british american tobacco p.l.c. sustainability report 2009 - Tobacco regulation and engagement

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SUSTAINABILITY REPORT 2009

Tobacco regulationWe continued to engage with governments on the development of tobacco regulation, including regulation relating to the implementation into local laws of obligations under the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). The views and positions we advocate to regulators are reflected on www.bat.com Opens in new window.

 

The World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC)

The FCTC contains provisions aimed at reducing both the supply of, and demand for, tobacco products. It came into force in 2005, and by the end of 2009, some 167 governments had ratified the Convention. The FCTC provisions include public place smoking bans; comprehensive advertising bans; packaging and labelling requirements; ingredients and emissions testing and disclosure; promotion of economically viable alternative crops for tobacco farmers and the development of a Protocol to address illicit trade in tobacco products. The governments which have ratified the Convention must consider how, and to what extent, they will implement its provisions into national law.

 
2009 saw further development of the World Health Organisation’s FCTC global tobacco control agenda. Since FCTC guidelines on packaging and labelling, advertising, promotion and sponsorship and industry participation were published in late 2008, regulation of these areas has increased around the world.

In response to increased regulation, our focus in 2009 has been to seek greater consistency across our markets and regions in engagement on key regulatory issues.

We believe that views advocated in policy formation should be communicated transparently, whether from businesses, NGOs or any other parties. The views our companies advocate include:

Packaging and labeling

We support the inclusion of appropriate health warnings on packs and other primary packaging. However, we are strongly opposed to plain packaging, the trend towards outsized product labelling requirements and the gradual removal of pack elements. There is no evidence to support the claims that plain packaging would achieve public health objectives and indeed it may even undermine them. Counterfeit would become easier to produce and branded illicit products that do not comply with the regulation could become more attractive to consumers.

Public place smoking

We support regulation to restrict smoking in enclosed public places and indoor work places that accommodates the interests of smokers and non-smokers alike, and limits non-smokers’ involuntary exposure to environmental tobacco smoke. We believe that smoking should be permitted in outdoor areas. We support ways to improve consumer education about cigarette butt littering.

Retail display of products

We oppose bans on tobacco displays in the retail environment as there is no evidence to suggest that bans lower smoking rates or reduce underage smoking. Bans could lead to an increase in illicit trade by driving the sale of the product underground and could also obstruct and distort competition.

Excise

Many national governments use tobacco taxation as a key instrument to reduce rates of smoking, while also raising significant excise revenue. However, sudden increases in excise rates can result in consumers switching to cheaper illicit products. We support gradual and predictable increases in excise that enable tax revenues to be increased and public health policy to be supported, without exacerbating the risk of illicit trade.

Product guidelines

As part of the FCTC, the World Health Organisation is developing product guidelines that will provide direction on testing, measuring, disclosing and regulating the contents and emissions of tobacco products. It is our view that these guidelines should contain proportionate and evidence-based recommendations, supported by published and peer-reviewed scientific research, and guided by a clear public health rationale.

Alternative crops

The focus of one of the FCTC working groups is to decrease tobacco production and promote alternative livelihood programmes for farmers. We work closely with farmers to support the sustainable production of tobacco leaf for our business and believe that any assessment of alternative livelihoods should be evidence-based and developed in consultation with growers, merchants and manufacturers.

 

Tobacco regulation and engagement: what’s next?

We will continue to be transparent in our regulatory engagement and to welcome discussion with all interested parties. Our regulatory centre of expertise established in 2009 will work to ensure that our engagement with governments is carried out in a consistent way.