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Smokeless tobacco Olympics: the US Tobacco Company, the IOC and the 1980 Lake Placid Olympic Winter Games

Abstract

Throughout much of the 20th century, cigarette manufacturers have sponsored sporting events and used sports figures in advertising and marketing their products. The United States Tobacco Company (UST) became a sponsor of the 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, New York, allowing the company to place the Olympic emblem on their television and print advertisements and on product packages. This paper reviews the history of UST’s 1980 Olympic sponsorship using records from the IOC, the Lake Placid organising committee and internal tobacco industry documents. At the time, UST was seeking to expand the market for smokeless tobacco products, experimenting with new products and portraying their products as an alternative to smoking. At the same time, commercial sponsorship was becoming increasingly important to the future of the Games. At the time, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was struggling to implement a policy prohibiting tobacco sponsorship of the Olympic Games. This episode was to be the last time a tobacco company was named an official sponsor of the Olympic Games. However, while subsequent editions of the Olympic Games have adopted policies restricting tobacco industry sponsorship, the reach of these policies is limited across any Olympic organisations. The lack of a comprehensive policy on tobacco advertising and sponsorship associated with the Olympics continues to pose a challenge to efforts to remove tobacco from the Games.

  • public policy
  • non-cigarette tobacco products
  • tobacco industry
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