Apr. 17 2007
Washington, DC — Philip Morris USA and Philip Morris International (both subsidiaries of Altria) claim they are changed, responsible companies that do not market to kids and are concerned about the health risks of their products. But the companies’ actions tell a different story. In the latest example, Philip Morris International this year is the only tobacco company that continues to sponsor Formula One auto races, which exposes spectators and tens of millions of television viewers worldwide – including millions of children – to the name, logo and red-and-white colors of the company’s best-selling Marlboro cigarettes. The Marlboro brand was prominently displayed on the winning car and uniforms of the driver and pit crew at the Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday. No responsible company would continue to associate deadly and addictive cigarettes with the excitement and glamour of auto racing, thereby increasing their appeal to children.
Philip Morris’ sponsorship of Formula One violates the company’s own voluntary marketing standards and circumvents the efforts of a growing number of countries around the world to prohibit tobacco advertising, promotions and sponsorships, as required by the international tobacco control treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
On September 11, 2001, Philip Morris, British American Tobacco (BAT) and Japan Tobacco – the three largest multinational tobacco companies – issued voluntary marketing standards that set a deadline of December 2006 for ending tobacco sponsorships of sports that required “above-average physical fitness for someone of the age group of those taking part.” BAT and Japan Tobacco found that Formula One racing fell into that category and ended their sponsorships last year. But Philip Morris has broken its promise to end such sponsorships. According to a report on the (GrandPrix.com web site), a vice-president of Marlboro Motorsport Marketing said the company’s marketing standards “provided no gain to society and put us at a competitive disadvantage." In other words, profit comes before health.
Tobacco companies also have been forced to give up Formula One sponsorships because a growing number of countries have banned tobacco sponsorships, as required by the tobacco treaty. However, while other tobacco companies ended their Formula One sponsorships, Philip Morris International chose to continue its sponsorship even if the Marlboro name and logo can appear only in race venues, such as Bahrain, that have yet to ban tobacco sponsorships. By doing so, Philip Morris circumvents and undermines other countries’ efforts to curtail their citizens’ exposure to tobacco marketing because Formula One races are broadcast to about 200 countries, sometimes reaching an audience of as much as 150 million viewers per race. In fact, Formula One races are among the most popular televised sporting events in the world.
Philip Morris International’s actions underscore the need for all nations to effectively implement the tobacco treaty, including its requirement that nations ban all tobacco advertising, promotions and sponsorships (with an exception for nations with constitutional constraints, which must restrict tobacco marketing to the extent permitted). It also demonstrates the need for nations to reach agreement on a strong protocol, or side agreement, to restrict forms of cross-border tobacco marketing. To date, 168 countries have signed the treaty and 146 have ratified it. The United States has signed, but not ratified.
The continued Formula One sponsorship is only the latest example of irresponsible conduct by the Philip Morris companies:
· Earlier this year, Philip Morris USA broke its promise to stop opposing smoke-free workplace laws so it could lead the fight against proposed legislation in Virginia. Last year, Philip Morris spent tens of millions of dollars to fight state ballot initiatives to increase tobacco taxes and fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs.
· A study published in the December issue of the American Journal of Public Health found that Philip Morris’ television ads purporting to discourage youth smoking are ineffective at best and the company’s ads targeted at parents actually encourage kids to smoke. The ads have been shown in the United States and several other countries.
· In the United States, more kids – 48 percent of youth smokers – smoke Philip Morris’ Marlboros than nearly all other brands combined.
· In August 2006, a federal judge found that Philip Morris, parent company Altria and other tobacco companies have violated civil racketeering laws by lying – and continuing to lie – about the health risks of smoking and their marketing to children. The judge also found that this illegal conduct continues today.