TV presenter joins London day of action against BAT

Thursday 01 May 2008

Television entrepreneur Duncan Bannatyne joined campaigners outside the London headquarters of British American Tobacco today as shareholders arrived for the company’s annual general meeting. [1]

The Day of Protest was organised by the campaigning charity ASH, which has been researching BAT’s activities in Africa. Its report, BAT’s African Footprint, 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.

Mr Bannatyne, the business philanthropist on TV’s Dragon’s Den, is a fierce anti-smoker. He had arrived back in the UK after a two-week trip to Africa to investigate BAT’s involvement in the tobacco trade there for himself. “I was making a documentary for BBC2 ,” he said. “I have been looking at their marketing tactics all over Africa and I don’t like what I have seen.”

He said he would be posting his views on YouTube, and asking members of the public to join him at the tobacco corporation’s next year’s annual meeting – by buying a single BAT share, giving them the right to attend the meeting and ask questions.

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

Young anti-smoking campaigners left their own footprint on the pavement outside BAT headquarters – a thousand shoes, each representing a hundred potential deaths. They were protesting about BAT’s activities in Africa – marketing campaigns that target children and young people, unpaid child labour, and deforestation. ASH director Deborah Arnott said BAT had succeeded in hooking millions of poor people into a life-long addiction.

“I have always hated cigarettes,” said Mr Bannatyne. “I smoked when I was younger and I hated the fact that I was addicted. It took five attempts before I stopped.

“I think BAT’s marketing tactics to young people in Africa break their own professional marketing code of practice.”

“I would say to young people, it’s not trendy and it’s not clever. When I see people smoking in the street, I think they’re stupid.”

BAT’s African Footprint – Highlights from the report

• BAT remains upbeat about its prospects in Africa. An internal BAT document noted: “We should not be depressed simply because the total free world market appears to be declining. Within the total market, there are areas of strong growth, particularly in Asian and Africa…It is an exciting prospect.”

Footprint on Health

• In Uganda, 12 million people get malaria each year, and 110,000 die. BAT and other corporations blocked a government malaria prevention programme to treat farm workers’ homes with pesticides – because of fears the chemicals might contaminate their crops.
• Tobacco growing is not unique in its use of child labour but children on tobacco farms face particular risk from pesticide exposure and nicotine poisoning.

Footprint on Social and Economic Wellbeing

• Zimbabwe is gripped by famine, yet intervention by BAT means the country remains among the world’s biggest tobacco producers. In 2005, the BAT-sponsored Tobacco Grower of the Year award went to Monica Chinamasa, wife of the country’s Justice Minister. The couple had been accused of seizing the farm two years’ earlier, forcing off the owners with threats of violence.
• In Kenya, BAT gives loans for seeds, pesticides and fertilisers and buys back the tobacco at a price of their choosing. To quote one farmer: “The loan the tobacco firm provides is really weighing us down. After the deduction you get nothing.”
This echoes the experience of “share croppers” in America – ex-slaves who were bonded by debt after borrowing money for seed from their former masters.
• In Kenya, BAT’s political connections resulted in a new law compelling farmers to sell tobacco to BAT. It was already paying farmers less than other companies.
• Economies that depend upon tobacco leaf production, like Malawi and Zimbabwe, rank among the poorest in the world.

Footprint on the Environment

• Malawi has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world and tobacco growing is a contributory factor. Although BAT has a re-afforestation programme many of the replacement trees are not indigenous and adversely affect bio-diversity.


• Smoking rates in Africa are rising most sharply among young people and women. BAT’s marketing associates its brands with glamour, style, beauty, sport and celebrity – methods it claims to have voluntarily given up in the UK 30 years ago. Smoking among 13 to 15-year-olds is 33% in some parts of Uganda. In Nigeria, smoking among young women rose ten-fold during the 1990s.
• BAT breached its own weak marketing code by allowing cigarettes to be sold singly – popular with children. BAT acknowledged it had begun an investigation into the alleged marketing breaches, but has failed to report publicly on its findings.
• BAT says it is trying to end child labour by partly funding the Eliminating Child Labour in Tobacco Growing Foundation. In 2006, ECLTG’s entire income was US$ 2.7 million – one-fifteenth of what the industry earns from unpaid child labour in Malawi alone – and around half the salary paid to BAT chief executive Paul Adams.

-[1] Further photographs are available on request – as follows: (Please quote photo number and description)

4346 – Duncan Bannatyne outside BAT HQ
4347 – Shoe – Cancer of the pharynx tag
4349 – Shoe – Acute Myeloid Leukaemia tag
4351 – Shoe – White shoe lung cancer tag
4352 – Shoe – lung cancer tag
4354 – Black boot – lung cancer tag
4355 – Sandal – Cancer of the bladder
4356 – Gold sandal – lung cancer tag
4357 – Trainer – COPD tag
4360 – Duncan Bannatyne & young protestors (T shirt logo visible)
4362 – Duncan Bannatyne & young protestors
4363 – Duncan Bannatyne & young protestors (face on group photo)
4369 – Row of shoes on street
4370 – Row of shoes -close up
4372 – BAT philosophy poster – DA & young protestor
4373 – BAT philosophy poster – DA & young protestor
4378 – Death House poster & young protestors
4383 – Death Hosue poster held by girl in wheelchair
4396 – Duncan Bannatyne next to BAT AGM poster
4399 – Young people interacting with BAT shareholders
4401 – BAT AGM notice – close up