EU Warns against Subliminal Tobacco Ads

Formula One teams planning to circumvent anti-tobacco legislation by running with subliminal branding have been warned they will likely face investigation by the European Union

A pan-European ban on tobacco advertising is due to kick in this weekend, forcing teams to remove any cigarette sponsorship they have, but it is believed that some outfits may continue to run with less obvious backing.

Ferrari, for example, is understood to have a deal with Marlboro until the end of 2006.

Although the team are free to run with full branding at events outside the EU that allow such activity, it was thought that the team would run with the red and black stripes that they have used at this year's unbranded events for races where official tobacco sponsorship is not allowed.

However, such action by Ferrari or any other team on the grid is set to be clamped down by the EU - which made it clear on Wednesday that it believes even the 'colours, shapes and fonts associated with tobacco logos' on the cars may be a breach of their anti-tobacco legislation.

"This is something that the Commission and the Member State authorities will need to examine," said a statement issued by the EU. "According to the (anti-tobacco) Directive advertising means any form of commercial communication with the aim or direct or indirect effect of promoting a tobacco product."

Ferrari spokesman Luca Colajanni maintained his team's stance that they had no intention of breaching any tobacco advertising legislation.

"Ferrari as always will respect the laws of each country regarding tobacco advertising," he said.

Of Formula One's other tobacco teams, only McLaren's position has been made clear, with the team ending their association with West at this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix.

BAR (which are part owned by British American Tobacco), Renault and Jordan have yet to make final decisions about their cigarette sponsorship plans for the rest of the season as they await clarification from the British government about their situation.

The British government is bringing its own Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act into force on July 31 and is set to issue its own guidelines about how that affects the British teams later this week.

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