Select Committee on Health Second Report


Formula One and sponsorship

100. The advertising papers indicated to us that sponsorship is used by the industry because of its tremendous potential to associate aspirational images with smoking. Formula One motor racing is the most blatant example of this so we paid particular attention to this area. For example, research conducted for Gallaher identified "More active sports, with potential to create a more dynamic, exciting brand image", which include: "Formula One, Big boat sailing, Basket ball, Ice Hockey". The image of Formula One is then described in more detail as "international, glamorous, challenging, fast, furious, dangerous, living life to the full and living life on the edge". The research concluded that Formula One can make the B&H brand more "dynamic", "macho" and "youthful".[183] This once more flagrantly disregards the spirit of the voluntary agreement. A further market research report concluded, in similar vein, that Formula One sponsorship "makes the brand very powerful" and lends associations with "young, fast, racy, adult, exciting, aspirational, but attainable environments".[184]

101. Mr Max Mosley, the President of Formula One's governing body, the FIA, told us that the percentage of sponsorship of Formula One teams made up by tobacco firms was diminishing. Nevertheless he admitted that the teams received "more money ... from the tobacco industry than we could if we had to get the same sponsorship money on the open market". In his view this was because "the tobacco people really have nowhere else to go".[185] Mr Mosley estimated that tobacco sponsorship of Formula One probably amounted to £200-300 million per annum.[186] In return for this expenditure, the tobacco companies obtained access to an annual television audience of 40 billion, "the largest television audience in sport".[187]

102. The advertising papers we examined indicated that advertising companies did not really distinguish between advertising and sponsorship. An internal CDP memorandum exulted in the apparent value for money to Gallaher of sponsoring the Jordan racing team:

    "As I'm sure you were aware there was excellent coverage of the new Jordan car last night on both the Nine o'clock News and the News at Ten ... If we assume that the coverage equated to a 60" commercial on each station, I've estimated the equivalent advertising value to be £185,000. When the value of additional news slots on Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky are added in, I expect the figure would exceed £250,000. Not bad to start off with!"[188]

Another document prepared for Benson & Hedges described the "natural fit" between Formula One and "cigarette sponsorship" since Formula One was "international" "glamorous" and involved "rich people".[189] In our view, such connotations blatantly subvert the attempts of successive Governments to dissociate smoking from aspiration and glamour. They also expose as pusillanimous the decision of the present Government to agree to the exemption for Formula One from the EU Directive banning advertising and sponsorship until 2006.

103. Mr Mosley argued that if the EU had banned tobacco sponsorship of Formula One earlier than the proposed date of 2006, the teams would have sought to hold more races outside the EU, tobacco sponsorship of the teams would have remained in place, and the cars would still have been broadcast to the same European audience. This argument closely follows the Government's own defence of its position in its reply to our First Report of the present Parliament.[190]

104. The FIA has, however, recently itself examined the need to eliminate tobacco advertising and sponsorship from Formula One in advance of the timetable set out by Europe. In March 1998 Mr Mosley announced that "since discussions on the proposed European Commission Directive on tobacco advertising began last year, the FIA has consistently said that if, presented with evidence of a direct link between tobacco advertising/ sponsorship and smoking, it would act to eliminate tobacco advertising and sponsorship from Formula One". It was further suggested that the FIA could bring in a world-wide ban as early as 2002.[191]

105. Even at the time of that announcement, Mr Mosley expressed his opinion that it was "inherently unlikely" that Formula One helped recruit smokers, a statement which we feel casts doubts on the objectivity with which the FIA can be expected to assess the evidence it receives.[192] Nevertheless, in a communiqué of 11 December 1998 the FIA World Motor Sport Council issued a call for evidence on the subject of whether, as a result of tobacco brand name sponsorship, a significant number of individuals who would not otherwise have made the decision to smoke became smokers.[193] Mr Mosley told us that the FIA had written to the Minister of Health in each of the 14 countries in which Grand Prix were held, along with other public health organizations, requesting evidence by 1 July 1999. The response was unimpressive: of the governments, only the UK, German, Argentine and Canadian governments actually replied. So the FIA "quietly forgot" their deadline and were still attempting to obtain answers from the other ten governments.[194] Mr Mosley also drew attention to the apparent logical inconsistency of the EU opposing the advertising of tobacco products whilst simultaneously providing 998 million ecus of subsidy to European tobacco growers under the CAP.[195]

106. We share Mr Mosley's view that the EU's tobacco subsidy undermines its anti-tobacco health promotion strategy, a point we touch on elsewhere. We also regard it as unacceptable that the majority of health ministers questioned have not had the courtesy to reply to an invitation to contribute on a crucial health issue put to them by a major sporting body. We recommend that the Department of Health writes to each its counterparts in those countries which have and have not replied, to ascertain the nature of the replies given and the factors underlying the failure to reply by 10 governments. We would like to be provided with copies of this correspondence.

