Young people demonstrate against Imperial Tobacco’s shameless behaviour in Laos

Wednesday 28 January 2015

Save Laos from Imperial-ism:

In Bristol today, young people from across the country staged a demonstration outside Imperial Tobacco’s AGM, protesting against the activities of the company in the UK and worldwide. Each year over 100,000 people in the UK [1] and nearly 6 million people worldwide die from smoking related diseases [2].

Imperial Tobacco accounts for over 40% of the UK tobacco market [3], and exploits people at home and abroad. In 2001 the Bristol based company signed a 25 year deal with the government of Laos to limit the amount of tax on tobacco products which makes cigarettes cheaper and more affordable [4]. Health charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) is calling on Imperial to end this deal, and a petition started last week has signatures from over 40 countries.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, who attended the AGM to question Imperial’s behaviour at home and abroad, said:

“Imperial couldn’t get away with a tax dodge like this at home. Not only does this shameful deal deprive Laos of millions in much needed revenue, but lower taxes means lower prices. Young people in Laos are increasingly becoming addicted to a product which kills half of life time users, while smoking among young people in Britain has fallen massively in recent years.” [5]

Clemmie Stebbings a student from The University of Bristol, whose father founded the Deborah Hutton campaign in memory of his wife who died of lung cancer [6], also attended the AGM. She said:

““We lost Mum to the devastating consequences of smoking when I was just 12. This was my first step to appreciating how widespread and destructive the impact of smoking and tobacco consumption can be. When people start smoking they’re teenagers, they know it’s bad for them but they don’t really appreciate the harm it can do them and their families later on. There is more that we can do across the world to ensure that teenagers never start smoking. I am so pleased to be part of a group of young people standing up to the tobacco industry.”

Bristol West MP Stephen Williams who met with young people ahead of the demonstration to discuss their campaign added:

“Tobacco is responsible for millions of deaths every year and I have long campaigned for tougher regulations over smoking. It is fantastic to see these young people taking a stand about this important issue”.

Bristol Councillor Daniella Radice also supported the event adding:

“Smoking kills, it’s that simple. As we become more and more aware of the dangers and put in more controls in this country Imperial Tobacco is searching for profits overseas. I am looking forward to the new regulations on plain packaging and outlawing smoking in cars with children which will help dissuade people from smoking in this country.”



Notes and Links:
[1] Estimated premature deaths for each jurisdiction are as follows: England – 79,100; Scotland – 13,000; Wales – 5,500; N. Ireland – 2,300. Sources: Statistics on smoking: England, 2012 ScotPHO Smoking Ready Reckoner – 2011 Edition Welsh Government – Health Improvement NIdirect – smoking
[2] WHO figures. 2014
[3]Imperial Tobacco. The evidence is plain. 2014
[4] ASEAN. Tobacco Tax report card. May 2013
[5] According to data from the Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) the proportion of students in Laos between 13-15 years old who have ever smoked increased from 10.7% in 2003 to 12.5% in 2011. In comparison data from Information Centre for Health and Social Care, shows that the percentage of 15 year old regular smokers in England fell from 23% in 2002 to 8% in 2013.
[6] The Deborah Hutton Campaign is a peer-to-peer smoking prevention charity. It was set up in memory of Deborah Hutton who was Health Editor of Vogue for twenty years and a smoker in her youth. Deborah Hutton actively campaigned on health issues including smoking before her death from lung cancer in 2005.

Action on Smoking and Health is a health charity working to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco use. For more information see:
ASH receives core funding from Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation.


Contact: Deborah Arnott (ASH) 020 7404 0242 (w) or 07976 935 987 (m)