Oct. 27 2003
Washington, DC — The announcement today by British American Tobacco (BAT) and R.J. Reynolds (RJR) that they have agreed to merge their U.S. operations represents a marriage of two of the world’s most irresponsible tobacco companies. Between them, the two companies have lost legal judgments involving marketing to children, document destruction, and international cigarette smuggling.
BAT recently was found in contempt of court in the U.S. government’s lawsuit against the tobacco industry and is paying fines of $25,000 a day for refusing a federal judge’s order to turn over evidence related to the company’s document destruction policies. RJR last year was fined $20 million by a California judge for targeting kids with magazine advertising in violation of the 1998 state tobacco settlement. Government lawsuits and investigative journalism reports have implicated both companies in large-scale international cigarette smuggling. In the 1990s, an RJR Canadian subsidiary paid a $15 million fine and one of its executives served a U.S. prison term on smuggling-related charges. Both companies have vigorously opposed public policies that can reduce the death and disease caused by tobacco use, such as cigarette tax increases, smoke-free workplace policies and meaningful regulation of tobacco products by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Should this merger be approved by the Federal Trade Commission, BAT and the proposed new company, Reynolds American Inc., should commit to taking concrete steps both domestically and internationally to reduce the harm caused by their deadly products. They should stop all marketing practices that impact youth, end any deception, including misleading health claims, about the harm caused by tobacco products, and join the public health community in supporting effective public policies that can reduce tobacco use.