107. Overall we conclude that sponsorship is working exactly like advertising. The only significant difference between the two that the papers acknowledge, is a disturbing one: the sales pitch in sponsorship is more hidden, enabling covert or "subliminal" messages that can get round the defences of their "wary" and media literate young targets. The following extracts from a market research report prepared for Gallaher relating to plans to sponsor night club parties and a related brief for the same clients from M&C Saatchi make this quite clear:

    "At each event the level of Silk Cut branding is intended to be subliminal, with no direct reference to Silk Cut cigarettes. However, a strong visual clue is given to the sponsor's identity by the night clubs (in which the events are staged) being 'clothed' in large areas of purple silk."

    "Urban Venturers: Aged between 18-30, students/graduates just out of university, short of money but spend all they have on good nights out. They are very advertising literate, and consequently very wary of big brands latching on to aspects of their lifestyle and exploiting them. To this end Silk Cut needs to complement the Renaissance imagery in an intriguing and stylish way."[196]

108. We see no reason why sponsorship has been treated more leniently than advertising in the White Paper, and we call on the Government to remove tobacco sponsorship in general, and that pertaining to Formula One in particular, as soon as is legally possible. If more evidence is needed to support this move, Formula One Management's offer, in response to an inquiry we made, to fund independent research should be accepted and supervised by the Tobacco Regulatory Authority which we propose below.[197]

109. One of the reasons Formula One "fits" tobacco sponsorship so well is the way in which the cars themselves can, through their colouring and design, mirror the cigarette packet design itself. Indeed, the same word, "livery", is used to describe both. The potential benefits of this connection to advertisers was exemplified by a recent dispute between the FIA and BAT over the BAT sponsored British American Racing Team. The BAR team had sought to race one car with Lucky Strike branding and another with a different BAT brand, State Express 555. The FIA introduced a rule to stop this happening but this was challenged by BAT. The case went to arbitration, at considerable cost to the FIA, and the FIA in the end won.[198]

110. The advertising papers also confirmed that the pack was a powerful communication tool, and this has remained largely untouched by regulation. The CTCR in their memorandum described the pack as "the most important additional form of marketing communication".[199] A creative brief for Benson & Hedges remarked:

    "Remember this campaign has its origins in a very simple truth, the smokers of B&H when they put their pack on the pub table, will always have it noticed by their friends. It is their badge and all we are trying to do is celebrate it."[200]

A discussion document relating to "qualitative research" for the Sovereign brand noted that:

    "Cigarette packs are still considered to be badges, albeit that the cigarettes themselves seem to be losing a large amount of the glamour and aspiration that used to be associated with them."[201]

Sophisticated pack design has the power to reach vulnerable groups such as children, and circumvent the White Paper. The CTCR cited many examples from advertising documents drawing attention to the creative possibilities of the pack. One market research document recorded "reactions to alternative label designs":

    "Coloured labels tend to be seen as younger, for kids, like sweetie labels, cheap; comparisons made with alcopop brands (Hooch)

    Rolit like a pack of condoms or a "lite" chocolate/Options drink

    Rolit branding looked young - like sweets, Love Hearts, Refreshers."[202]

With the advertising ban apparently imminent the advertisers applied their ingenuity to other ways of marketing their products. A Mustoe, Merriman, Herring & Levi creative brief for Imperial's Lambert and Butler brand suggested that the company could: "Utilise modern printing techniques to the full by coming up with ways to use the pack outer as an advertising medium for Lambert and Butler. Make the L& B pack really stand out at point of sale against the competition."[203]

111. The advertising papers to which we have had unique access give a clear insight into the mentality both of the tobacco companies and the advertising agencies. They show how advertising - which will in due course be banned - forms only one part of the overall marketing strategy. In a post-ban environment, the other elements of the marketing strategy will assume greater significance but will also require greater regulation. The papers reveal just how important the packaging is to the companies, and how the point of sale displays will become a dominant means of communication. The packs have also been instrumental in the synergy between cigarette advertising and Formula One, as the cars have mimicked the packs in terms of colours and logos. These marketing efforts are focused on building evocative and powerful brands which have a particular appeal to the young smoker and potential recruits.

