Action on Smoking and Health

Tag Archives: British American Tobacco

PMI, Poverty and the Political Game

Don’t let smokescreens like the PMI-funded ‘Foundation for a Smoke-Free World’ [1] deceive you — Big Tobacco continues to pump its lethal smoked products into low- and middle-income countries, exacerbating poverty and racking up billions of dollars along the way.

As the company continues to undermine tobacco control policies across the globe, [2] [3] its solemn commitment to a smokefree future is more than a little disingenuous. [4]

Major advancements in tobacco control across countries like the UK, have displaced international conglomerates such as PMI to low- and middle-income populations, where 80% of the world’s smokers now live. [5]

In these countries, implementation of the WHO’s Framework Convention Tobacco Control (FCTC), a lifesaving treaty which reaffirms the right of all people to the highest standard of health, has often been low. [6] Indeed, by 2014 a survey of two thirds of Parties to the Treaty found that 51 countries had implemented no measures at the highest level. [7]

But rather than mobilising to address this discrepancy and advance its shiny new smokefree agenda, PMI has been doing all it can to undermine tobacco control, both in spirit and in practice.

PMI ignores the philosophy of tobacco control by taking advantage of existing legislative loopholes and capitalising on the lack of substantive advertising restrictions in low- and middle-income countries. Though PMI promises “advertising activities are directed only toward adult smokers,” [8] its intensive marketing ploys bombard kids in countries like Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Nigeria and Uganda, with tobacco sale outlets often visible from the school gates. [9] The company also uses child-friendly flavoured cigarettes to entice young people, [10] and encourages “single stick” sales by providing retailers with free promotional materials. [11]

And by attempting to subvert further implementation of the FCTC, the company also undermines the role out of tobacco control measures. Its army of corporate lobbyists are encouraged to “play the political game” [12] and deliberately target so-called “anti-tobacco extremists” at FCTC conferences (where delegates set the guidelines) and apply pressure at the country level (where delegates are selected and the treaty is transposed into law). [13]

One popular method has been to water down the health minister delegates with trade, finance and agriculture representatives, since these people are more likely to be supportive of PMI’s deadly cause — a strategy that somewhat contradicts its smokefree advocacy. [14]

It is unsurprising that 80% of the world’s tobacco-related deaths are anticipated to occur in low- and middle-income countries by 2030. [15] And in addition to the personal tragedy of life lost, this is leaving less money available for food, schooling and doctors’ fees, since spending on tobacco products can add up to over 10% of total household earnings, and premature death causes a significant loss of income. [16]

Meanwhile, even though undernourishment remains a big problem in many tobacco-producing countries, 4.3 million hectares of arable land is currently gobbled up by tobacco cultivation, which could instead be used to feed hungry people. [17] Growing tobacco also pollutes water supplies with toxic pesticides and fertilizers, and generates over 2 million tonnes of solid waste each year. [18] In fact, cigarette butts account for 30–40% of all rubbish picked up in coastal and urban clean-ups. [19]

And the worst part is that this social, economic and environmental burden is falling upon those countries least equipped to deal with the consequences.

PMI’s website reads “Society expects us to act responsibly. And we are doing just that by designing a smoke-free future.” [20] But evidently for PMI that responsibility and that future are not intended for low- and middle-income countries.

With PMI’s AGM set for this week, ASH urges the company to ditch its blatant double standards.


by Anna Hazelwood



[1] Tobacco Tactics, Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, March 2018

[2] The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Big Tobacco: Tiny Targets, a project by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

[3] African Tobacco Control Alliance, Big Tobacco Tiny Targets: Tobacco Industry Targets Schools in Africa, November 2016

[4] Philip Morris International, Designing a Smoke-Free Future

[5] World Health Organisation, Tobacco Key Facts, 9 March 2018

[6] Gravely et al, Implementation of key demand-reduction measures of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and change in smoking prevalence in 126 countries: an association study, 2017

[7] Gravely et al, Implementation of key demand-reduction measures of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and change in smoking prevalence in 126 countries: an association study, 2017

[8] Philip Morris International, Underage tobacco and nicotine use

[9] African Tobacco Control Alliance, Big Tobacco Tiny Targets: Tobacco Industry Targets Schools in Africa, November 2016

[10] African Tobacco Control Alliance, Big Tobacco Tiny Targets: Tobacco Industry Targets Schools in Africa, November 2016

[11] African Tobacco Control Alliance, Sale of single sticks of cigarettes in Africa: survey report from 10 capital cities, March 2018

[12] Reuters, Inside Philip Morris’ campaign to subvert the global anti-smoking treaty, July 2017

[13] Reuters, Inside Philip Morris’ campaign to subvert the global anti-smoking treaty, July 2017

[14] Reuters, Inside Philip Morris’ campaign to subvert the global anti-smoking treaty, July 2017

[15] World Health Organisation, The Global Tobacco Crisis, 2008

[16] World Health Organisation, Tobacco is a deadly threat to global development, May 2017

[17] World Health Organisation, Tobacco and its environmental impact, 2017

[18] World Health Organisation, Tobacco is a deadly threat to global development, May 2017

[19] World Health Organisation, Tobacco is a deadly threat to global development, May 2017

[20] Philip Morris International, Designing a Smoke-Free Future

All links active 9 May 2018

How British diplomats have defended BAT’s overseas activities

British diplomats have defended BAT’s overseas activities, a company under investigation for corruption by the Serious Fraud Office

Despite the perennially gloomy economic forecasts about Britain, it stubbornly remains one of the world’s most powerful economies. The UK is currently the 5th largest economy by GDP [1] and a number of British companies are listed as some of the biggest in the world.

Unfortunately, amongst the remaining titans of commerce, monsters remain. Two of the largest tobacco conglomerates in the world are British. These are Imperial Tobacco, the world’s fourth-largest cigarette manufacturer [2] with its head office in Bristol. And the largest publicly traded tobacco company in the world, British American Tobacco (BAT) [3], which is based in the appropriately named Globe House, London.

The Government’s Tobacco Control Plan for England commits to creating the first “Smokefree generation” [4], and at current rates of decline in smoking prevalence we are on track to achieve this by 2030. However, it is an unpleasant fact that the transnational tobacco industry is compensating for declining markets in rich countries like ours, by marketing aggressively in poorer ones.

The two British tobacco giants both have significant global operations. BAT controls a myriad array of brands which are active across the world, and are particularly dominant in many Commonwealth countries. This is something that BAT proudly talks about on its slick, modern website, a gleaming example of digital sophistry.

However, behind the assured corporate slogans and sickly professionalism, the transnational tobacco industry is in retreat, under attack from a concerted global effort coordinated by the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control [5]. Since it came into force in 2005 the FCTC has been ratified by 181 countries, including the UK, covering over 90% of the world’s population. As well as implementing the treaty itself, the UK Department of Health is supporting low and middle income countries to do so too, with an investment of £15 million of Official Development Assistance funds [6]. A central plank of the project is increasing tobacco taxation to drive down tobacco consumption, a policy very successfully pursued by the UK.

The profits of Big Tobacco are under threat, and they know this. In an attempt to protect its revenue streams, BAT has been enlisting the help of British government officials in the Foreign Office and the Department for International Trade, to fight back against the very taxes and regulations recommended by another part of the British government.

The UK has guidelines which should prevent this, stating that “Posts must not: Engage with foreign governments on behalf of the tobacco industry, except in cases where local policies could be considered protectionist or discriminatory.” [7] Unfortunately this exception appears to be being used as a catch-all, get-out clause.

Initially it appeared to be a one off incident in Bangladesh. BAT had enlisted the British high commissioner to pressurise the Bangladeshi government to overturn a legal decision handed down by the courts on an unpaid VAT bill of £170 million.[8] But an investigation by The Observer has revealed a global pattern of engagement by British officials to actively defend BAT’s interests overseas. [9] This included meetings between embassy staff and BAT in Panama, a UK government trade advisor being seconded to BAT’s Hungary HQ and 25 meetings involving both the international trade department and BAT Venezuela.

When this was exposed the UK government tried to deny what was going on, telling The Observer: “Interactions with the tobacco industry are only permitted where necessary, and we do not allow our staff to encourage investment in the tobacco industry, or provide any assistance in helping tobacco companies influence local business policies like taxation to their advantage.” But it’s hard to see how the behaviour of British officials in embassies around the world are in accord with this statement. Furthermore BAT is a company currently under investigation by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office over allegations of corrupt business practices, [10] so it beggars belief that the British government should act as its lobbyist.

[1] Investopedia, The World’s Top 10 Economies, 7 July 2017

[2] The Telegraph, Alison Cooper: lighting up Imperial Tobacco, 21 March 2010

[3] Chicago Tribune, Shareholders back British American Tobacco buying Reynolds, 19 July 2017

[4] Department of Health. The Tobacco Control Plan for England, 18 July 2017

[5] The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) adopted by the Conference of the Parties to the WHO FCTC. Geneva. 2003

[6] Department of Health. Business Case: Official Development Assistance Project: Strengthening tobacco control in low and middle income countries. August 2017

[7] Department of Health/ Foreign & Commonwealth Office, United Kingdom’s revised guidelines for overseas posts on support to the tobacco industry, December 2013

[8] The Observer, (Jamie Doward). British diplomat lobbied on behalf of big tobacco, 10 September 2017

[9] The Observer, (Jamie Doward). UK accused of hypocrisy on overseas tobacco control, 27 January 2018

[10] Serious Fraud Office. British American Tobacco.

*All links active 25th April 2018

Africa must reject BAT’s fools’ gold

Cameroon school children at point of sale where tobacco advertising is visible. Photo credit: ATCA

Tih Ntiabang is the Regional Coordinator — AFRO, for the Framework Convention Alliance.


The latest ‘sustainability’ report published by British American Tobacco (BAT) states: “we are committed to operating to the highest standards of corporate conduct and transparency.” [1] In pursuit of its strategic goals, the multinational even tries to portray itself as being in alignment with the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. Is it necessary to remind anyone of BAT’s historic and ongoing appalling business conduct across the globe — specifically in low and middle-income countries, with the African region being a key target?

Legacy tobacco industry documents show that BAT has been implementing a long-agreed strategy to gradually shift their markets from societies with higher regulatory systems to those with little or no regulatory systems and rising potential markets. In one such document, BAT proclaims that “Africa is also projected to continue growing…BAT is strongly placed to take advantage of the growth in these markets.” [2]

Africa has embraced the world’s only global health treaty, the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). However, tobacco companies including BAT have held the continent hostage with the lure of corporate social responsibility initiatives, which contravene Article 5.3 of the Treaty.

In Malawi, Mozambique Tanzania, Uganda and others, BAT has successfully used front groups to portray itself as an indispensable partner in providing solutions to a problem — child labour — that they cause. They manipulate decision-makers, and public opinion to ensure they maintain a ‘positive’ image in the eyes of the government and public.

In March 2018, during the 332nd meeting of the International Labour Organization (ILO) governing body, a delegate representing Uganda delivered a disturbing statement urging the ILO to continue taking money from the tobacco industry. According to this delegate, the statement was delivered on behalf of the African region. This is an example of the tobacco industry’s strong grip on the continent.

BAT also flouts tobacco control laws in many African countries, in ways it would never try to get away with in its home country Britain. In Nigeria and Uganda, despite the fact it’s illegal, BAT continues to advertise around schools. In Benin and Nigeria, the law is flouted by making single cigarettes easily available, especially around schools. BAT branded kiosks even target schools for children as young as six. [3]

It is no surprise that the public health community in Africa questions the relevance of BAT’s supposed “highest standards of corporate conduct and transparency.” BAT’s determination to market its products to the poor and children tells a different story. Africa will only avoid a rapidly growing epidemic of tobacco caused diseases if it fully implements the FCTC, including by rejecting BAT’s appeals for sustainable development partnerships.


[1] British American Tobacco — Transforming Tobacco Sustainability Report 2017

[2] From — British American Tobacco, Talk to TMDP-Chelwood August 1990, 24 July 1990, Bates no. 502619006–502619029, accessed June 2014; note: The document is a 24-page speech with no author mentioned. However, the speaker introduces himself as sharing his “views from the perspective of a BAT Industries Board member as well as that of BATCo Chairman”. In 1990, Barry Bramley was the company’s Chairman, and at the trial MINNESOTA V. PHILIP MORRIS INC., the speech was attributed to him Deposition of RAYMOND J. PRITCHARD

[3] African Tobacco Control Alliance — Big Tobacco Tiny Targets : Tobacco Industry Targets Schools In Africa

FLOC speaks out against speaks out against abuses in BAT supply chain

The Farm Labor Organizing Committee is a campaigning group working to achieve better conditions for farm workers in the United States. This article was published on their website and is reproduced with permission.

FLOC Vice President Justin Flores at the BAT AGM. Image courtesy of FLOC


British American Tobacco (BAT) is to pay US$49 billion to become the world’s biggest tobacco company, yet has no money for growers and farmworkers to correct supply chain inequities.

Leaders from the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) challenged (BAT) during their Annual General Meeting (AGM) in London about their failure to be transparent and take concrete action despite numerous reports detailing human rights abuses on BAT contract farms.

During the 2014 AGM, BAT Chairman Richard Burrows claimed that there were no labor or human rights violations in the BAT supply chain. Since then, independent research groups including SwedWatch and Human Rights Watch have published reports detailing serious human rights abuses on BAT contract farms, echoing what FLOC has been reporting for years.

In response to FLOC’s 10-year campaign demanding freedom of association and collective bargaining rights for tobacco farmworkers, BAT has responded with cosmetic approaches including corporate audits. During the AGM, FLOC President Baldemar Velasquez asked when BAT would stop relying on questionable auditing companies and move beyond what he has called, “self-serving anti-union” audits and address the real systemic issues.

While the BAT audit admitted instances of worker death by heat stroke, workers being sprayed by pesticides, and poor housing conditions, among other issues, Velasquez questioned the minimization of the severity of these tragedies as well as the validity of the auditing company and the audit’s impact on actual working conditions.

In response, BAT Chairman Richard Burrows continued to invite FLOC and other labor groups to bring forth issues. However, FLOC has brought at least a half dozen cases where serious violations have occurred to the attention of BAT, but their response has been silence, denial, or non-admission. After the AGM, Velasquez stated:

“We’re hesitant to provide additional examples when we’ve never received a response or conclusion to the current cases we’ve brought forth. We have to conclude that nothing has been done and that there’s no desire on BAT’s part to address them.”

BAT has also responded to FLOC’s campaign by promoting their participation in the Farm Labor Practices Group, a coalition of stakeholders and tobacco giants. FLOC Vice President Justin Flores stressed that despite them meeting consistently for five years, the group has produced no impact on the inequities in the production systems.

Velasquez, who has attended the AGM for the past seven years, stated: “From Indonesia to Bangladesh to North Carolina, these human rights violations will continue until BAT agrees to guarantee freedom of association and implement a practical mechanism that allows farmworkers to denounce abuses and act as their own auditors.”

Tobacco Industry Marketing Aimed At Children.

Students in Indonesia buy single cigarettes without age identification at a kiosk after school. Photo by Michelle Siu


Despite increasing government regulation of tobacco marketing globally, children and young people are still being targeted by tobacco companies like British American Tobacco (BAT) and Philip Morris International (PMI).

Two thirds of all smokers begin as children under the age of 18 and this is an essential window of opportunity for the tobacco industry as only a small proportion of adults take up smoking. Unless Big Tobacco can succeed in getting this reservoir of young “replacement smokers” [1] hooked, it faces a dying market as half of all adult smokers die prematurely, amounting to millions of lost customers every year. [2] This drives companies like BAT and PMI’s need for their products to be bought by children and young people.

Youth-orientated marketing initiatives are particularly dangerous as research shows that exposure to cigarette promotion from a young age creates a positive association with smoking, making it more difficult for addicted smokers to quit.

The African Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA) published a report last year [1] showing how tobacco companies including BAT and PMI persuade consumers to use their products in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Benin, Nigeria, and Uganda. Both of these companies conduct intensive marketing and promotional campaigns to encourage tobacco usage among children by targeting the areas around schools.

They do so through four key strategies: advertising and promotion, sale of single cigarettes, sale of child-friendly flavoured cigarettes, and non-compliance with existing tobacco control laws.

ATCA’s research found high numbers of cigarette promotion and sales near schools, just the sort of promotion that is banned in the UK. “In Burkina Faso, 100% of the schools surveyed have stores in the surroundings that advertise cigarettes. In Cameroon, 85% of the schools have stores in the vicinity that promote cigarettes on the counter. In Uganda, 100% of the schools have stores in the vicinity that promote cigarettes behind the counter. In Benin, 100% of the schools surveyed have stores around selling flavoured cigarettes. Similar products are being sold respectively around 55% and 25% of schools in Cameroon and Uganda.” [1]

Enticing flavours coupled with the ease of access to cigarettes, particularly through the sale of individual cigarettes, has been shown to encourage higher rates of smoking among children and adds to the overall growing epidemic of tobacco usage in these five countries.

Though there have been attempts at regulation, companies such as BAT and PMI either directly hamper public health policy initiatives [3], flout the lawaltogether [4], or find new ways to promote products to children. The public must press for greater government regulation and enforcement to prevent the promotion of cigarettes to children.

Here’s how you can: #ActOnTobacco


[1] African Tobacco Control Alliance. Big tobacco tiny targets: Tobacco industry targets schools in Africa. November 2016.
[2] Kessler judgement :US District Court for the District of Columbia Civil Action №99–2496 (GK) USA Plaintiff v. PMI (USA) defendant et al. Final judgement 2006.
[3] Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Tobacco. 15 February 2015.
[4] Mosupi A. African children the latest target for tobacco companies — ATCA. Times Live. 7 December 2016.

Denial, deceit and delay — tobacco industry lobbying tactics

When it comes to buying influence, tobacco money talks


The tobacco industry has a well-established history of using its scale and money to exert influence over policy and politicians. For decades it has worked tirelessly to prevent or delay regulatory and public health measures related to tobacco with bad science, corruption and lies. This is best summarised by Judge Kessler in the 2006 court case against Philip Morris International (and others):

“Over the course of more than 50 years, Defendants lied, misrepresented and deceived the American public, including smokers and the young people they avidly sought as ‘replacement’ smokers about the devastating health effects of smoking and environmental tobacco smoke.” [1]

The judgement also states that “Defendants’ Marketing Is a Substantial Contributing Factor to Youth Smoking Initiation” and that “The evidence in this case clearly establishes that Defendants have not ceased engaging in unlawful activity”. [1]

Public health measures such as standardised packaging of tobacco products [2] and the regulation of tobacco advertising [3] in particular have met with strong resistance by the industry. The tobacco companies continue to try and undermine legitimate, evidence-based public health measures on a global scale. They continue to make deceitful and evasive statements in relation to the evidence on smoking. [4]

For example, Imperial Tobacco falsely claimed that standardised packaging is “good for criminals” [5] and that terrorist groups will benefit because of increased sales of counterfeit cigarettes. [6] These statements are misleading to consumers and policy makers alike and the evidence shows that these claims are false. [7]

The tobacco industry understands that measures such as smokefree legislation and restrictions on advertising and marketing of tobacco products reduce smoking prevalence. [8] This is why they are so determined to prevent or delay such measures at all costs.

Take the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). While claiming to be socially responsible, British American Tobacco (BAT)and their CEO claimed that the FCTC is “a developed world obsession being foisted on the developing world” and labelled it as a project in “New Colonialism’. BAT openly admits that its corporate social responsibility programme is “commercially driven and recognises that BAT’s primary goal is to be economically successful.” Their rhetoric and actions simply do not match. [9]

Standard tactics employed by the tobacco industry include the use of front groups and individuals to make arguments against proposed regulations. These proxies are funded by the tobacco industry and act on their behalf while hiding their allegiance by creating an illusion of neutrality. [10]

Big Tobacco spends large amounts of money to influence politicians directly through lobbying. For example, in 2014, the European Union debated the passage of the new Tobacco Products Directive to regulate the manufacture, sales and marketing of tobacco products. PMI was extremely active, with at least 161 staff working behind the scenes to try to influence the legislation. This included more than 200 undocumented meetings with MEPs and targeted invitations to drinks and dinner receptions. [11] PMI also targeted farmers’ organisations, retail bodies, and trade & business associations, while commissioning economic and academic studies to try and reinforce false claims about the TPD. [12] This is explicitly against Article 5.3 of the FCTC which ensures the protection of public health policies with respect to tobacco control from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry. [13]

As the regulatory framework on tobacco tightens in more economically developed countries in response to the evidence, the tobacco industry is increasingly targeting Low and Middle Income Countries, using the same tactics described above. [14]

Tobacco industry lobbying is a global problem. In Asia the tobacco industry is trying to prevent any measures which may reduce smoking prevalence, such as health warnings and restrictions on advertising. Complicit governments exacerbate the problem. [15]

All governments and regulatory bodies must continue to monitor the activities of the tobacco industry and highlight the damage it causes to public health, democracy, the environment and the economy.

Here’s how you can #ActOnTobacco

• Support efforts to increase transparency of the lobbying industry.
• Ask elected representatives and candidates whether they accept funds from the tobacco industry and urge them not to do so.
• Learn more about how the tobacco industry operates. Our report “The Smokefilled Room” gives examples of how the tobacco industry works and the strategies it employs to pursue its agenda.


[1] Kessler judgement :US District Court for the District of Columbia Civil Action №99–2496 (GK) USA Plaintiff v. PMI (USA) defendant et al. Final judgement 2006.

Child labour on tobacco farms

An 18-year-old tobacco worker who started working in tobacco farming when he was 15. “We leave here at 5 a.m. and get there at 6 a.m. We get back at 6 or 7 p.m.,” he said. “I usually don’t eat until 10 or 11 [a.m.], and the smell [of the tobacco] and an empty stomach, you can’t hold it in. You vomit. It happened to me a couple days ago.” © 2015 Benedict Evans for Human Rights Watch


The UN’s fourth Sustainable Development Goal is to “ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning.” [1] However, child tobacco workers are regularly denied opportunities to pursue their education. In the US and Kazakhstan, farms contracted by both British American Tobacco (BAT) and Philip Morris International (PMI) have used child labour.

In 2009, Human Rights Watch documented the exploitation of 68 migrant workers on tobacco farms in Kazakhstan which supplied tobacco to PMI. They described horrific examples of worker abuse in which “some employers confiscated their passports, failed to provide them with written employment contracts, did not pay regular wages, cheated them of earnings, and forced them to work excessively long hours.” [2]

The children that worked with their families on these farms often missed school. This was due to both the expectations of parents that their children should join them, as well as the discrimination migrant children faced in accessing local schools.

In July 2015, Human Rights Watch interviewed 33 children aged 13 to 17 who had worked on tobacco farms in North Carolina, USA. [3] Most suffered from suspected acute nicotine poisoning, also called green tobacco sickness.

Though work during school hours is prohibited in the US, there is no cap on hours spent employed in agriculture once school is over. Children as young as 12 can work an unlimited number of hours on a farm with parental permission, and at 14 no longer need such consent. The lack of an hourly cap on a child’s farm work effects school performance and time dedicated to studies. While this is due in part to a failing of national policy, it is the responsibility of tobacco companies to ensure their products aren’t being sourced from properties which use child labour.

Baldemar Velasquez, President of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), has attended BAT’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) for the past 7 years. He stated in the FLOC press release on the day of the AGM that “[f]rom Indonesia to Bangladesh to North Carolina, these human rights violations will continue until BAT agrees to guarantee freedom of association and implement a practical mechanism that allows farmworkers to denounce abuses and act as their own auditors.” [4]

Just days ago, Human Rights Watch published an open letter asking BAT shareholders to press the company to “strengthen its processes for identifying and addressing human rights risks in its global supply chain.” [5]

As long as children are employed on tobacco farms, quality education for all can never be fully realized. Despite pledges from BAT and PMI to eliminate child labour, they simultaneously maintain that due to the “opaque supply chain” it is impossible to exclude tobacco farmed by children from their products. [6]

A child’s right to education must be prioritized over tobacco profit. We need to put continued pressure on BAT and PMI to ensure child labour on tobacco farms is eliminated.

Here’s how you can #ActOnTobacco:

  • Contact BAT and PMI directly and ask how they intend to eliminate child labour from its supply chains. The companies must conduct internal and third-party monitoring and publish their assessment and results.
  • BAT Contact Info: Email BAT’s press office here, send a tweet to @BATPress with the hashtag #ActOnTobacco, and phone its offices at 020 7845 1000. If you’re outside the UK you can find a list of country specific contacts here.
  • PMI Contact Info: Email PMI’s press office here, send a tweet to @InsidePMI with the hashtag #ActOnTobacco, and phone its offices at 020 7076 6000.


[1] United Nations. Sustainable development goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. [Accessed April 2017]

[2] Human Rights Watch. Hellish work: Exploitation of migrant tobacco workers in Kazakhstan. 14 July 2010.

[3] Human Rights Watch. Tobacco’s hidden children: Hazardous child labour in United States tobacco farming. May 2014.

[4] Farm Labor Organizing Committee. Press release 26 April 2017.

[5] Human Rights Watch. UK: Tobacco giant should respect human rights. Public 25 April 2017.

[6] Becker J. Children should not be suffering on tobacco farms in the 21st century. The Independent. 26 May 2016.

British American Tobacco undermines tobacco control in Sri Lanka

Religious leaders and public protest in front of the Ceylon Tobacco Company (CTC), the BAT subsidiary in Sri Lanka, on their AGM day. Image Courtesy of the Alcohol and Drug Information Centre (ADIC)

This article was written by Manuja Perera, TCRG, University of Bath

Tobacco giant, British American Tobacco (BAT), has been accused of undermining public health laws in Sri Lanka. BAT owns 84% of the Ceylon Tobacco Company (CTC), which has a monopoly on cigarette sales in the country. [1]

Internal company documents from the nineties reveal how the company was able to manipulate tobacco control and excise laws. Company representatives acted as observers on the key Government committees formulating tobacco control policies, which enabled BAT to “put forward the company’s position to key decision makers” by giving BAT “early warning signals of proposed restrictions”. BAT maintained contact with “key” health officials.

Regarding tax, one BAT Business Plan from the nineties even bragged: “A new Excise structure proposal has been developed in consultation with the Treasury” which “supports our underlying brand strategies”. [2]

Working with the authorities, the company planned to restrict smuggling to “manageable quantities” even though BAT has been implicated in global tobacco smuggling itself. [3]

In the late nineties, after a Presidential Task Force formulated a Tobacco Control plan, the company lobbied the then President, who had just been awarded a WHO Tobacco Free Initiative award for action taken on tobacco by her government. One document noted: “due to CTC lobbying” of the President, the company managed to delay the Bill being presented to “Parliament for approval”, and that it managed to persuade the President that “CTC’s concerns over the bill should be heard”. [4]

More recently, the company has also used legal action against the Sri Lankan government on two occasions to try and prevent the Government strengthening tobacco control laws.

