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December 1st, 2015:

The economics of tobacco

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The Global Illicit Trade in Tobacco: A Threat to National Security

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BAT signs vapour collaboration with RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co

(ShareCast News) – British American Tobacco has signed a vapour products technology-sharing agreement with RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company, which is a subsidiary of Reynolds American Inc.

The agreement provides a framework for collaboration and mutual cross-licensing of the parties’ vapour product technologies up to the end of 2022.

The collaboration also contemplates joint research and development activities and co-operation on regulatory, scientific and manufacturing issues relating to vapour products.

BAT’s managing director of Next Generation Products, Kingsley Wheaton, said: “This is an important milestone for BAT. This agreement should provide a strong platform to meet the demands of consumers today and in the future.”

British American Tobacco accused of bribing senior politicians to sabotage anti-smoking laws

Several individuals involved with the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control allegedly targeted

The allegations against BAT have come from whistleblowers from inside the company, and are supported by court documents Corbis

British American Tobacco, one of Britain’s biggest companies, has been accused of bribing senior politicians and civil servants in a bid to sabotage anti-smoking laws.

The allegations by whistleblowers from the company, and supported by court documents, relate to the company’s operations in several African countries.

Paul Hopkins, who served in the Irish Special Forces before working for BAT, claims he broke the law for the tobacco firm. “I was a commercial hitman,” he said in an interview broadcast on BBC One’s Panorama.

Commenting on the practice of bribery, Mr Hopkins, who worked for BAT in Kenya for 13 years, said: “It was explained to me in Africa that’s the cost of doing business.”

Several individuals involved with the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) were allegedly targeted.

Under the UK Bribery Act, British companies can be prosecuted for bribery which takes place overseas. And anti-smoking campaigners are demanding the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) launch a criminal investigation into BAT.

“BAT is bribing people, and I’m facilitating it,” claimed Mr Hopkins, who no longer works for the company.

Before he left, he recorded conversations with his boss, Gary Fagan, BAT’s director for East and Central Africa, and a company lawyer Naushad Ramoly, discussing bribes. In an exchange in 2013, the lawyer said: “That’s what we are going to be paying. Yeah, ok, fine. Anything else that you think we’ll need to be paying for?” Mr Ramoly, who no longer works for BAT, denies involvement in illegal activities. And Mr Fagan denies giving permission for the payment of bribes.

Two FCTC representatives, Godefroid Kamwenubusa, from Burundi, and Chaibou Bedja Abdou, from the Comoros Islands, were both allegedly paid $3,000 (£2,000), according to the Panorama investigation. And Bonaventure Nzeyimana, a former FCTC representative from Rwanda, was allegedly paid $20,000. All three deny accepting bribes. But in court documents, BAT describes the payments to the three as “unlawful bribes,” according to the BBC.

Another allegedly bribed was Moses Watangula, former Minister of Trade, Kenya. The tobacco company paid for a business class return flight for his wife to London. He denies having had dealings with BAT.

And Dr Kasirivu Atwooki, a Ugandan MP who sat on a committee writing a report on a rival company, was allegedly given £20,000 to make amendments and give it to BAT in advance. He denies the allegations

The environmental and health impacts of tobacco agriculture, cigarette manufacture and consumption

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Will EU renew $1.25bn deal with tobacco firm PMI?

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Tax increases on tobacco decrease infant mortality rates

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Malawi’s forests going up in smoke as tobacco industry takes heavy toll

Malawi is reliant on tobacco for 60% of foreign earnings, but while demand is falling the cost of environmental damage caused by the industry is rising

This high level of marketing in poorer countries is consistent with the tobacco industry’s targeting of these countries. They are key to the industry’s future. In the west, the tobacco industry’s profits continue to increase despite the decline in smoking rates , but it is unclear how long this pricing power will hold out in the face of growing regulations. The requirement for tobacco to be sold in plain packs, due to come into force in the UK next year, is a particular threat.

Of all the world regions, Africa is probably most critical to the long-term future of the tobacco industry. The tobacco epidemic is at its earliest stage in Africa, meaning the industry still has millions of potential customers to recruit. Marketing will drive this recruitment, and industry marketing deliberately targets children, recognising that today’s teenager is tomorrow’s potential regular customer.

It is depressing that 10 years after the framework convention came into force, tobacco marketing remains ubiquitous. Evidence shows that the FCTC has led to significant progress in other areas of tobacco control but that comprehensive bans on marketing are one of the treaty’s least adopted measures. A concerted effort is needed to implement and enforce marketing restrictions before millions more die needlessly. Holding the tobacco industry to account is an essential first step.

British American Tobacco accused of bribing government officials

It is the tobacco industry’s insidious marketing of its product that fuels this increase in tobacco use. Growing numbers of deaths from tobacco will follow, stifling economic development, with the poorest countries hardest hit.

Evidence shows that tobacco marketing drives the uptake of smoking, especially among young people. While the tobacco industry continues to argue that it only markets to persuade adult smokers to switch brands, overwhelming evidence links the industry’s use of marketing to spiralling rates of tobacco use. Before the Soviet Union opened up to “big tobacco”, very few women smoked. Within 10 years of the major tobacco companies flooding the Russian market with marketing, female smoking rates in Russia had doubled and the age of smoking uptake had fallen.

If this epidemic is to be halted, comprehensive bans on tobacco marketing are essential. One hundred and eighty countries are now legally obliged to implement such bans. They are parties to the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). This global treaty, which came into force 10 years ago, sets out evidence-based tobacco control measures which parties must implement.

Yet the latest evidence shows that tobacco industry marketing remains a significant global problem, particularly for people in the poorest countries who are the most exposed to it. Our study, published this week, examined tobacco marketing across 462 communities in 16 countries. It compared levels of marketing in high-, middle- and low-income countries while accounting for differences in access to television, radio and the internet and in the respondents’ gender, age, education, smoking status and whether they have close friends who smoke.

People living in poorer countries were exposed to significantly more tobacco marketing than those living in affluent countries. In communities in low-income countries, 81 times more tobacco adverts were observed than in high-income countries. People in lower-income countries also reported far higher exposure to tobacco adverts over the previous six months. For example, they were 46 times more likely to hear radio adverts, 11 times more likely to see poster adverts and nine times more likely to see television adverts than those living in high-income countries. Overall, those in low-income countries were almost 10 times more likely to report exposure to at least one form of traditional tobacco marketing.

Access to tobacco was also higher in poorer countries. In low-income countries, we observed two and a half times more stores selling tobacco in the communities in the low-income and lower-middle-income countries than in the high-income countries. Worryingly, 64% of stores visited sold single cigarettes compared with just 2.8% in high-income countries. The availability of single cigarettes is a key means of targeting young smokers who often cannot afford to buy a full pack. It is also outlawed in the WHO’s framework convention.