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There are several major tobacco companies – BAT, Philip Morris, the Gallaher Group and Imperial Tobacco, and it’s disgraceful for an academic institution carrying out cancer research to hold investments in any of them. But just to focus in on BAT…

…apart from the obvious fact that they are producing an addictive product which even they admit causes lung cancer, they deserve the status of ‘rubbish company’ due to their completely irresponsible marketing practices in countries where the laws about tobacco marketing are not as strict as in the UK. As recently as in 2000, a BBC documentary captured footage of BAT employees in Gambia promoting cigarettes at a BAT sponsored beach volleyball event, where free cigarettes were distributed to people as young as 15.

Some developing countries, like Uganda, rely very heavily on growing tobacco as a cash crop. The World Health Organisation and the World Bank are attempting to implement schemes to help these countries move away from this unstable situation – where the economy is heavily dependent on a single product - tobacco. BAT obviously has a vested interest in making sure that doesn’t happen, and one of its reports makes crystal clear how it intends to attempt to sabotage these sorts of initiatives:

Long term threats to the tobacco industry from the likes of WHO and the World Bank through their tobacco hostile policies could be eroded by carefully considering the [BAT] reputation management initiatives, and giving and communities.

And, just in case you aren’t convinced yet, here is a quote from Judy Wilkenfeld of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids in the United States about Brown and Wilson, one of BAT’s US subsidiaries:

Brown and Williamson would like us to believe that it is working to make its products safer, yet its marketing for those products continues the same pattern of deception. Brown & Williamson is test marketing their Advance cigarette in several U.S. cities with the slogan “All of the taste … less of the toxins.” While making statements that will lead consumers to believe that these new products are safer, Brown & Williamson admit that they have no evidence that these products actually reduce health risks for smokers.

Posted on 09/05/05 by admin

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Oxford Socially Responsible Investment Campaign is campaigning for clear committment to Socially Responsible Investment from Oxford University and for greater financial transparency in the investments of Oxford University Colleges. This website contains information about the campaign, and details on how you can get involved