VICTORIA'S tough new tobacco advertising laws may have cost the state the International 500cc Motorcycle Grand Prix, which generated $43 million in sales and about $1 million in taxes last year. Until Oct. 1, international and interstate sporting events were exempt from cigarette ad restrictions covering local events.
But new regulations now include a requirement that every rider, vehicle, or sign with tobacco advertising or company colors must also carry a health warning label 25 percent of the size of the ad.
The tobacco industry objects to the measures. Six of the top riders last year were sponsored by tobacco firms.
The Grand Prix race organizer decided earlier this month to take the race to New South Wales, which was offering more money and no ad restrictions.
``The tobacco industry is fighting extremely hard to retain television sports.
``The Motorcycle Grand Prix, like cricket, has an international audience of more than 300 million, with large numbers of fans in developing countries,'' says antismoking activist Nigel Gray.
Victoria Premier John Cain says, ``the bill for health care [from smoking-related diseases] far outweighs the revenue coming from this race.'' Antismoking groups estimate smoking costs Australian taxpayers about $400 million annually in health-care bills.
Bob Jane, a motor racing promoter, says Mr. Cain's stand is ``brave and intelligent.''
Last November, Mr. Jane refused to allow tobacco company advertisements on his three race tracks.
The Confederation of Australian Motor Sport responded by canceling his rights to hold major national championships on the tracks.
Jane figures Australia will ban all cigarette ads within five years. ``The government recognizes it can't stop adults from smoking. But it can stop our kids from watching `sexy' or `glamorous' motor-racing drivers making smoking look like its helping them with their achievements.''