Paul Hopkins in Somalia. Photograph: Paul Hopkins
Matthew L Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said: The allegations against British American Tobacco reflect a company willing to … exploit any vulnerable population in order to make money no matter the consequences.
As cigarette sales decline around the world, British American Tobacco sees fragile states as one of the few remaining growth markets for its deadly products. For a company that doesnt care how it makes its money or what laws need to be broken to ensure future profits, countries experiencing instability present a unique opportunity.
The Guardian asked BAT if it had promoted sales of its cigarettes in a number of fragile, war-torn and unstable countries including through under-cover operations, while civil war were ongoing, and if this had allowed them to ignore health warnings and nicotine content.
In a statement, a British American Tobacco spokesperson said:We take our commitment to the responsible marketing of our products very seriously. We have strict, company-wide marketing principles in place to ensure that our products are marketed responsibly, in addition to adhering to all relevant laws and regulations in the 200 markets where we operate.
Specifically, we comply fully with the regulations for tobacco products in the DRC which have been in place in this country since 2007 that prescribes health warnings and health warning sizes, and sets limits for tar and nicotine content. Additionally, in other African countries, including South Sudan, Somalia and Somaliland, where there is no tobacco regulation in place, we voluntarily apply a side panel health warning on all of our products sold in those markets.
We fully comply with the relevant tax law in every country in which we operate. Specifically, in DRC, excise on tobacco products is prepaid to the government at the time of ordering excise/tax stamps. This is a process that BAT adheres to strictly for all products it sells in this country.
In each market where we are present, we offer consumers a choice of products, which can include local brands, international brands and our global drive brands. Our strict international marketing principles apply, and are adhered to, in each of the 200 markets around the world where we operate.