Imperial Brands PLC subsidiary violates law and exploits Lao PDR

Bangkok, 5 February 2018: As Imperial Brands PLC in the UK celebrates profits, its Lao PDR subsidiary, Lao Tobacco Company Ltd. (LTL) is hiding the truth about the harms of tobacco use. 

Based on monitoring by the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance in Vientiane Capital City last 1 January 2018, Imperial-controlled LTL and local Lao-China Hongta Good Luck Tobacco Company Ltd. have been violating Lao PDR’s Pictorial Health Warnings (PHWs) Regulation issued by the Ministry of Health in May 2016 requiring all tobacco companies to print 75% health warnings on cigarette packs, an international best practice but a lesser requirement than the standardized packaging in the UK.

“Their disregard of the law is unacceptable given that they have already been given 19 months in total to comply after they have requested and been granted three extensions of the implementation deadline. This is a humiliating contrast to other countries in the ASEAN region which gave tobacco companies only three to six months to comply with their PHWs regulation,” said Ms. Bungon Ritthiphakdee, Executive Director of SEATCA.

This violation is on top of an exploitative 25-year contract with the Lao government where Imperial/LTL gains by paying extremely low preferential taxes. Imperial hides under the notion that this deal has helped generate a few hundred jobs, but it ignores the fact that through this lopsided contract the Lao government has already lost about US$ 100 million in tax revenues since 2001. 

“Almost one quarter of the Lao government’s total health budget is spent treating tobacco-related diseases, and US$ 100 million in taxes are a huge lost opportunity for the Lao people, equivalent to about 30 hospitals, or 600 new schools, or improvement of more than 12,000 km of road,” added Ritthiphakdee.

“We demand that Imperial Brands PLC respect the Lao people by complying with their law to apply 75% health warnings on cigarette packs and by immediately terminating the unfair tax contract Imperial has with the Lao government,” remarked Ritthiphakdee.

More than 73,000 adolescents and half of all men smoke in Laos. About 28% of the Lao population lives below the poverty line, with one third of the population living on US$ 1.25 a day. This means money for basic household expenses is spent on tobacco, and breadwinners are at high risk of financial ruin from deaths and diseases due to tobacco.

 

Contact:

Wendell C Balderas, Media and Communications Manager – SEATCA
Email: wendell@seatca.org | Mobile: +63 999 881 2117 ##

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About SEATCA
SEATCA is a multi-sectoral non-governmental alliance promoting health and saving lives by assisting ASEAN countries to accelerate and effectively implement the evidence-based tobacco control measures contained in the WHO FCTC. Acknowledged by governments, academic institutions, and civil society for its advancement of tobacco control movements in Southeast Asia, the WHO bestowed on SEATCA
the World No Tobacco Day Award in 2004 and the WHO Director-General’s Special Recognition Award in 2014.