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Sponsorship for sports by cigarette companies is bad
Posted: Sunday, December 29, 2002

by Stephen Kangal MOM

The Finance (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2002 was passed on Friday and Tuesday last in both Houses of Parliament with only one dissenting, caring voice, that of Senator Anmolsingh-Mahabir being heard (Newsday Dec 19 p 18).

The Senator continues to serve as a credible voice in the wilderness singularly prosecuting the case for tobacco free sports.

The Bill proposed, inter alia, to reward commercial sponsorship of sports, sportsmen and women via a fiscal incentive of 150 percent tax deduction for sponsorship expenditures incurred not exceeding $450,000.

Look at the present case of Walker Park that has been left to languish into vandalism/disuse after CLICO abandoned it to help us to assess the viability/credibility of commercial sport sponsorship.

Our legislators, the elected/chosen guardians of our national patrimony, unwittingly voted to legitimise and encourage tobacco companies to desecrate and destroy our youths and to be rewarded handsomely by Government. Is this a manifestation, a symptom of a 2020 tunnel Vision?

Dr Ronald Henry, local cardiologist admitted to conducting angioplasty on 30-year-olds which is unusual by world standards. He says of tobacco smoking:

"In the young heart attacks under 40, the most prevalent risk factor is cigarette smoking. It produces an amino acid in the blood which causes cholesterol to settle in the arteries."

The progressive trend worldwide among developed countries is to increasingly impose strict embargoes on tobacco companies from sponsorship of sporting events in the face of clear, unambiguous clinical data that confirms that tobacco consumption is pre-eminently responsible for a range of respiratory/cardiovascular diseases, the No 1 killer in TT. Treating these ailments exacts from our inefficient, health services the undertaking of astronomical expenditures to cope with the attendant strains.

In fact as the tobacco ban in sports and other public places in the respective countries of the developed world begins to achieve the desired effect (decrease by 1.5 percent) consumption in the developing world is increasing by 1.7 percent because of intensified tobacco promotions being conducted in the unsuspecting South.

Fifty-five countries have hitherto legislated to intensify the war against the tobacco purveyors of death and destruction. Twenty-one have in fact banned tobacco sponsorship/association with designated sporting disciplines and sportsmen and women. Tobacco companies target the young, healthy and fit to embellish and boost their image of their potions of death.

The young in TT are dying from cigarette consumption as well from secondary smoke inhalation in cramped night clubs/discos. We are an aging population with 10 percent over 60. The young are now an endangered specie in TT.

Tobacco and sports do not mix. Sports is the celebration of the vitality of life in TT.

What is the value of strengthening the legislation to prevent and/or reduce incidences of sale of tobacco/alcohol to minors/the young when tobacco/alcohol manufacturers are being subsidised with our taxes and induced to the pavilions/sporting arenas to maim and disfigure the young darlings of our democracy. WITCO must withdraw from selecting the Sportsman/Woman of the Year and be de-linked from the Sports Foundation.

As a serious 2020 first world aspirant we must legislate to guarantee a Tobacco Free Sports Environment because of the 8.4 million tobacco-related deaths that will occur by the watershed year 2020, seven of every ten will occur in developing countries. FIFA, The IOC, The European Union (enforceable among the 15 EU nations by 2005) as well as Canada, UK, Australia etc have moved to institute strict bans of tobacco advertising/sponsorships of designated sporting disciplines.

In addition to the tobacco issue, I cannot, try however hard I may, to appreciate the motives underlying the Bill that places cricket/soccer/athletics etc on the same fiscal incentives plane as gum-chewing, hot-dog guzzling pop-corn eating base-ball.

The Bill then compounds the situation by excluding the popular sport of volleyball. Talk of adhocracy!

In conclusion we need a more holistic, co-ordinated approach to the development of sports as an industry-not cosmetic, adhocratic.

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