BAT admits breach of its marketing code.

Wednesday 09 May 2007

ASH news release:  For immediate release:  Wednesday 9th May 2007


BAT admits breach of its marketing code

Following the release of ASH’s report – “You’ve got to be kidding” [1] –  into the way BAT markets its cigarettes to young people around the world, the company has acknowledged in a letter to ASH that it has started an investigation into the marketing breaches highlighted by ASH.  The world’s second largest tobacco company says it will investigate and report on its findings.


BAT has not revealed the nature of the potential breaches but the company claims not to market any of its products to young people. [2]  However,  examples include the selling of single cigarettes to children in Nigeria and the blatant sexism of a promotion for Pall Mall cigarettes in Brazil.


At BAT’s AGM on 26 April a young Nigerian, Adeola Akinremi, protested that BAT was selling cigarettes in quantities of two rather than packs of ten and twenty – a practice made illegal in the UK in 1991 as it makes cigarettes cheaper to buy for underage smokers. When Jeffries Briginshaw, Head of International Political and Regulatory Affairs, British American Tobacco insisted this was not the case Adeola pulled out a copy of the advertisement as proof. [3]


Also at the meeting, Deborah Arnott, Director of ASH challenged BAT’s Chairman,  Jan du Plessis to respond to the allegations contained in the ASH report that BAT is using questionable marketing methods around the world which glamorise and romanticise smoking, which are known to be particularly attractive to young people, and which BAT voluntarily gave up using in the UK 30 years ago. Ms Arnott asked: “How can you do this, yet say you practice corporate social responsibility?”


At the time, Jan du Plessis, the Chairman of BAT, claimed the accusations were too general but now the company admits that there  “appear to be a couple of examples that may be in breach of our International Marketing Standards”.


Deborah Arnott commented:


ASH‘s report reveals not just one or two examples of promotional breaches but a whole catalogue of cynical marketing that is clearly aimed at young people.  This report shows why there is an urgent need for a total ban on all tobacco advertising and promotion worldwide.  BAT’s marketing activities in the UK also demonstrate the need for constant monitoring of the tobacco industry since the companies cannot be trusted to adhere to the law.”






Notes and links:

[1]  “You’ve got to be kidding”.  Pdf (1.93MB) of the report is available at:

[2]  BAT states on its website that “company policy worldwide is not to market to anyone under 18 years old – or older, if the law in a particular country sets the age higher.”


Contact: Deborah Arnott  020 7739 5902 (w) 079 7693 5987 (m) ISDN available