Formula 1 & Big Tobacco: A Love Story

Motorsports sponsorships serve as a longstanding form of advertising for the tobacco industry, particularly when it comes to increasing the uptake of smoking among young people.

It is one of the world’s most-watched sports with an ever growing fanbase thanks to Netflix’s “Drive to Survive'' series. And, Formula 1 was been a valuable platform for brands that strive to reach wide scale international audiences–which big tobacco took advantage of for decades.

Formula One has benefited greatly from big tobacco in the form of $4.5 billion-yes, billion–from tobacco companies advertising like Philip-Morris, Camel, Mission Winnow, etc.

Even with recent restrictions in place, Tobacco represented almost a tenth of all Formula One team sponsorships in 2019, an estimated $95 million out of a billion-dollar annual budget.

Though we don’t quite live in the same times as Ferrari’s Marlboro car driven by Michael Schumacher, the truth is, Big Tobacco remains one of Formula One’s most reliable commercial partners. Phillip-Morris still invests tens of millions into the sport while continuing to manufacture billions of cigarettes.

How did this unsavory partnership foster?

Decades ago, the F1 series began to permit sponsorships to boost team income and technical support–a much needed advance to the sport.

Brands lined up to become a part of an ever-growing competition sure to revolutionize racing. Brightly colored logos and skins adorned cars to promote a wide range of products… including cigarettes.

In fact, the first corporate F1 sponsor was Gold Leaf cigarettes, who placed logos on the side of the Team Lotus cars during the 1968 Monte Carlo Grand Prix.

Soon sponsors, including Marlboro and Camel, were more prominent than the team names themselves–Schumacher drove the “Marlboro Car.”

Considered the “the pinnacle of motorsport” by most, Formula One became a primary marketing platform for addictive products. Virtually all major cigarette brands were well-represented throughout the years.

Cigarettes rapidly became the primary sponsorship sector in the sport; in 1996, for example, all top six teams in the championship carried prominent logos for tobacco brands.

Reaching an all-time high in 1999, money spent by tobacco companies averaged 82.9-million-dollars per year

This is about where health and wellness organizations and regulators soon took note.

Restrictions on cigarette advertising were introduced in the ‘90s and early 2000s, forcing tobacco companies to circumnavigate tightening rules with more creative methods such as British American Tobacco’s ‘dark market’ logos.

Thankfully, countries throughout Europe, and beyond, moved towards widespread reform.

A 2005 ban on tobacco advertisements in the EU struck a blow to these companies; only Philip Morris retained its partnership with Ferrari.

Stripped of product name and logos, the Marlboro car continued to round the track decked out in a classic red unique to the brand.

Unfortunately, Big Tobacco wasn’t entirely out of the race.

By 2019, Philip Morris increased its spending as British American Tobacco reentered the sport. The move boosted overall industry spending to an estimated 100-million-dollars… a figure that continued to rise as time went on. .

The Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, Formula One’s governing body, continues to ignore public pleas to sever their relationship with Big Tobacco once and for all.

As a result, countries hosting races are now held responsible for regulating advertisements and sponsorships.

Formula One’s growing young fanbase is increasingly exposed to not only cigarettes but other harmful products such as e-cigarettes and nicotine pouches. Today, a direct threat to public health remains as companies speak directly to the next generation of smokers via televised live events. At Füm, we believe we have the opportunity, and an obligation, to curb this toxic trend.

In alignment, Formula 1 and other motorsports like NASCAR and the Touring cup are making significant advances to greener technology and habits. We have our part to play to in educating and providing a great solution for quitting smoking.

The Füm natural inhaler helps to kick tobacco addiction while steering clear of side effects further 

By incorporating the hand to mouth habit of smoking with a natural, safe, and non-addictive alternative allows smokers to quit with something that doesn’t leave them guilty. No smoke, no vape, and no nicotine–just plants!

Let’s keep our focus on the track, and not on nicotine cravings.

It’s time for motorsports worldwide to support positive action rather than pushing toxic products on impressionable youth. With that comes the future of healthy habits.

Get on the inside track and join us as we speed towards a brighter, healthier tomorrow.

The checkered flag is ahead.

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