British American Tobacco has made it clear that it remains committed to pulling its Lucky Strike brand out of Formula One at the end of this season - even though rival Marlboro is set to continue in the sport for the long-term.
Formula One's three major tobacco companies, British American Tobacco (which owns Lucky Strike), Philip Morris (which owns Marlboro) and Japan Tobacco (which owns Mild Seven) all signed a document in September 2001 binding them to voluntarily pulling out of major sports sponsorship at the end of the 2006 season.
But the International Marketing Standards agreement looks set to be broken by Philip Morris, which has already made it clear that it is committed to sponsorship with Ferrari until 2011.
That decision could have led its rival tobacco companies to change their minds but with Mild Seven having announced this week that it is pulling out, a leading figure at BAT has confirmed that Lucky Strike will not remain in F1 beyond the end of this year.
"That's definite," Gary Carey, BAT's head of sponsorship told autosport.com. "I mean, the reason for that is that we signed up to the International Marketing Standards, which is a self-regulatory agreement between ourselves and Philip Morris (Marlboro) and the other tobacco companies, in which we all agreed to pull out of all motorsports sponsorships by the end of 2006.
"The agreement is a means of regulating our industry, our own code of conduct. There are many, many different areas where we can continue in sponsorship outside of motorsport, but by continuing with Ferrari, Philip Morris have obviously decided to tear up the agreement. It is within their rights to do so; they are not breaking the law.
"We have decided to market to adults in other ways, communicating with our customers in more targeted ways, depending upon what countries they are in, and what the local laws are. I think the most important thing is that we will always respect local laws, even where others don't."
There remains some doubt at the moment about whether cars will be branded at certain races this year, with Ferrari and Renault having recently tested with full tobacco branding in Spain despite an EU-ban on cigarette advertising and sponsorship.
Read the full interview with Gary Carey in this week's journal.