Marlboro may be forced to pull out of formula one sponsorship next year because of the burden of compensation claims from smokers and ex-smokers around the world.
Philip Morris, the cigarette brand's owner, needs to free up most of the £45 million that the company ploughs into Ferrari every year.
Marlboro has sponsored the Ferrari racing team for 30 years with money that helps to pay Michael Schumacher's £20 million annual salary.
Geoffrey C Bible, the Philip Morris chief executive, told German magazine Focusi that the company would continue with only low-key sponsorships after 2002.
Under the EC clampdown on tobacco advertising, Philip Morris could continue to sponsor cars and drivers until 2006.