BMJ calls for an end to F1 tobacco sponsorship deals

LONDON - Formula 1 motor racing is under fire again today with the British Medical Journal calling for stricter regulations after the sport abandoned its commitment to be free of tobacco sponsorship by 2006.

The health experts' accusations come after F1, which this weekend visits the UK for the British Grand Prix, has been establishing races in countries with fewer advertising regulations and so breaking its pledge to be free of tobacco sponsorship and advertising by 2006.

Internal documents from the British American Tobacco's racing team, BAR, established in 1999 despite calls to curb tobacco sponsorship, has shown it has been successful in promoting brand awareness to youth markets and emerging countries.

Many countries, including the UK, have banned the direct advertising of cigarettes in an attempt to make people quit and improve public health, but F1 appears to be slipping through the net.

The BMJ is calling for tougher worldwide action to counter the tobacco industry's influence in F1, after the motor racing series has so far escaped strict regulation.

Smoking is responsible for about 5m deaths around the world each year and if current patterns continue it could account for 10m deaths by 2025.

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