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McLaren F1 Team Features E-cigarette Brand in New Paint Job Amid Tobacco Advertising Ban Debate

British American Tobacco leverages F1 partnership to promote e-cigarette brand Vuse amid tobacco advertising ban debates. Will new tobacco bills curb such practices?

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Salman Khan
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McLaren F1 Team Features E-cigarette Brand in New Paint Job Amid Tobacco Advertising Ban Debate

In an intriguing twist of marketing strategy, British American Tobacco (BAT) has been spotted leveraging vehicle design as a promotional tool for their e-cigarette brand Vuse, in partnership with the Formula One (F1) team McLaren. The maneuver was unveiled in November 2023, just ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, raising eyebrows and questions about the effectiveness of current advertising restrictions in deterring indirect promotion of tobacco products.

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Art Meets Advertising on the F1 Track

McLaren showcased a racing car unlike any other. The vehicle was adorned with a vibrant, wavy polka-dot pattern in papaya orange and ocean blue, a creation of Saudi Arabian artist Nujood Al-Otaibi. Amidst the eye-catching design, one element stood out: the e-cigarette brand Vuse's logo, prominently displayed, hard to miss. This was not a mere coincidence but a calculated move by the tobacco giant, BAT, to circumvent advertising restrictions.

Unpacking BAT's 'Driven by Change' Program

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This initiative forms part of BAT's 'Driven by Change' program, an endeavor that ostensibly aims to increase inclusivity in motorsports. It leverages partnerships like 'Driven by Diversity' to project a positive image, subtly marketing its tobacco products in the process. The primary target? BAT's e-cigarette brand, Vuse.

E-cigarettes are devices that vaporize nicotine-containing liquid for inhalation. Nicotine, an addictive substance, is derived from tobacco leaves. Thus, despite the change in consumption method, the health risks associated with nicotine addiction remain a significant concern.

Indirect Advertising: A Challenge to Tobacco Control Measures

The recent maneuver by BAT underscores a broader issue – the challenge of indirect advertising practices in the face of tobacco advertising bans. While restrictions seek to curb the promotion of tobacco products, innovative tactics employed by tobacco companies, such as BAT's partnership with McLaren, highlight potential loopholes.

This raises pertinent questions about the potential influence of new tobacco bills, such as the one being considered in South Africa. Will these measures prove effective in curbing such indirect advertising practices in sports and other platforms, or will the industry continue to find creative ways to evade the restrictions, thereby perpetuating the promotion of tobacco products?

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