Statement: Center for Public Integrity Report Concerning British American Tobacco’s Involvement In Cigarette Smuggling

Statement by Matthew L. Myers, President of the CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS

Jan. 31 2000

Washington, DC - This report paints a devastating picture of a rogue industry that puts profits above the law. The report and its supporting documents provide evidence that top executives of British American Tobacco – parent company of Brown & Williamson – participated in actions which they knew led to cigarette smuggling in a systematic and massive basis throughout South America. The documents indicate that B.A.T. considered smuggling to be a normal part of its international business plan. Their actions contributed to and were an integral part of worldwide cigarette smuggling on a level not seen before. For years, including during the fight over the McCain tobacco control legislation in Congress, tobacco company executives have claimed that increases in cigarette taxes would lead to increased smuggling. On May 20, 1998, Brown & Williamson Chairman and CEO Nick Brookes argued in a Washington Post op-ed that the McCain bill would “create a massive black market, in which children will find it easier, not more difficult, to purchase cigarettes.” Just three weeks ago, on January 11, Brookes said Brown & Williamson wanted to hold a forum on black market cigarettes because “we don’t believe government officials, legislators, and others have focused enough attention on this critical issue, and we hope to change that.” Today’s report provides powerful evidence that, rather than being part of the solution, Brown & Williamson’s parent company – British American Tobacco – has been a major part of the problem. This report indicates that Brown & Williamson CEO Brookes himself may not have clean hands. Several of the documents cited in the study involve him. For example, a December 3, 1993, memo states explicitly that some of the activities in question were “recommended” to Brookes while he was Director of New Business Development at B.A.T. industries. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids calls on Congress and law enforcement agencies in the countries involved to investigate and prosecute any violations of the law to the fullest extent possible.

 

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