ASH protests at BAT’s Footprint on Africa

Friday 25 April 2008

As British American Tobacco celebrates 100 years of trade in Africa at its AGM in London (on Wednesday, 30th April), campaigners will be outside, protesting about the heavy footprint it leaves on the continent – death, hunger, poverty, and environmental destruction.

A new report by ASH, BAT’s African Footprint [1], says that while smoking is declining in the West, BAT’s profits in Asia and Africa grew by £2 million to £470 million last year. The growth in sales means more ill-health and ultimately rising tobacco-related deaths.

According to an analysis carried out for the campaigning charity ASH, one person dies for every million cigarettes sold. BAT sold 101 billion cigarettes in the Africa and Middle east region last year. Sir Richard Peto, Professor of Medical Statistics at Oxford University said: “If BAT continues selling 100 billion cigarettes a year in Africa and the Middle East, this will, in the long run, cause 100,000 deaths per year.”

As shareholders meet at BAT headquarters in central London, protesters will leave their own footprint on the pavement outside – a thousand shoes, each representing a hundred potential deaths.

Young campaigners will join the Day of Action on Wednesday to highlight BAT’s footprint on African youth. They will condemn the use of unpaid child labour by BAT and the way it targets young people in its marketing.

Deborah Arnott, Director of the health campaigning charity ASH, said:

“The legacy of BAT’s hundred years’ of activity in Africa is felt right across the continent. The adverse impact is monumental: from impoverished tobacco farmers to Government officials influenced by BAT’s perverse ‘social responsibility’ programmes. By aggressively marketing its products to impressionable young people, BAT has succeeded in hooking millions of poor people into a life-long addiction, adding to the health burden that is already crippling many African countries.”

“Despite this terrible burden, there are some signs of hope as African people are starting to stand up to BAT. Assisted by the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, governments are beginning to implement a range of measures to reduce smoking and the death and disease that it causes”.

Notes and links:
[1] BAT’s African Footprint report can be viewed here (PDF).