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.

References
[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 doctors. BMJ 2004; 328:1519.
[7] World Health Organization. WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2008: the MPOWER package. [Accessed April 2017]