Urge governments around the world to #MakeBigTobaccoPay

Governments around the world

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A new BBC Panorama documentary, along with newly published research from STOP and TCRG, suggests that British American Tobacco (BAT) engaged in a systematized scheme of questionable and potentially illegal payments across the African continent.

Its goal? Expand markets for its deadly products and undermine lifesaving public health policy.

Unfortunately, this isn’t surprising. The tobacco industry has always been one of the deadliest on the planet -- and it’s always tried to interfere in public policy to protect its profits. But we can’t let the industry get away with its schemes.

Luckily, the global tobacco treaty provides powerful tools to hold BAT and the rest of the tobacco industry accountable.

As the next treaty meetings approach this November, add your voice to urge government delegates to advance and implement policies to Kick Big Tobacco Out and Make Big Tobacco Pay.

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To: Governments around the world
From: [Your Name]

We, the undersigned individuals and organizations, are writing to urge you to protect global policymaking from tobacco industry interference and hold the tobacco industry accountable for its abuses as the next meetings of the WHO FCTC approach this November.

As you may be aware, a new BBC Panorama documentary, along with newly published research from tobacco industry watchdog STOP, reveal that British American Tobacco (BAT) made extensive, questionable payments in Africa designed to expand its markets, block lifesaving public health policy, and undermine its competition.

According to the documentary and published research, there are allegations that:

- Between 2008 and 2013, BAT allegedly made more than 200 questionable payments, totaling more than US$600,000, in ten countries across East and Central Africa.
- These payments allegedly functioned as a "routine part of BAT's business practices in Africa." In nearly all cases, BAT initiated the payments, rather than being solicited.
- The vast majority of these payments occurred after the 2011 entry into force of the U.K.'s Bribery Act, which officially made bribery anywhere in the world by a U.K.-incorporated company illegal. While much of this activity was investigated by the U.K. Serious Fraud Office, questions still remain.
- The payments allegedly were used to "gain intelligence on and advantage over competitors; influence policy; and foster advantageous relationships" throughout the ten countries targeted.
- And the payments may have had their intended impact, including stalling or undermining government attempts to adopt lifesaving measures in line with the WHO FCTC (also known as the global tobacco treaty).

The Africa region has been a leader in lifesaving tobacco control policy since the early negotiations of the WHO FCTC. BAT's insidious actions represent a clear attempt to exploit the people of Africa and interfere in policymaking, solely for profit. Actions like this delay progress needed to save lives. More lives will be lost needlessly to the wholly preventable tobacco epidemic.

The tobacco industry has always been one of the deadliest on the planet. Its products alone claim more than 8 million lives each year, with the most adversely affected being in low- and middle-income countries.

Where there's smoke, there's fire. If this is what's already come to light from BAT, it may be just the "tip of the cigarette." These allegations about BAT add to well-documented instances of tobacco industry attempts (1) to influence or undermine lifesaving measures (2) and tobacco treaty negotiations. (3)

Thankfully, the WHO FCTC provides powerful tools for governments around the world to rein in the tobacco industry's abuses. At the last meeting of treaty delegates, governments adopted a powerful decision to maximize the transparency of treaty delegations and safeguard the treaty against industry interference. (4) (The same decision was adopted at the meeting of the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products). (5) Additionally, the treaty's groundbreaking Article 19 encourages governments to hold the industry liable for its harms.

COP9 of the WHO FCTC and MOP2 of The Protocol are fast approaching this November. As these revelations about BAT make clear, it's critical that governments take the opportunity the treaty presents to kick the tobacco industry out of policymaking and make the industry pay.

That's why we, the undersigned individuals and organizations, are writing to urge you to:

- Take action to protect your treaty delegations from industry interference, in line with the COP8 and MOP1 "maximizing transparency" decisions, including showing leadership by submitting declarations of interest when you register for COP9 and MOP2.
- Act to require information from the industry in accordance with Article 5.3 guidelines, (6) and advance Article 19 to hold the tobacco industry liable for wrongdoing in all jurisdictions possible.

1. https://exposetobacco.org/wp-content/uploads/CorruptionBrief.pdf
2. https://exposetobacco.org/wp-content/uploads/TI_Accountability_Policy_Brief.pdf
3. https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/pmi-who-fctc/
4. https://www.who.int/fctc/cop/sessions/cop8/FCTC__COP8(12).pdf?ua=1
5. https://www.who.int/fctc/protocol/mop/FCTC_MOP1(15).pdf?ua=1
6. https://www.who.int/fctc/guidelines/article_5_3.pdf