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Shameless: Guardian report reveals British American Tobacco profits in warzones through unethical and potentially illegal tactics

(New York, USA) An investigative report published today by The Guardian reveals that in a clandestine operation over several years, British American Tobacco (BAT) moved millions of U.S. dollars in cash across international borders into war-torn areas, disguising its product and paying off militias. It also reveals that BAT enters these markets with low cost brands, with a view to encouraging smokers to trade up to more profitable premium brands over time. The article presents examples from Africa and the Middle East, suggesting that this is likely to be a global strategy.

Vital Strategies joins other tobacco control advocates in urging the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate BAT and its subsidiaries for possible violations of the anti-bribery and accounting provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

Vital Strategies President and Chief Executive Officer, José Luis Castro, commented: “The Guardian’s latest report demonstrates, yet again, that the tobacco industry will sink to any level for profit. We have long known that the tobacco industry targets vulnerable people around the world. BAT historically exploits lack of regulation, governance and enforcement and vigorously opposes responsible government intervention on behalf of health.

“This stoops even lower and is possibly illegal — working through smuggling, militias and in conflict zones to target vulnerable populations. Not only will it harm health, it subverts ethical business practice, supports corruption and erodes the rule of law. BAT’s responses to The Guardian conspicuously fail to answer the difficult questions posed. This simply confirms what we have long known – the tobacco industry is not a responsible actor, and is evasive when the spotlight falls on the deadly practices it tries to keep hidden. We hope more of these practices are exposed to the public glare, so people know the truth about big tobacco and governments can take appropriate action.”

Tobacco kills more people each year than those killed in conflicts around the globe. 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.

Note: Vital Strategies supports The Guardian’s reporting on the tobacco industry, but does not have any input into editorial content or decisions, which are entirely independent and conducted under the newspaper’s published editorial guidelines.

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 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