June 24, 2002

Statement of John Seffrin
President Elect of International Union Against Cancer
Uruguay Football Team Should End Tobacco Industry Affiliation

GENEVA - Uruguay's World Cup football team was sponsored this year by "Nevada," a prominent cigarette brand owned by Uruguayan company Monte Paz. The national football team in Uruguay should respond to requests from the Uruguay Medical Association and the World Health Organization to make sports tobacco free in Uruguay, and refuse to accept any further sponsorship from the tobacco industry.

This relationship is particularly offensive, as it coincides with the launch of the World Health Organization's World No-Tobacco Day during the World Cup games. The theme for World No-Tobacco Day this year is Tobacco Free Sports.

Tobacco sponsorship of a World Cup team clearly violates a cooperative agreement between FIFA, the Federation Internationale de Football Association, which serves as the governing body for international soccer matches, and the World Health Organization. A Memorandum of Cooperation, which was signed by WHO Director General Gro Harlem Brundtland and FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter, asserts that tobacco in any form must be removed from all soccer events associated with FIFA, beginning with the 2002 World Cup. In addition, part of the agreement states, "FIFA also reaffirms its obligation as a sports federation to promote a healthy lifestyle among all sectors of the community, particularly among children and young people."

This unfortunate partnership comes on the heels of a flurry of outrage over another tobacco company's misuse of the World Cup games. BAT, one of the two largest cigarette companies in the world, has been criticized for violating its own, weak voluntary code of conduct at a time when it is promoting a new policy of social responsibility. The company is sponsoring television coverage of the World Cup in Malaysia, and advertising that sponsorship. In addition, BAT has a contract with the Football Federation of Niger to promote Rothman's cigarettes in soccer fields throughout Niger until 2006.

Surely the football players of Uruguay agree with FIFA and the Uruguay Medical Association that the national team should promote a healthy lifestyle for their fans of all ages. When the team becomes tobacco free, and frees itself from tobacco money as well, the football players of Uruguay will be the role models that the youth of their country deserve.