Secret documents recently obtained by British reporters under the United Kingdom's Freedom of Information Act show that former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair ordered tobacco sponsorship exempted from a new law banning tobacco advertising at sporting events. Blair's action came immediately after his political party, the Labour Party, received a secret donation of one million British pounds from Bernie Ecclestone, the president and CEO of Formula One Motorsports. After winning the general election in 1997, the Labour Party had pledged to ban tobacco advertising, and in June 1998, the European Union formally adopted a directive prohibiting all tobacco advertising and sponsorship in the EU. The secret papers show, though, that within hours of his October 16, 1997 meeting with Ecclestone, Blair demanded the U.K. policy be changed to allow tobacco companies to sponsor Formula One car races, and that his aides went on to help him hide the truth behind the change. Philip Morris was the largest tobacco sponsor of Formula One racing.
By Anne Landman on October 13, 2008