The Ferrari F1 team's use of a "bar code" on its cars in place of Marlboro chevrons as a way around Europe's stringent anti-tobacco advertising laws has come in for criticism by an association of doctors and European Union officials. “The bar code looks like the bottom half of a packet of Marlboro cigarettes. I was stunned when I saw it," John Britton from the Royal College of Physicians and director of its tobacco advisory group told Britain's The Times. "This is pushing at the limits. If you look at how [Ferrari's] bar code has evolved over the last four years, it looks like creeping branding." The group has asked for official inquiry by the British government into Ferrari's deal, which is supposedly worth $1 billion.
A spokesman for the European Public Health Commissioner agreed with the doctors' group, saying he thought that Marlboro's approach constituted potential subliminal marketing. Ahead of next week's Spanish Grand Prix, he urged the Spanish and British governments to ascertain whether Marlboro might be in breach of the law.
A spokesman for Ferrari told the paper the team's use of the bar code does not break any laws.
“The bar code is part of the livery of the car, it is not part of a subliminal advertising campaign," said the spokesman.
“We are confident that our relationship with Ferrari does not violate the UK 2002 Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act,” added a spokesperson from Marlboro brand owner Philip Morris. “The Formula 1 Grand Prix in the UK does not involve any racecars, team apparel, equipment or track signage carrying tobacco product branding. The same is true for all other Formula 1 races across the world.”