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[Editorial] Smoke and mirrors: new tobacco products and Formula 1

Tags: General

Clear links between Formula 1 and smoking were rightly confined to history decades ago. However, it now appears that connections are developing once more. British American Tobacco (BAT) joined with McLaren in February to advertise several products including a so-called heat-not-burn, tobacco-containing device—a hybrid of the e-cigarette and the traditional cigarette. Under the branding “A Better Tomorrow”, the union is about “transforming [the] tobacco agenda, at the heart of our portfolio of potentially reduced risk products”, BAT told The Lancet on May 8.

Philip Morris International, known for Marlboro cigarettes, is not advertising their heated tobacco device—IQOS—directly with Formula 1, but on Oct 3, 2018, they launched Mission Winnow, a project that indirectly links their tobacco products to Ferrari's F1 team.

WHO rightly condemned both campaigns on March 14, prior to the Australian Grand Prix, urging countries to enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship at all sporting events under the 2003 WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Philip Morris and BAT then removed their controversial brandings for the Australian race, but they returned to adorn cars and drivers at subsequent F1 contests in Bahrain, Shanghai, and Azerbaijan. At the Spanish Grand Prix last weekend, only Mission Winnow appeared on cars and clothes of Ferrari drivers Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel.

Philip Morris's promotion of its heat-not-burn product was given a further boost after the US Food and Drug Administration authorised the marketing of IQOS on April 30. The device, whose name derives from the phrase “I quit original smoking”, is one of several heat-not-burn gadgets now on sale in numerous countries across the globe.

Allowing unrestricted use of e-cigarettes and vaping devices as adjuncts in tobacco smoking cessation in many countries was reckless, to say the least. But permitting the sale and promotion of heat-not-burn tobacco devices, without any clear evidence of safety seems irresponsible in the extreme. As a first step, any form of promotion—both covert and transparent—should be prohibited worldwide.

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