British American T*****o (BAT) is on the spot again for threatening governments in at least eight countries in Africa, including Kenya, demanding they axe or dilute the kind of protections that have saved millions of lives in the west.
BAT, one of the world’s leading c*******e manufacturers, is f******g through the courts to try to block the Kenyan and Ugandan governments’ attempts to bring in regulations to limit the harm caused by s*****g. The giant t*****o firms hope to boost their markets in Africa, which has a fast-growing young and increasingly prosperous population, British newspaper, The Guardian, reports.
In one undisclosed court document in Kenya, seen by the Guardian, BAT’s lawyers demand the country’s high court “quash in its entirety” a package of anti-s*****g regulations and rails against what it calls a “capricious” tax plan. The case is now before the supreme court after BAT Kenya lost in the high court and the appeal court. A ruling is expected as early as next month, the paper says.
BAT in Uganda asserts in another document that the government’s T*****o Control Act is “inconsistent with and in contravention of the constitution”.
The Guardian says it has also seen letters, including three by BAT, sent to the governments of Uganda, Namibia, Togo, Gabon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso revealing the intimidatory tactics that t*****o companies are using, accusing governments of breaching their own laws and international trade agreements and warning of damage to the economy.
BAT denies it is opposed to all t*****o regulation, but says it reserves the right to ask the courts to intervene where it believes regulations may not comply with the law.
Later this month, BAT is expected to become the world’s biggest listed t*****o firm as it completes its acquisition of the large US t*****o company Reynolds in a US$49 billionn deal, and there are fears over the extent to which big t*****o can financially outmuscle health ministries in poorer nations. A vote on the deal by shareholders of both firms is due to take place next Wednesday, simultaneously in London at BAT and North Carolina at Reynolds.
Professor Peter Odhiambo, a former heart surgeon who is head of the government’s T*****o Control Board in Kenya, told the Guardian: “BAT has done as much as they can to block us.”
Experts say Africa and southern Asia are urgent new battlegrounds in the global fight against s*****g because of demographics and rising prosperity. Despite declining s*****g and more controls in some richer countries, it still k***s more than seven million people globally every year, according to the WHO, and there are fears the tactics of big t*****o will effectively succeed in “exporting the d***h and harm” to poorer nations.
There are an estimated 77 million smokers in Africa and those numbers are predicted to rise by nearly 40 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030, which is the largest projected such increase in the world.
In Kenya, BAT has succeeded in delaying regulations to restrict the promotion and sale of cigarettes for 15 years, f******g through every level of the legal system. In February it launched a case in the supreme court that has already halted the imposition of t*****o controls until probably after the country’s general election in August, which are being contested by parliamentarians who have been linked to payments by the multinational company.
In Uganda, BAT launched l**********n against the government in November, arguing that the T*****o Control Act, which became law in 2015, contravenes the constitution. It is f******g restrictions that are now commonplace in richer countries, including the expansion of health warnings on packets and point-of-sale displays, arguing that they unfairly restrict its trade.
The court actions are brought by BAT’s local affiliates, BAT Kenya and BAT Uganda, but approved at Globe House, the London headquarters of the multinational, which receives most of the profits from the African trade. In its 2016 annual report, BAT outlined the “risk” that “unreasonable litigation” would be brought in to control t*****o around the world. Its response was an “engagement and litigation strategy coordinated and aligned across the Group”.
Africa’s growing numbers of children and young people, and its increasing wealth, represent a huge future market for the t*****o industry. The companies deny targeting children and cannot sell packs smaller than 10, but a new study carried out in Nairobi by the Johns Hopkins school of public health in the US and the Kenya-based Consumer Information Network found vendors selling cigarettes along the routes children take to walk to primary schools.
Stalls sell single Dunhill, Embassy, Safari and other BAT c*******e sticks, costing around Sh14, alongside sweets, biscuits and fizzy drinks. The vendors split the packets of 20 manufactured by BAT. “They are targeting children,” said Samuel Ochieng, chief executive of the Consumer Information Network. “They mix cigarettes with candies and sell along the school paths.”
BAT said that its products were for a***t smokers only and that it would much prefer that stalls sold whole packets rather than single sticks, “given our investment in the brands and the fact there are clear health warnings on the packs.
“Across the world, we have very strict rules regarding not selling our products to retailers located near schools. BAT Kenya provides support to many of these independent vendors, including providing stalls painted in non-corporate colours, and providing youth s*****g prevention and health warnings messages. We also educate vendors to ensure they do not sell t*****o products near schools.”
Concerns have been raised about links between politicians and the t*****o companies. “There are a*********s of some of them having been bribed in the past,” said Joel Gitali, chief executive of the Kenya T*****o Control Alliance.
BAT w***********r Paul Hopkins, who worked in Africa for BAT for 13 years, told a British newspaper he paid bribes on the company’s behalf to the Kenya Revenue Authority for access to information BAT could use against its Kenyan competitor, Mastermind. Hopkins has also alleged links between certain prominent opposition Kenyan politicians and two t*****o companies, BAT Kenya and Mastermind. Hopkins, who says he alerted BAT to the documents before the company made him redundant, claimed BAT Kenya paid bribes to government officials in Burundi, Rwanda and the Comoros Islands to undermine t*****o control regulations. Gitali is concerned about the outcome of the election: “If the opposition takes over government we shall be deeply in the hands of the t*****o companies.”