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.
• 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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