Tobacco Industry Watch
Tobacco companies in Africa try to pass themselves off as responsible companies, but they are not like other businesses. Half of all tobacco users get sick or die from tobacco-related diseases. Tobacco companies devote tremendous resources to getting new customers hooked on their products. They have a long history of denying the health risks of smoking, of obscuring the truth about tobacco and deceiving smokers.
Tobacco companies use a wide range of tactics, both legal and illegal, to introduce and sell their deadly products in the African market. To increase the sales of their products, tobacco companies use three main strategies:
-They legitimize themselves as responsible corporate citizens everywhere they operate.
-They interfere with the policy making process.
-They recruit new users and keep existing ones through aggressive marketing strategies.
TOBACCO COMPANIES IN AFRICA
- British American Tobacco (B.A.T)
- Pan African Tobacco Group
- Philip Morris International (PMI)
- Japan Tobacco International (JTI)
- Mastermind Group
- Imperial Tobacco Group
- Société Nationale des Tabacs et Allumettes (SNTA)
BAT’s scramble for Africa
• British America Tobacco is the second largest tobacco company in the world and is very dominant in Africa. BAT sells cigarettes in at least 38 African countries and has more than a 90% market share in the following ten African Countries: South Africa, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Zambia, Ghana, Malawi and Mauritius.
• BAT remains upbeat about its prospects in Africa. An internal BAT document noted: “We should not be depressed simply because the total free world market appears to be declining. Within the total market, there are areas of strong growth; particularly in Asian and Africa…It is an exciting prospect.”
However, the consequences of BAT’s presence in Africa are far from exciting for the people who live there. Indeed if tobacco sales continue to rise, the prospects are grim.
Footprint on Health
• In Uganda, 12 million people get malaria each year, and 110,000 die. BAT and other corporations blocked a government malaria prevention programme to treat farm workers’ homes with pesticides - because of fears the chemicals might contaminate their crops!
• Tobacco growing is not unique in its use of child labor but children on tobacco farms face particular risk from pesticide exposure and nicotine poisoning.
Footprint on Social and Economic Wellbeing
• Zimbabwe is gripped by famine, yet intervention by BAT means the country remains among the world’s biggest tobacco producers. In 2005, the BAT-sponsored Tobacco Grower of the Year award 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.
• In Kenya, BAT gives loans for seeds, pesticides and fertilizers 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.”
This echoes the experience of “share croppers” in America - ex-slaves who were bonded by debt after borrowing money for seed from their former masters.
• 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.
• Economies that depend upon tobacco leaf production, like Malawi and Zimbabwe, rank among the poorest in the world.
Footprint on the Environment
• Malawi has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world and tobacco growing is a contributory factor. Although BAT has a re-afforestation programme many of the replacement trees are not indigenous and adversely affect bio-diversity.
• 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. Smoking among 13 to 15-year-olds is 33% in some parts of Uganda. In Nigeria, smoking among young women rose ten-fold during the 1990s.
• BAT breached its own weak 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.
• BAT says it is trying to end child labor by partly funding the Eliminating Child Labor in Tobacco Growing Foundation. In 2006, ECLTG’s entire income was US$ 2.7 million – one-fifteenth of what the industry earns from unpaid child labor in Malawi alone – and around half the salary paid to BAT chief executive Paul Adams.