British American Tobacco’s sneaky advertising in Africa

British American Tobacco's Rothmans cigarette advertisement on a cigarette waste bin in Addis Ababa
British American Tobacco’s Rothmans cigarette advertisement on a cigarette waste bin in Addis Ababa
BAT's Rothmans cigarette advertising on cigarette waste bins in Addis Ababa
BAT’s Rothmans cigarette advertising on cigarette waste bins in Addis Ababa
British American Tobacco advertise their Rothmans cigarettes on bins in an Addis Ababa cafe
British American Tobacco advertise their Rothmans cigarettes on bins in an Addis Ababa cafe

In previous posts I referred to hundreds of British American Tobacco (BAT) posters, advertising Rothmans cigarettes, that appeared in the past several years in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. These posters clearly were posted in many poor parts of Addis Ababa and unquestionably were visible to young people, even though BAT claim that they “do everything possible” to prevent people under 18 from being targeted by their cigarette advertising. Of course, common sense tells us that any form of tobacco advertising that exists in wide open public places IS advertising to all of the many young people, including precious children, who can see the advertisements. So many children and teens were exposed to these Rothmans cigarette posters.

I am pleased to say that pretty much all of these posters have now been pulled down. I have looked everywhere and have seen only one surviving poster, out of the hundreds that were there previously. The removal of these disgusting and illegal posters is due to the effort of Ethiopian authorities, including the Ministry of Health, who are working to fight tobacco issues here in Ethiopia. Indeed, in January this year (2014), Ethiopia ratified the WHO FCTC tobacco treaty, and hopefully are in the process of implementing the rules of this treaty in other ways, but we have already seen the BAT Rothmans posters disappear in the past several months.

Still, a week ago I was in a café and a shopping mall in Addis Ababa and I noticed several cigarette waste bins advertising BAT’s Rothmans cigarettes. I believe these have been there for some months and are not new, but I hadn’t seen them before. Presumably, BAT managed to get those manufactured and put into malls, cafes and restaurants, perhaps at the same time the posters were put up.

This shows just to what extent BAT and the tobacco industry generally will go to get their “message” out there into the public domain and advertise tobacco products in as sneaky a way and as extensive a way as they can. I believe that these Rothmans bins are actually illegal, and in any case they contravene WHO FCTC tobacco treaty rules, so I am certain that the bins will soon be removed, as Ethiopia implements the WHO FCTC treaty regulations.

In an upcoming post, I will discuss my communication with a British Member of Parliament and with British American Tobacco executives regarding cigarette advertising to the poor people and the precious children of the world. Tobacco companies worldwide target children and youth in more ways than one. The majority of adults who get sick or die from smoking-related diseases, became addicted to tobacco when they began smoking in their teens or even younger, and were targeted by tobacco company advertising and marketing when they were kids. In addition, worldwide, children are labouring for the tobacco industry, especially on tobacco farms, and are at risk for numerous health problems and injuries, not to mention their loss of access to a decent education and upbringing that every child should have a right to have. In Indonesia, for example, a million-and-a-half kids work on tobacco farms under horrible conditions. Tobacco is all about child abuse, in no uncertain terms!

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3 Comments

  1. I do know that there were hundreds of these posters specifically posted in Addis Ababa only and that they were all taken down and confiscated by the Ethiopian authorities. However, I own one of the posters, which were made of sturdy plastic… I bought it from a storeowner. To my knowledge it’s the only copy that exists.

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