British American Tobacco today rejected accusations of so-called “industry interference” in public health policymaking by the World Health Organisation and anti-tobacco campaigners promoting World No Tobacco Day.
The company defended its right to engage transparently on issues affecting its legitimate business selling a legal, highly regulated product that many adults choose to use.
Kingsley Wheaton, Director of Corporate and Regulatory Affairs at British American Tobacco, said: “Put simply, we’re just saying that we should be allowed to express our views on issues that affect our business. Some might not agree with what we say, but we think we have the right to be heard – as does any other business or anyone else involved in the debate.
“We understand that some people don’t like smoking. And it’s their right to feel like that. Many adults, however, enjoy smoking and will continue to do so and it’s their right to do that too. We sell a controversial product, but it’s a legal one.
“We comply with regulation and contribute to the economies of more than 180 countries worldwide – not only through the tens of billions of pounds in tobacco taxes paid to governments each year but also through the 56,000 people we directly employ and the hundreds of thousands of others employed indirectly by the industry.
“We report openly and transparently about the work we do around the world and our efforts to engage decision makers to aid their understanding of unintended consequences of some regulation.”
Despite this, some World No Tobacco Day campaigners are attempting to convince governments they should not engage with the legitimate industry, labelling it “industry interference”.
Mr Wheaton added: “It appears to us as if some within the tobacco control community are lobbying governments to view any engagement with us as “industry interference” – an approach we view as deceptive and one we firmly challenge.
“The World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control does not in fact instruct governments to stop engaging with the tobacco companies and there are many governments worldwide who see the importance of getting a proper understanding of the impacts of regulation from the industry before making policy.
“We will continue to engage transparently on issues that affect our business. And who would you rather was running this business? The underground criminals with terrorist links who don’t care how young their customers are or what they sell to them? Or a fully accountable organisation, selling a legal product, that has to meet strict product quality standards?”