CIGARETTES and sport should go together about as naturally as a lighted match and a tank of petrol. But money talks all known languages and, as a result, banned in most countries from advertising their wares in print and television, cigarette companies circumvent those laws by becoming deeply involved in sports sponsorship. All this is not new - but finding a solution to sport promotions without aid from tobacco companies is not that easy. Yet another cigarette-sponsored tennis tournament is on the way here but without the company involved there might well be no event at all. There is more than an awareness of just how insidious tobacco sponsorship of major sports events really is. Perimeter advertising boards at major stadiums ensure some television coverage as does actual tournament title sponsorship. There is something inherently distasteful about tobacco - a known killer - being involved with young athletes in the prime of sporting life. However, let's talk business. If the major tobacco companies did not weigh in with their multi-millions, tournaments could not be underwritten and the public would not see the big names in sport parading their talents in Hong Kong. There is, however, an alternative. If other multi-nationals are not prepared to become involved then the Hong Kong Government could step in. There are several tournaments - particularly involving tennis - which are firmly established and have international credibility. There is also the Hong Kong Golf Open which has lurched from sponsor to sponsor over the years and wavered on the fringes of extinction. These events are an important, vital part of Hong Kong life and should continue indefinitely. There may well be a reluctance to ban cigarette companies from direct sports sponsorship because these and other tournaments could face financial hardship and eventually disappear. But it surely must be hypocritical to ban cigarette advertising from print and screen only to have companies circumvent the spirit of the relevant ordinances by directly sponsoring sporting events. The Government should act to ban this direct involvement and, if a tournament has been established for a period of years, underwrite it for the next two or three years. That would then give the promoters a chance to line up a further suitable, long-term sponsor while having no concerns about their immediate tournaments. Sport is a vital part of any community life and is recognised as such by most governments. The Hong Kong Government and the Urban Council have launched many sporting endeavours aimed at the grassroots level and have been successful. They may not have been active at a professional level but that does not mean they cannot be in the wider interests of the public. And permitting widespread advertising for cigarettes through sports does not appear to be acting in anyone's best interests. Ban cigarette involvement - but give promoters a way out by underwriting certain selected events.