The increasingly close relationship between tobacco companies and Formula One motorsport received a drubbing Monday from the British Medical Journal -- the voice of the UK's medical governing body.
The BMJ points an accusing finger at F1 and cigarette giant British American Tobacco, citing a deal to promote smoking via Grand Prix-branded toys and computer games. In one instance, says the journal, the tobacco company included free toys within cartons of Lucky Strike cigarettes.
In a hard-hitting article co-authored by Dr Jeff Collin -- a London specialist in hygiene and tropical medicine -- the BMJ avers: "Formula One is clearly used by BAT in an attempt to create a global brand that can compete with Philip Morris's Marlboro."
In addition to touting toys and games across Europe, where media advertising is now outlawed, the tobacco titan has fixed its crosswires on the globe's largest single per capita market. Writes Collin: "The first Chinese Grand Prix in September is just a major coup for tobacco companies in reshaping Formula One as a sport to advance their own commercial ends."
The article makes much use of BAT internal documents acquired by the BMJ via undisclosed channels. It quotes one such memorandum from BAT to its American PR agency Edelman.
The memo refers to the opportunities for BAT's 555 brand in China, commenting that: "The strength for 555 in the region is that the few western characters that they can understand are numerals."
The BMJ, however, fails to explain why it believes there are improper or unethical implications in this seemingly innocent factual sentence.
A BAT spokeswoman declined comment on the purloined documents, saying the company has a policy of not commenting on documents obtained from its depository. "It's very easy to take them out of context," she said.
Data sourced from: MediaGuardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff