Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Duncan Bannatyne Outs British American Tobacco

In case you missed it, here are some clips from tonight's BBC 2 This World episode: Bannatyne Takes on Big Tobacco in which the Scottish entrepreneur (best known for his role in Dragons' Den) finds evidence of British American Tobacco breaking its own rules about advertising cigarettes to children in Africa.

BAT's PR response is as pathetic as it is predictable. In summary, it was, "We don't do that anymore."

Action on Smoking and Health, meanwhile, has produced its own report on the activities of British American Tobacco in Africa. Key points include:

• 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.

• BAT breached its own 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.

• 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.”

• 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.

• In 2005, the BAT-sponsored Tobacco Grower of the Year award in Zimbabwe 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.

• BAT remains upbeat about its prospects in Africa. An internal BAT document noted: “Within the total market, there are areas of strong growth, particularly in Asia and Africa…It is an exciting prospect.”

You can read the full report here.

BAT is based in Globe House, 4 Temple Place, London, WC2R 2PG (just next to King's College) in case you wanted to call by and have a chat with them about why they sell cigarettes to African children. Map.

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Andrew Mojsak said...


Your programme really highlighted the unethical way BAT and other tobacco companies do business in Africa.
I spent 5 years working in East Africa (mostly in Kenya) and saw first hand the appalling way BAT exploited the very limited disposable income of Kenyans.

One of the biggest pulls on Kenyans disposable income was the ability to use their mobile phones on the Safaricom Network.

In order to get people to buy sticks and packs of cigarettes they would "promote" sales by offering "Pay-As-You-Go" phone cards of various denominations depending on the value of cigarettes.

It was blatant and no regard was given to age verification or restriction....it was all about pushing BAT cigarette sales regardless.

Please continue to be a thorn in BAT's side as the Africa issue is appalling exploitation of poor people who believe ll the hype and if they get something for free, any health issues are brushed aside.

Keep going at them !!!!!!!!!!

Johannes said...

Thanks for the additional facts - very illuminate!