MP to probe BAT re lobbying and marketing activities

Thursday 28 April 2011

The Rt Hon Kevin Barron MP, former Chair of the Health Select Committee and past Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health, will be questioning BAT’s Chairman Richard Burrow today about the company’s lobbying activities around the tobacco point of sale legislation and about BAT’s marketing activities in Africa.

Specifically Mr Barron will ask whether BAT has provided any direct or indirect funding or support for lobbying and campaigning activities by third parties against the legislation to prohibit the display of tobacco products in shops.

The question is prompted by reports that BAT is a client of Hume Brophy, a PR company that has been acting on behalf of the National Federation of Retail Newsagents in lobbying against the legislation to ban tobacco displays at point of sale. MPs were contacted by Hume Brophy on behalf of the NFRN asking them to sign a petition against the tobacco display ban. The NFRN has subsequently confirmed that this campaign received financial assistance from tobacco manufacturers, but has not named them.

The Rt Hon Kevin Barron MP said:
“Politicians are constantly lobbied by various interest groups trying to change government policy, a practice that is acceptable as long as it is transparent. This is particularly important when it comes to tobacco since the Government has a legal obligation to protect tobacco control policies from the vested interests of the tobacco industry. This commitment cannot be honoured unless MPs, and the government, know who’s behind campaigns like this.”

Mr Barron also intends to ask a series of questions about BAT’s marketing activities in Africa. This is a follow up to questions put to the company by TV presenter Duncan Bannatyne in 2008 for a BBC documentary on BAT’s marketing practices. A spokesman for BAT made a number of commitments to Mr Bannatyne that the company would make changes to its marketing practices, by for example, stopping the marketing of single cigarettes (particularly attractive to the young and the poor) and removing BAT brand colours from shop fascias. [1]
The Rt Hon Kevin Barron MP said:

“BAT’s record of aggressively promoting its deadly products to impressionable young people in Africa is well documented. BAT promised Duncan Bannatyne that it would modify its marketing but there is little evidence to date that it has done so. The onus is now on BAT to prove that it has put its money where its mouth is.”

[1] On tobacco marketing in Africa, Kevin Barron MP will be asking the following questions:
1. Has BAT withdrawn the pots it provided to retailers for the sale of single sticks?
2. Has BAT changed its posters at point of sale so that they no longer promote single sticks or contain branding and are black and white with a health warning?
3. Has BAT repainted all the shops that it had painted in BAT brand colours and can it confirm that it is not using any other forms of brand stretching using BAT colours?