Court order against Philip Morris ads in Formula 1

28 May 2019, Bangkok – A French court ruled against tobacco advertising in Formula 1. Upon request for interim measures by the French civil society group CNCT (Comité National Contre le Tabagisme), the judge prohibited Philip Morris Products SA and Ducati Spa Motors from “making any use of the mark, the logo, or the expression ‘Mission Winnow,’ whether contiguous or not to the name “Ducati” “during the MotoGP races in France or on any related communications. The French races were to be held on 17-19 May 2019 at the Bugatti circuit in Le Mans, France. This is despite the court’s acknowledgment of the companies’ claims that they did not intend to use or display such brands at the races. Both companies were also ordered to pay the CNCT the sum of € 10,000 based on civil laws.

The order came after the World Health Organization (WHO) urged sports companies not to allow tobacco advertising and sponsorship of events and urged governments to enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship at sporting events, including when hosting or receiving broadcasts of Formula 1 and MotoGP events. The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) Secretariat statement on 13 March 2019 states that “brand stretching” and “brand sharing” could reach billions of viewers, including children.

FCTC Article 13 obliges Parties to the Convention to implement a comprehensive ban (or restrictions) on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship covering those that have the likely effect of promoting a tobacco product or tobacco use either directly or indirectly.

Cigarette sponsorship of Formula 1 races had been ubiquitous from 1997 to 2006 but was eventually stopped, owing to pressure from advertising bans. 2018 and 2019 saw the revival of such sponsorships as Philip Morris International partnered with Scuderia Ferrari and launched a “Mission Winnow” using the Marlboro red-and-white chevron, and sponsored team Ducati of MotoGP, while British American Tobacco engaged in a multi-year partnership agreement with McLaren (Formula 1), through the “A Better Tomorrow” campaign to market its new tobacco devices. Formula 1 races can be seen in television and streaming services around the world. 

The global tobacco control treaty, ratified by 181 states, obligates governments to protect policies against commercial and vested interests of the tobacco industry, under FCTC Article 5.3. Its Guidelines urge governments to hold the tobacco industry accountable for its actions and raise awareness of the industry’s tactics. It also recognizes that “nongovernmental organizations and other members of civil society not affiliated with the tobacco industry could play an essential role in monitoring the activities of the tobacco industry.”

For more information, see:

  1. CNTC (15 May 2019). French motorcycle Grand Prix of Le Mans: Justice rules in favor of the National Committee for Tobacco Control (CNCT) and prohibits the return of Philip Morris on the racing circuits. Available at https://ggtc.world/2019/05/20/grand-prix-of-france-of-le-mans-justice-gives-right-to-the-cnct-and-prevents-the-return-of-philip-morris-on-the-circuits/
  2. WHO FCTC Secretariat (13 March 2019). Secretariat of the WHO FCTC urges Parties to ban all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship in all motor sports. Available at https://www.who.int/fctc/mediacentre/press-release/secretariat-urges-to-ban-tobacco-advertising-in-motor-sports/en/
  3. French Decree n ° 2017­279 of March 2nd, 2017 relating to the transparency of the expenses related to the activities of influence or representation of interests of the manufacturers, the importers, the distributors of tobacco products and their representatives. Available at https://ggtc.world/dmdocuments/Decree%20n%20°%202017-279%20of%20March%202,%202017%20on%20the%20transparency%20of%20the%20expenses%20related%20to%20the%20activities%20of%20influence%20or%20representation%20of%20interests%20of%20the%20manufacturers,%20the%20importers,%20the%20distributors%20of%20tobacco%20products%20and%20their%20representatives%20-%20Artic.pdf
  4. French Ordinance No. 2016-623 of 19 May 2016 transposing Directive 2014/40 / EU on manufacturing, presentation and sale of tobacco products and related products. Available at https://ggtc.world/dmdocuments/excerpts%20of%20French%20law%20%20-%20unofficial%20translation%20%288.03.2018%29.pdf
  5. WHO FCTC (2008). Guidelines for implementation of Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control on the protection of public health policies with respect to tobacco control from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry. FCTC/COP3(7). Available at https://untobaccocontrol.org/kh/article-53/wp-content/uploads/sites/8/2019/02/article53.pdf
  6. WHO FCTC (2008). Guidelines for implementation of Article 13 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (Tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship). FCTC/COP3(12). Available at https://www.who.int/fctc/guidelines/article_13.pdf?ua=1