence.

  (Mr Ecclestone) It would be nice to get it because apparently nobody has given it so far.

Dr Brand

855  You raise an interesting point. Do you think that your industry is governed by morality or should it be regulated by law as far as advertising and sponsorship is concerned? I find it slightly strange that you as individuals want to have the evidence and be convinced, more so than anyone else in the country.

  (Mr Ecclestone) Are you saying all other people are quite happy to run their business based on morality?

856  No. You seem to be implying that you uniquely as a business want to have the moral argument before you take any action.

  (Mr Ecclestone) It is a bit difficult to ask somebody to put their team in certain difficulty because someone has said this is what happens.

Mr Austin

857  I do agree with you that perhaps the greatest benefit to the tobacco companies of advertising is brand switch. I also take the view that they do have to recruit young smokers to replace the ones who fall of the end at the undertakers year by year. At the Melbourne press conference, Mr Mosley, you expressed the view, as you have said here today and the tobacco companies have said, that it does not encourage young people to take it up, it is brand switch. However, you did announce then that you were setting up an independent inquiry, which you would appoint, which would be judged by an independent assessor and that if it can be shown that tobacco logos appearing in Formula 1 cause people to start smoking, the case for the total elimination of tobacco sponsorship would be overwhelming. May I ask you the current status of that review, whether you have appointed the independent assessor and if so, who it is and what are his or her qualifications? What evidence have you received? Will you be publishing that evidence? When will you reach your conclusions?

  (Mr Mosley) Firstly, we wrote to the Minister of Health in each of the countries where there is a Grand Prix. We wrote letters to the World Health Organisation, to the World Bank in December, giving a deadline of 1 July 1999 for receipt of the evidence and we also placed an advertisement in the Economist in January 1999. Of the governments to which we wrote, I can tell you the British Government did actually reply. From all those letters we received replies from the UK Government, the German Government, the Argentine and Canadian Governments as well. Of the 14 governments those are the only ones. The European Commission wrote back; the World Health Organisation and the World Bank wrote back. The World Health Organisation referred us to a report from the World Bank as being the most authoritative. We wrote to the World Bank and asked for that report. They sent us the report and acknowledged in the letter that it said nothing about the issue and referred us back to the World Health Organisation. We also received evidence from Action on Smoking and Health, from the German cigarette manufacturers' association, the University of Manchester, which had the one bit of actual research in it, which was very good, the University of Otago in New Zealand. All of this took until after 1 July. We quietly forgot our deadline because we are still trying to get answers from some of the governments. In the meantime Padraig Flynn who was then Health Commissioner, made a speech in which he said there was scant evidence. So if we submitted the evidence we have to anybody at the moment, they would just say there is not enough evidence there. I rather agree with Mrs Gordon that instinctively you feel that it must have an influence, even though we see all sorts of things like soft drugs which people take up without any glamorous advertising and so on. But before we can do anything as an organisation we really have to have some evidence. You see the morality point, and Dr Brand makes that very well, but I have to say in my defence that every single member of the Committee has voted in favour of the 998 million ecus EU subsidy in the EU for growing tobacco by the mere fact of allowing this through the House of Commons. That is inescapable. Please do not let us get into the morality debate because we are all equally guilty, in fact I would submit the Committee is in a weaker position than I am because you could do something and I cannot.

  Chairman: I think we might be trying to do something.

  Mr Gunnell: What burden of proof would you require to establish your link? Would you say it has to be established beyond reasonable doubt? Would you go on the balance of probability? Or would you take the view which ASH took in their submission to you that you take the precautionary approach and that that should be used in regulations where the consequences of being wrong were very serious and where the evidence was very complex? That seemed to be the approach they would recommend and on that approach I think you would establish such a link.

  Mr Austin: I appreciate the difficulty you have had. I would have thought that advertising in some journals other than the Economist might have produced better results. Clearly you have had a response from one or two academic institutions. I am wondering whether, in view of the difficulties you have had, you would be prepared to commission independent research into this issue?


858  Mr Ecclestone, you are nodding, so presumably you are.

  (Mr Ecclestone) Absolutely.
  (Mr Mosley) If we could see some means of achieving an objective, certainly we would. Obviously the first place you start is by asking all the people who have been doing research into these issues for many, many years. That is what we have done, but so far without overwhelming success I have to say. In response to Mr Gunnell's question, I think what we have said is that we wanted clear and convincing evidence, but the fact of the matter is that if somebody looked at it and saw that on the balance of probability we were having a noticeable effect on smoking, I do not think any of the teams would want to continue at that point. That is the situation. This is in no sense a British issue because we do not actually show the logos in the UK, as you know, but you have this feeling that in most places, even in the EU, most of the EU governments cannot even be bothered to answer. It is a little bit difficult for me to take a great moral stand when I have not even had an answer from the Minister of Health in the EU countries to which I have written, with one or two exceptions.

Mr Gunnell

859  I understand that but if you look at the submission you have received from ASH, I think their case for adopting the precautionary principle is a sound case.

  (Mr Mosley) We have had some interesting talks with the Minister of Health in Australia, who really looks after these things for the whole of South East Asia made a point, quite a good point. He said we were going at this the wrong way. He said the product is dangerous, therefore the onus should be on the other side to demonstrate that it does not do any harm, not for those who wish to stop it to demonstrate that it does. There is a lot of force in that point. The difficulty is that we are dealing with commercial entities whom I have to persuade. If I could just say that is it and dictate, but I cannot. We can on the rules, on things like safety, but we cannot on things which would interfere with their commercial affairs. We have to carry them with us.

  Mr Gunnell: I think you have made your position clear.

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