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August 22, 2017

Japan Tobacco’s $1.6 Billion Asian Acquisitions Are Bad News For Health in The Philippines and Indonesia

(New York, USA) Japan Tobacco Inc (JTI) today confirmed that it will pay nearly US$1billion to buy the second-biggest tobacco company in the Philippines – Mighty Corp, just weeks after announcing that it will acquire Indonesia’s PT Karyadibya Mahardhika and its distributor for $677 million. Both countries already have a high burden of tobacco use and tobacco-related disease and premature death.

Vital Strategies’ President and Chief Executive Officer, José Luis Castro, cautioned: “Japan Tobacco brings with it big tobacco’s playbook; tactics that are designed to maximize sales of products that only cause disease and premature death, while interfering to delay and derail – or subvert – tobacco control legislation designed to protect health. So we are seriously concerned that these acquisitions could have a negative impact on much-needed efforts to reduce tobacco related harm in Indonesia and the Philippines.”

In both countries, nearly one in five male deaths and close to one in ten female deaths (9.4 percent in the Philippines and 8.1 percent in Indonesia) are related to tobacco use. In Indonesia, over 53 million adults and more than 2 million children use tobacco each day. In the Philippines, over 15 million adults and more than half a million children use tobacco each day.

Castro continued: “It’s obvious that JTI is embedding itself in two countries with large and growing populations and a high burden of tobacco use in order to bolster its sales and profits, in the face of falling sales in some of its established markets. We’ve seen this strategy from multinational tobacco companies across Asia and Africa, so many times before. Typically, we also see an increase in industry interference in health policy, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

“We urge policymakers in Indonesia and the Philippines to act to protect health over the commercial interests of JTI and all other tobacco businesses, by implementing and enforcing the MPOWER package of best practice tobacco control policies, as recommended by World Health Organization. This would support these countries’ progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals, rather than big tobacco’s next multi-million-dollar deal, funded by the addiction and suffering of millions.”

Without urgent action by governments around the world to implement proven tobacco control measures – including efforts to curb the lethal actions of tobacco companies – global tobacco-related deaths will number seven million each year and a billion this century. Vital Strategies calls on all governments to fully implement the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and strongly enforce tobacco control policies to protect current and future generations from tobacco-related disease and premature death. Vital Strategies supports WHO’s M-P-O-W-E-R strategies to reduce tobacco consumption, which are endorsed and promoted by the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use, of which Vital Strategies is a principal partner.

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that seeks to accelerate progress on the world’s most pressing health problems. Our team combines evidence-based strategies with innovation to help develop and implement sound public health policies, manage programs efficiently, strengthen data systems, conduct research, and design strategic communication campaigns for policy and behavior change. To find out more, please visit www.vitalstrategies.org or Twitter @VitalStrat.

For further information or to arrange an interview with a Vital Strategies public health and tobacco control expert, please contact Tracey Johnston, Vital Strategies, at +44.7889.081.170 or tjohnston@vitalstrategies.org

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