A host of major sporting bodies joined forces with the World Health Organization last week to launch the ‘Tobacco-Free Sports – Play it Clean’ campaign, calling for a ban on advertising of the product or its use at sports events.

The campaign coincides with the start of a fresh round of talks among the WHO’s 191 member states on global measures to curb tobacco. Said Dr Derek Yach, a senior official at the UN agency: “The most pernicious and pervasive form of that marketing is found in sports stadiums and arenas worldwide.”

Lending support to the push were the International Olympic Committee, soccer’s governing body FIFA and world motor racing body Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, which earlier warned that failure to adopt global restrictions would jeopardise its own attempts to ban tobacco ads by 2006 [WAMN: 16-Nov-01].

Individuals backing the campaign include Danish soccer star Michael Laudrup, his counterpart from the Cameroon Roger Milla and Norwegian Olympic speedskating champion Johann Koss.

FIFA, which has banned tobacco ads at its flagship World Cup events since 1986, is determined to make the 2002 tournament in Japan and South Korea tobacco-free. It has even written to managers of national teams asking them not to smoke on the bench during matches.

“For next year’s World Cup, we are making special efforts so that three million people at stadiums in South Korea and Japan sit in relative comfort and not in a cloud of someone else’s pollution hanging around their head,” said spokesman Keith Cooper, adding that FIFA would take “a realistic approach” by providing closed rooms for smokers.

However, the WHO’s attempts to forge global measures may be hindered by disagreements on how marketing should be restricted. The American delegation, for instance, hinted that the US constitution’s guarantee of free speech could prevent its support for a blanket ban on advertising.

News source: CampaignLive (UK)