Tobacco ban hurts NASCAR at its roots

Red Man and Longhorn tobacco have donned the hoods and door panels of NASCAR’s Greg Biffle’s Nationwide car and Ron Hornaday Jr.’s Camping World truck all season.

I’ve never had any desire to go out and purchase either product — I don’t dip. But the Food and Drug Administration has decided that neither belong in NASCAR any longer. Starting on June 22, the FDA will ban tobacco companies from sponsoring sports events, such as NASCAR races or its race cars.

So, no longer will there be tobacco in NASCAR.

Does anyone else see the irony?

Before there was Nextel Cup and now Sprint Cup, it was the tobacco business that fueled NASCAR’s marquee level of racing. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company sponsored the Winston Cup series from 1972-2003. If it wasn’t for R.J. Reynolds, NASCAR wouldn’t be as we know it today.

When RJR pulled out of Cup it was partially because some drivers were younger than 18, racing in a cigarette-sponsored series. However, that isn’t the case now. No driver can participate in NASCAR’s top three series until they turn 18.

However, those 18-year-olds can drive in a series with cars sponsored by alcoholic beverages.

Sponsors such as Miller Lite, Budweiser and Crown Royal Whiskey can be found every Sunday on a car. Jack Daniels Whiskey and Coors Lite have also donned NASCAR.

Will they be targeted next by the FDA?

What about Pepsi, Coca-Cola and Mountain Dew? Soda pop can cause tooth decay and isn’t great for your health. Will that take the ire too?

The answer to both questions — probably not.

And that’s the part that’s difficult to grip. At a time where sponsorships are difficult to find, the federal government is making it even more difficult for race teams.

The thing about it is I don’t see the world losing any more tobacco users with this legislation. It’s not like Biffle or Hornaday are passing out cans of snuff to every autograph seeker that comes to the track. You don’t see public relation folks tossing out tobacco by the hand full into the stands. They don’t have those nifty two-man sling shots rifling cans into the crowd in Turn 1.

What I do see is Nashville-based Baker Curb Racing struggling to survive in an economy that’s yet to recover. They had a good sponsor in Red Man — one that was considering extending its sponsorship contract.

But now it’s back to the drawing board.


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