112. We believe that the extraordinarily dangerous nature of the product being marketed means that tobacco companies cannot expect to operate in the same commercial environment as most other industries. We are concerned that tobacco manufacturers continue to think of cigarette packs as being a way either of exploiting the aspirational nature of their products or conveying implied health messages. Notwithstanding the potential restrictions caused by EU single market legislation we believe that the advantages and disadvantages of introducing generic or plain packaging for all tobacco products should be carefully assessed by the Tobacco Regulatory Authority we propose below (paragraph 189). Such packaging would be of a standard colour with the brand name in a standard type face. Beyond this, the only other permitted information would be health warnings and consumer information about product contents.

113. Other promotional techniques, such as direct marketing, point of sale displays, brand stretching (the branding of non-tobacco products such as clothing with tobacco marques) have also received less attention than advertising. We believe that the proposed Tobacco Regulatory Authority should monitor these activities, check compliance with current controls and propose new ones whenever there is a danger that a particular activity will encourage consumption. Innovative promotional efforts are also a threat, especially on the internet, and will, we believe, require careful monitoring.

114. Most fundamental of all, every effort needs to be made by both the Government and the tobacco companies to limit the appeal of tobacco brands to young and new smokers. As a start, we believe the Government should compile and publish information on those brands that have particular appeal amongst children. Such data could inform the operation of the proposed Tobacco Regulatory Authority, both in terms of its analysis of any ongoing marketing activity and its assessment of additives.

Measures against environmental tobacco smoke

115. The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 is the only legislation which acts to restrict the impact of environmental tobacco smoke. It requires employers to ensure, "so far as it is reasonably practicable", the health, safety and welfare of their employees.[204] In 1988 the Health and Safety Executive issued guidelines, most recently reviewed in 1992, telling employers what they should do to comply with health, safety and welfare law as regards passive smoking.[205]

116. The Government's White Paper, Smoking Kills, states that it does "not think a universal ban on smoking in all public places is justified while we can make fast and substantial progress in partnership with industry."[206] Instead, the Government has agreed a Charter with bodies representing the hospitality trade, requiring the signatories to the Charter to recognise "that there should be increasing facilities for non-smokers and the availability of clean air".[207] Independent research funded by the industry will monitor progress against targets. The White Paper states that "Consumers can do a lot by simply asking for smoke-free areas to be provided as well as by voting with their feet".[208]

117. The White Paper also states that the Government is "not going to ban smoking at work. But the Health and Safety Commission is going to consult on a new Approved Code of Practice on smoking in the workplace. This will considerably toughen existing measures..... The Approved Code of Practice is guidance.....[Employers] may use alternative order to comply with the law".[209] On 29 July 1999 the Health and Safety Commission published a consultation document seeking views on further action to control passive smoking at work which included an option for an Approved Code of Practice to "clarify what steps employers should be taking to protect their employees from the unpleasant effects of tobacco smoke, and to protect the health of those employees who suffer from a medical condition that could be made worse by exposure to tobacco smoke, such as asthma".[210] The Department told us that that consultation was now complete, and that if the Health and Safety Commission introduced the Code of Practice it would have a profound effect since "most public places are somebody's workplace".[211] We hope that the Code of Practice will be implemented in the House of Commons.

118. The Secretary of State told us that he was not in favour of introducing mandatory bans on smoking in public places. He felt that it was significant that voluntary agreements in place were with the hospitality sector, rather than the tobacco industry, and that it was in the commercial interests of the sector to give people the right to a smoke-free environment.[212] He also told us that his officials would shortly be meeting representatives of the pubs sector to discuss definite targets for the provision of more non-smoking areas in pubs, and that the same procedures would then be followed with the restaurant sector.[213]

119. We understand the reluctance of the Secretary of State to pursue the path of legislation to secure smoke free environments in places of leisure. Nonetheless, it would appear that at present the consumer does not always have much choice and is only able to vote with his or her feet if there are alternative venues where a genuine smoke-free environment is available. When the Consumers' Association conducted its opinion survey it found that three quarters of its respondents were exposed to passive smoke in either the home, their place of work or places they visited socially and that on average these respondents were exposed to passive smoking in two different locations. Some 60% of those surveyed said that they were exposed to smoke in places they visited socially, whilst 20% experienced smoke in their place of work.[214]

