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Tobacco in sport: an endless addiction?
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  1. A Blum
  1. Correspondence to:
 Professor Alan Blum
 The Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society, The University of Alabama School of Medicine, Tuscaloosa, Alabama 35401, USA; ablumcchs.ua.edu

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“They don’t get your wind…”

Nearly all in tobacco control today can only imagine the early days of television, when young sports fans watching their favourite team would be exposed to a steady stream of cigarette commercials featuring testimonials by top athletes. In the USA, overt cigarette advertisements have long since gone from the airwaves. Yet Formula One car racing, which reaches over 40 billion TV viewers each year, retains several tobacco sponsors whose brand logotypes and colours are constantly in view on the racing cars, banners, and drivers’ uniforms. And although 1984 marked the last Olympic Games to have an official cigarette sponsor, in October China’s largest cigarette company, Baisha, signed a 21 year old Olympic gold medallist hurdler to endorse a leading cigarette brand in print ads and commercials. “Everyone likes Liu Xiang and hopes he will soar higher and faster and maintain his sunny, healthy, progressive image,” boasted the company’s president.1

The connection between sports and tobacco is as old as professional athletic competition itself. Just a few years after teams in the National Baseball League began playing in 1876, trading cards with pictures of the players made their debut in cigarette packages. Numerous cigar and cigarette brands were named after sports-related themes. One brand of chewing tobacco, Bull Durham, advertised on outfield fences in baseball parks in the South, gave the name to the pitchers’ warm up area behind the fence. A rare protest of the attempt to associate baseball and smoking occurred in 1911 when Hall of Fame second baseman, Honus Wagner, demanded that a cigarette company remove his picture from a tobacco trading card.

In the early decades of the last century, tennis, golf, swimming, football, track and field, skiing, and ice skating were often depicted in cigarette advertising as activities demanding a cigarette for enhanced performance and even good health.2 American Tobacco’s Lucky Strike ads featured drawings of athletes with an obese shadow they would cast if they …

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