September 18, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 12  

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Tobacco ad ban: fascist or fun?

By Dan Dedic
Gazette Writer

With the federal government's tobacco sponsorship ban coming into effect Oct. 1, the Canadian Grand Prix's existence is jeopardized - in turn, Jacques Villeneuve's home town losing streak may finally end by default.

Daniel Robinson, a professor of information and media studies at Western who studies tobacco marketing, explained the existing ban on advertising is being extended to include sponsorship. The most obvious effect will be on auto racing, where tobacco companies sponsor a considerable number of cars.

The International Automobile Federation (FIA) subsequently announced the cancellation of the Canadian Grand Prix, but many groups in Canada feel the two issues are unrelated.

"The reason tobacco companies [use these races] is that the cars are a great advertising vehicle, pardon the pun, to target a wide audience - namely teenage boys," said Francis Thompson, spokesperson for the Non-Smokers Rights Association of Canada.

Thompson said there may be no financial loss, as other companies like Hewlett Packard (which already sponsors one team), might be willing to step in.

Christina Dona, media representative for Canada's top tobacco manufacturer, Imperial Tobacco said she disagreed, noting the ban has already ended Team Players racing, as well as other programs such as the MatinŽe Fashion Foundation and the Arts Funding Foundation.

"Imperial Tobacco has asked our parent company, British American Tobacco, to race without labels in the Grand Prix," Dona stated.

Imperial Tobacco is challenging the ban and is in the appeal process with the Quebec Supreme Court. "[The company has] done everything to be in compliance with the law," she added.

Canadian Council for Tobacco Control spokesperson Bob Walsh said he was happy with the law and felt the Grand Prix would survive. Walsh said ridding the race of such sponsorship was an important step in fighting addiction. "We know advertising and promotion increases tobacco use," he stated.



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