In 2006, when the National Authority of Tobacco and Alcohol Act was introduced, the industry twice went to court against it. The first time it was against the whole Act, saying it violated constitutional rights and the second time the company tried to prevent laws prohibiting smoking in enclosed public places. The court ruled in favour of the Government in both occasions. [5]

In 2012, when Minister of Health gazetted pictorial health warnings to cover 80% of the cigarette packs, CTC took legal actions against the Minister arguing that it violated their intellectual property rights. The court ruled in favour of the industry, recommending that warnings should be reduced to 50% — 60% of the surface. [6] During the process, the Health Minister publicly accused that tobacco industry officials tried to bribe him. The industry denied the accusations.[7,8,9]

Here are some ways in which you can #ActOnTobacco.

  • Share your stories about how tobacco has affected you and tag them with #ActOnTobacco
  • Help make the campaign visual — share images and photos of the impact tobacco has had on you or those around you.
  • Check with your pension provider to see if they invest in tobacco and if so, encourage them to disinvest. ShareAction can help on this and this ASH briefing provides further information.
  • Contact BAT directly and ask them how they intend to pay for the harm their business has caused. You can email their press office here, tweet their press office @BATPress (tagged #ActOnTobacco) and phone their offices on 020 7845 1000. If you’re outside the UK you can find a list of country specific contacts here.


[1]Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC. Annual Report 2016. 2017. Available:$FILE/medMDAKWEUJ.pdf?openelement accessed 26 April 2017.

[2]Unknown. Sri Lanka Company Plan. 1994 September 23. British American Tobacco Records. Unknown. accessed 26 April 2017


[4] V Malalasekara. Ceylon Tobacco Company limited code of conduct for marketing activities in Sri Lanka. 2000 April 05. British American Tobacco Records. Available: accessed 26 April 2017

[5] Supreme Court Judgment. “National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol” Bill. 20 June 2006. Available: accessed 26 April 2017.

[6] Court of Appeal Judgment. Ceylon Tobacco V. Minster of Health. Available: accessed 26 April 2017 accessed 26 April 2016

[7] The Island, CTC responds to bribery allegations: Pictorial health warnings on Cigarette packs, 2015, Available: accessed 26 April 2017

[8] M.Peiris, Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena blasts tobacco industry for attempting to bribe, Asian Tribune, 2013:12(1681), Available: accessed April 2017

[9] D.Rush, Maithripala says tobacco industry tried to bribe him, Business Politics, 2013, Available: accessed November 2016

The global economic strain caused by Big Tobacco

The tobacco industry undermines the global economy. Big Tobacco frames itself as an economic stimulator, but independent peer reviewed studies show these claims are illusory.

2017 report by the World Health Organization and the National Cancer Institute [1] demonstrates that smoking and its side effects cost the world economy over $1 trillion. In 2012, the British Medical Journal noted that British American Tobacco (BAT) is responsible for $152 billion of that cost on the basis of its 11% global market share. [2]

BAT claims [3] that though the market for tobacco is declining, their economic contribution to the global economy is on the rise, and by extension, their contribution to the livelihood of people around the world. Its report, while focusing on the macroeconomic climate in which it participates, fails to take into account healthcare costs and lost productivity due to smoking complications that too often lead to premature death.

Furthermore, the true cost of tobacco has a disproportionate effect in the developing world, which is home to 80% of the world’s smokers.

For example, effective smoking prevention in developing nations costs about $20–40 per year of life gained, while lung cancer treatment, which prolongs the lives of only around 10% of those affected, costs $18,000 per year of life gained. [4]

The cost of the death and diseases caused by tobacco is too great to be ignored. The $152 billion strain placed on the global economy by BAT is money wasted which could be better spent on preventative measures to dissuade people from smoking. We must #ActOnTobacco in order to create a stronger global economy, strengthen developing nations to lift people out of poverty, and develop healthier communities around the world.

Here’s how you can #ActOnTobacco:

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

[1] U.S. National Cancer Institute and World Health Organization. The economics of tobacco and tobacco control. National Cancer Institute Tobacco Control Monograph 21. 2016.
[2] Goodchild M, Narigs N, d’Espaignet ET. Global economic cost of smoking-attributable diseases. Tobacco Control 30 January 2017.
[3] British American Tobacco. The global market: Trends effecting our industry. [Accessed April 2017]

British American Tobacco: A “Killer” in Africa

This article was written by Manuja Perera and Andrew Rowell, TCRG University of Bath

Lagos, Nigeria: A temporary kiosk visible from Apapa Senior High School gate, displaying BAT cigarettes on the counter next to sweets and snacks. Photo by ATCA


While tobacco consumption globally is decreasing, in the coming decades the number of smokers in Africa is anticipated to rise by nearly 40% from 2010 levels. This is the largest expected increase in the world.