120. In this context, we note the views of the National Asthma Campaign that cigarette smoking is a "highly common trigger" of asthma attacks and that people with asthma "have the right to breathe air that is clean and free of other people's tobacco smoke".[215] As we stated earlier, we do not regard asthma attacks as merely "annoying". We also regard as extremely serious the body of evidence supporting associations between parental smoking and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

121. In our view, voluntary agreement on passive smoking cannot yet be said to be really delivering smoke-free environments to all those who want them. The very real improvements of recent years probably owe more to market forces than to any action by Government. Indeed, we believe that market forces will continue to be a significant driver for change in this area. On balance, we accept that in the leisure sector, voluntary codes may offer the best way forward. We would hope, however, that these yield much more effective action on the part of the hospitality sector than has been the case to date. In this respect, we believe it is essential that the Government sets out a strict timetable for the targets to measure performance cited in its White Paper.[216] Certainly, if the latest agreements do not significantly improve the situation we think the Government will have to consider what more stringent actions it could take. In respect of the workplace, we believe that the proposed Health and Safety Commission Code of Practice offers a good way forward. Our greatest concerns, however, lie in the home, where babies, infants and older children are routinely exposed to ETS through no wish of their own.[217] This is also the most intractable area. All governments can do to improve the situation is to increase public awareness of the risks, and this is the strategy they have adopted. We believe that even greater efforts need to be made throughout the primary care teams to educate adults on the dangers their smoking poses to children.

122. We also regard as ill-considered and inappropriate the attempts of the tobacco industry to play down the risks of passive smoking. We are not inclined to view their opinions on the health risks of active or passive smoking as anything other than subjective. The track record of Philip Morris in particular, with its massively funded campaign to throw doubt on the science underlying research into passive smoking, indicates to us just how seriously the companies view the threat of widespread public acceptance of the risks of passive smoking.[218] While the dangers of passive smoking are far less than those attaching to active smoking they are not by any other standard trivial. As we pointed out to Mr Clark of FOREST, if a drug caused two or three deaths per hundred thousand it would be regarded as a very serious matter.[219] Even if the mechanisms of cause and effect are not yet known, and even if the precise magnitude of the added risk is hard to gauge, we see no reason why the public health authorities should not pursue the precautionary principle in respect of the potential risks from ETS.

123. We believe that a tobacco regulatory authority such as that we propose below in paragraph 189, with access to high quality scientific advice, would be the appropriate body to advise the Government on the evidence as to the health risks of passive smoking, possible measures to reduce its impact and even the potential benefits of innovative products which might reduce the amount of sidestream smoke which cigarettes emit.

183   Ev., p.560. Back

184   Ev., p.562. Back

185   Q822. Back

186   Q830. Back

187 [1999]. Back

188   Ev., p.563. Back

189   Ev., pp.561-62. Back

190   See Government Response to the First Report of the Health Committee, Tobacco Advertising and the Proposed EC Directive, Cm3859, 1998, para 3. Back

191 Back

192 Back

193 Back

194   Q857. Back

195   QQ822, 857. Back

196   Ev., p.563. Back

197   Q857. Back

198   Q867. Back

199   Ev., p.559. Back

200   Ev., p.559. Back

201   Ev., p.559. Back

202   Ev., p.559. Back

203   Ev., p.559. Back

204   Ev., p.5. Back

205   Ev., p.5. Back

206   Smoking Kills, p.66. Back

207   ibid., p.69. Back

208   ibid., p.70. Back

209   ibid., p.72. Back

210   Ev., p.5. Back

211   Q161. Back

212   Q1332. Back

213   Q1332. Back

214   Ev., p.504. Back

215   Ev., p.491. Back

216   Smoking Kills, pp.69-70. Back

217   There is also evidence that "ETS among non-smoking pregnant women can cause a decrease in birth weight". See International Consultation on Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) and Child Health: Consultation Report, World Health Organisation, 1999, Executive Summary. Back

218   See Eliza K Ong and Stanton A Glantz, "Tobacco Industry efforts subverting International Agency for Research on Cancer's second-hand smoke study", The Lancet, vol. 355: 9211, 8 April 2000, pp 1253-59. Back

219   Q625. Back

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