Stop Cigarette Advertising From Targeting Minors in Africa

young cigarette use

Target: Rob Davies, South Africa’s Minister of Trade and Industry

Goal: Stop British American Tobacco from targeting minors in South Africa

British American Tobacco, a cigarette industry giant, is targeting minors in South Africa with its advertising campaigns.  The company is giving out free cigarettes in convenience stores, hosting secret smoking parties for university students, and doing everything possible to hinder anti-tobacco legislation in Africa.  Urge South African minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies to crack down on this tobacco pusher and investigate its nefarious advertising tactics.

As profits from cigarette sales in Western and European countries are declining, British American Tobacco (BAT) has become known for capitalizing on the weaker governments and lax tobacco laws of developing countries.  Africa is one of  BAT’s most lucrative markets, and the company has developed sneaky and illegal policies in order to keep it that way.  Attractive young girls give out free Dunhill cigarettes to passersby at gas stations and convenience stores throughout South Africa, promising the chance to win a cash prize for taking one.

This campaign is not limited to adults as anyone entering the store gets the offer, and it is easy to assert BAT’s goal considering that it actively markets to students in Nigeria.  The company engages Nigerian communities with colorful retail kiosks, souvenirs, roles in local movies, secret smoking parties for students and young adults and surprise promos in bars – all in promotion of cigarettes.  One might ask how these marketing activities could be legal. The answer lies with BAT’s history of pushing around African governments, and its being nearly impossible to pin down for breaking trade and advertising laws.

Although BAT may be succeeding politically in Nigeria, South Africa could be another story.  Upon being confronted about its cigarette giveaway stunts, BAT cited ambiguous clauses in the bowels of South African tobacco law, insisting that its campaign is legal.  Belinda Walker, a tobacco lawyer that challenged BAT, disagrees.  “I am a mother of a 14-year-old son,” she said. “I cringe that he may step up to a cigarette counter to buy a cool drink and instead be told about Dunhill cigarettes, or when we walk into a Shell Select store, my son is confronted with a beautiful teenage girl offering him a cigarette.”

The time is ripe for a serious inquiry into BAT’s activities.  The Tobacco Products Control Act was signed into South African law in 2008, making the nation’s regulations on trade and advertisement of tobacco some of the toughest in the continent.  We can’t let this tobacco giant get away with evading the law and endangering millions of young lives any longer.  Call upon Rob Davies to investigate British American Tobacco, stop its highly questionable campaigns, and punish those responsible.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Dr Rob Davies,

A large-scale effort to undermine the tobacco laws of South Africa is currently underway.  Millions of South African youths are being targeted by the highly questionable tobacco advertising campaigns of British American Tobacco.  This company has a long history of pushing around the governments of developing countries and skirting the law to make a profit, but the deception does not have to continue in your country.

When Thabo Mbek signed South Africa’s Tobacco Products Control Act into law, he did it in efforts to end this kind of corrupt and harmful tobacco marketing.  With British American Tobacco hiring young women to give out free cigarettes in convenience stores, actively targeting Nigerian youth, and continuing to lobby against anti-tobacco legislation in South Africa, there is certainly enough questionable activity to launch an investigation into BAT’s practices.  The company has been caught for illegal activity before, and it can be caught again.  I urge you to stop these immoral and most likely illegal tobacco marketing tactics, and launch a full scale investigation into the activities of British American Tobacco.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

photo credit: lanier67 via Flickr

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