We usually tell you about opportunities to fight back against dirty energy companies. But we know that to win the world we want, one in which human rights and the climate are protected, we have to challenge corporate power across the board. So we’re joining our friends at Corporate Accountability International to seize a golden opportunity to make Big Tobacco pay.
A recent BBC report exposed how British American Tobacco (BAT) does business in East Africa—and it’s an ugly picture.1 A courageous whistleblower detailed how BAT contractors bribed hundreds of journalists, politicians, and policymakers to sabotage lifesaving laws in Burundi, Comoros, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda that threatened its billions of dollars in profits. And there’s evidence that BAT executives signed off on some of these corporate crimes.
In recent weeks, the revelations have kept coming: BAT allegedly paid off victims of chemical poisoning in Uganda2 and bribed a Kenyan official to block efforts against cigarette smuggling.3
The people are already fighting back. This week, advocates in Kenya lodged a formal complaint with the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission calling for an investigation into BAT’s misdeeds. Here in the U.S., our allies are working to leverage the anti-corruption laws that protect against foreign bribery by corporations traded on the New York Stock Exchange—BAT owns 42% of Reynolds American, Inc., whose subsidiaries distribute BAT brands like Lucky Strike and Pall Mall.
Big Tobacco has the same playbook as the fossil fuel industry: cover up evidence about the dangers of its products; do whatever it takes to put politicians in its pocket; and laugh all the way to the bank. These BAT revelations give us a chance to push back.
Will you stand with the governments whose lifesaving laws have been sabotaged? Join people around the world and add your name to those demanding that BAT pay.
1. “The secret bribes of big tobacco,” BBC, Nov. 30, 2015
2. “BAT faces more bribery claims in Africa,” Financial Times, Dec. 7, 2015
3. “British American Tobacco ‘bribed’ Kenyan politician Martha Karua to stop action against cigarette smuggling”, Independent, Dec. 18, 2015