British American Tobacco (BAT) claims to be “committed to the highest standards of corporate conduct”. [1] However, it has a long history of selling its deadly products in Africa, and the continent is a key region for growth for the company. It is predicted that one billion people will die from tobacco use globally by 2100. Millions of these will be in Africa. [2]

In Kenya, where BAT controls some 70 per cent of the market, the country’s Tobacco Control Act took more than 13 years to be passed, largely due to what has been labelled by the Kenya Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation as “intimidation” and “interference” from the tobacco industry (PDF).

Recently the company has also been dogged by bribery allegations in Africa, raising further concerns about its business practices.

In November 2015, a BBC Panorama documentary revealed that BAT had bribed African government officials and politicians to influence tobacco control laws and undermine its competitors in the region. [3]

The documentary was based on industry documents leaked by the whistle-blower, Paul Hopkins, who was employed by BAT for 13 years. The BBC alleged that “BAT made illegal payments to two members and one former member of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), a United Nations campaign supported by 180 countries, aimed at reducing deaths from tobacco-related illness.” In response to the allegations, Dr Vera Da Costa e Silva, from the WHO, said BAT “is using bribery to profit at the cost of people’s lives, simple as that”. BAT denied the allegations. [4]


[1] British American Tobacco Website. Who we are. [Accessed 26 April 2017]
[2] The Guardian. Ebola may be in the headlines, but tobacco is another killer in Africa. 15 October 2014.
[3] The Guardian. Tobacco industry accused of ‘intimidation and interference’ in Kenya. 2 March 2015.
[4] BBC. The Secret Bribes of Big Tobacco. 30 November 2015.

British American Tobacco — killer company, deadly products

As British American Tobacco (BAT) holds its Annual General Meeting in London today, it’s time to highlight the global harm caused by this company and its lethal products.

BAT is one of the world’s largest tobacco companies, accounting for 11% of the global tobacco market [1]. Based on this market share and the fact that tobacco kills around 6 million people every year, BAT is responsible for around 660,000 deaths every year [1] — a number greater than the combined populations of Iceland and Barbados. [2]

Millions more people develop tobacco related diseases every year, through smoking, secondhand smoke and through the growth and production process. For example, BAT has admitted to using child labour in the tobacco manufacturing process. [3] These children are especially vulnerable to an illness called Green Tobacco Sickness (GTS), caused by absorption of nicotine through the skin when handling wet tobacco leaves.

Despite successful efforts to reduce smoking in many economically developed countries, the overall prevalence of smoking continues to rise.

Companies like BAT are shifting their marketing focus to places where tobacco is less regulated, especially lower and middle income countries.

In those countries they continue to use insidious marketing practices that are prohibited elsewhere, creating a new generation of addicted smokers. 71% of BAT’s sales volume comes from these emerging markets. [4] Furthermore, they continue to market tobacco products to children (PDF)[5], despite knowing the serious harm they cause.

Smoking kills half of all smokers. [6] It is estimated that around one billion people will die as a direct result of the tobacco epidemic in the 21st century. (PDF)[7]

We need to #ActOnTobacco now to tackle the smoking epidemic. We need governments around the world to implement evidenced based tobacco control policies to encourage smoking cessation and prevent young people starting to smoke. We need investors and pension funds to disinvest in tobacco companies.

Finally, we need to raise awareness of the myriad ways in which the tobacco industry harms our health, communities and environment.

Here are some ways in which you can get involved in the campaign.

[1] World Health Organization. Tobacco. [Accessed April 2017]
[2] United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. 2015 Revision of World Population Prospects. [Accessed April 2017]
[3] Rodionova Z. Imperial Tobacco and British American Tobacco linked to child labour in Indonesia. The Guardian. 25 May 2016.
[4] Stevens B. British American Tobacco. Deutsche Bank Conference June 2014.
[5] Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. Tobacco company marketing to kids. [Accessed April 2017]
[6] Doll R et al. Mortality in relation to smoking: 50 years’ observations on male British doctorsBMJ 2004; 328:1519.
[7] World Health Organization. WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2008: the MPOWER package. [Accessed April 2017]

The UK Tobacco Industry

British American Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco, the world’s second and fourth largest tobacco companies (excluding the Chinese state tobacco monopoly) are based in the UK. January 2017.

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