BAT must be held financially responsible for the damage it causes


Headquartered in London, British American Tobacco (BAT) is one of the biggest transnational tobacco companies. This Wednesday BAT is hosting its Annual General Meeting in London. In line with the “Polluter Pays Principle” ASH is calling on the Government and political leaders to hold Big Tobacco financially responsible for the damage it causes. We must #MakeThemPay.


In 2009, six of the top tobacco producing countries had undernourishment rates between 5–27%. [1] If the 5.3 million hectares of land used for growing tobacco instead grew food, between 10–20 million people could be fed. [2]Instead, companies like BAT ensure that tobacco continues to be grown, and attempt to do so with as little regulation as possible.

BAT has a history of using unethical tactics to ensure it continues to turn a high profit. In Kenya, where BAT holds approximately 70% of the tobacco market, it took 13 years to pass the Tobacco Control Act due to BAT’s “intimidation”, according to a report by the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation and the International Institute for Legislative Affairs. The report states that this delay “was due to the Industry’s manipulation of the parliamentarians; including providing lavish holidays in the guise of building their capacity on the legislation.” [3]

According to the British Medical Journal, in 2012 BAT was responsible for $152 billion of the $1.4 trillion dollar cost that smoking causes the world economy, based on their 11% share of the global market. Big Tobacco should not get away with the harm it cause the world. The $152 billion strain placed on the global economy by BAT is money wasted which could be better spent on reducing smoking prevalence, environmental care, and finding ways to prevent undernutrition. [4]

BAT’s operating profits totalled £6.4 billion in 2017. With such a large profit, BAT should be held financially accountable for the harm it causes both people and the environment. [5]

Over the next two weeks, use the hashtag #MakeThemPay to communicate the different ways the Tobacco Industry can take financial responsibility for the damage they cause:

· Share your stories about how tobacco has affected you and tag them with #MakeThemPay.

· Take photos of smoking related litter or other pollution and share them on social media with the tag #MakeThemPay.

· Take photos of smoking related litter or other pollution and share them on social media with the tag #MakeThemPay.

· Contact BAT directly and tell it that it must take financial responsibility for the harm its business causes. Email or tweet at the press office using the hashtag #MakeThemPay, or phone its offices on 020 7845 1000. If you’re outside the UK you can find a list of country specific contacts here.

Share this story with your networks and encourage them to do the same.


[1] World Health Organization. The Millennium Development Goals and Tobacco Control: An Opportunity for Global Partnership. 2015.

[2] Eriksen M, Mackay J, Ross H. The Tobacco AtlasAmerican Cancer Society, and New York, NY: World Lung Foundation. 2012.

[3] Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation, International Institute for Legislative Affairs. Tobacco Industry Interference in Kenya: Exposing the tactics. 2013.

[4] Goodchild M, Nargis N, Tursan d’Espaignet E. Global economic cost of smoking-attributable diseases. Tobacco Control. 2017;27(1):58–64.

[5] British American Tobacco. British American Tobacco p.l.c. Preliminary Announcement — Year Ended 31 December 2017. 2018.