Switzerland - Davidoff sponsored Swiss Indoor Tennis Tournament begins..

November 2, 2009 - Davidoff Swiss Indoors Basel tennis tournament (part of the World Tour 500 Series) starts today, Monday, November 2, 2009. Rodger Federer will be chasing his fourth consecutive title in his hometown tournament.

The tournament, which has been sponsored by Swiss luxury brand Davidoff since 1994 is one of the last in the world to be sponsored by a tobacco company – and health campaigners aren't happy. Davidoff is joined by three main sponsors and nine national sponsors.

Back on October 25th we reported that Britain's Imperial Tobacco, one of the world's largest cigarette companies, has been drawn into a difficult situation over the sponsorship of a major televised European tennis event. Health organisations are furious that the main sponsor of the Basel ATP World Tour 500 tournament is Davidoff, the luxury brand that covers everything from cigarettes to cigars and aftershave. Davidoff's cigarette brand is owned by Imperial. (Switzerland - Imperial Tobacco sponsorship major televised European tennis event..)

"First of all, linking sport and tobacco is utterly perverse," Jürg Hurter, president of Pro Aere, Switzerland's largest organisation against passive smoking.
"Second, the tobacco industry – who aren't idiots – try to get around tobacco promotion laws by sponsoring sporting events or by branding various products."

How has local Federer, who was once a ball boy at the Swiss Indoors, ended up in the anti-smoking crosshairs? - Two years ago anti-smoking group OxyRomandie sent an open letter to the world number one – signed by more than 500 international health experts – calling on him to either pull out of the tournament or ask that the organisers to cut all ties with Davidoff and the tobacco industry. He declined to respond. So should top players such as Federer – who incidentally also supports Cool and Clean, a government-backed programme to keep tobacco, alcohol and cannabis out of sport – boycott the tournament? "I'd naturally be very happy if Federer said 'I'm not going to take part in a Davidoff tournament – nor in any other sponsored by a deadly industry'," said Hurter at Pro Aere. "I can't second-guess the thoughts of Federer, who's a nice chap. I'm simply not happy that a deadly product is allowed to sponsor a sporting event – and is even in the title.

The situation has come about because while tobacco advertising has been banned in the European Union since August 2005, non-EU Switzerland leaves the decision to the country's 26 cantons. Only one, Solothurn, has banned both tobacco advertising and sponsorship. (Cantons are states within Switzerland)

Source: Federal Health Office's National Programme Tobacco 2008-2012: 29 percent of the Swiss population aged 14-65 smoke. The proportion of smokers is highest among those aged 20-24. About 8,300 people die from tobacco consumption in Switzerland annually. There are around 16,000 cases of disability attributable to smoking. The consumption of tobacco costs the Swiss economy SFr10 billion a year (SFr1.2 billion on medical treatment, SFr3.8 billion on invalidity costs, loss of quality of life is estimated at SFr5 billion). Income from tax on tobacco amounts to just over SFr2 billion a year.

Reference: Federer fires up anti-smoking emotions,Thomas Stephens, swissinfo.ca, 11/1/1009.

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Image - Rodger Federer stretches at last year's Davidoff Swiss Indoors (Keystone).