What is tobacco sponsorship, and how is it regulated?

Tobacco companies frequently sponsor events such as rodeos, car racing, and college fraternity and sorority events to bolster their image with the public. By helping to support these events financially, the companies get their name or brand on promotional materials, banners and ads, or racecars or rodeo gear.

Over the past several years, federal policymakers have taken significant steps to limit sponsorship by tobacco companies. The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 prohibits tobacco manufacturers, distributors, or retailers from sponsoring any athletic, social, or cultural event or entry or team in any event using the brand name or anything identifiable with any brand of cigarettes or smokeless tobacco. But sponsoring these events is still permitted in the name of the corporation that manufactures the tobacco product—in other words, “U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company” would be permitted, as opposed to the brand name Skoal—so long as the corporation was registered in the United States before 1995.

This provision of the Tobacco Control Act is being challenged by the tobacco industry, but the courts have so far allowed it to be implemented. For the latest on this case, see “What is the latest on the federal lawsuit filed by the major tobacco companies challenging the new FDA law?

Before the Tobacco Control Act, some limits on tobacco sponsorship were part of the the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) and the Smokeless Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (STMSA), which resulted from litigation between the major tobacco companies and more than 40 states. However, these limits have been superseded by the Tobacco Control Act.