BAT’s harmful business, damaging poorest countries in the ASEAN.

Bangkok, 26 April 2017: British American Tobacco (BAT) is making big money out of the poorest countries in ASEAN.

Tobacco use is declining in developed countries so tobacco companies are increasing sales in developing countries in Asia. Asia is important for BAT’s profits. As BAT conducts its AGM today, their profits from the Asia-Pacific region in 2016 amounts to USD 1.7 billion. The region contributes 27 percent to BAT’s overall revenue where it sells 196 billion sticks.

In the ASEAN Region, BAT’s key markets that contributed to its increased profits are Indonesia, Philippines, and Vietnam. Tobacco-related deaths in these countries are increasing annually: at least 240,000 in Indonesia, 87,000 in the Philippines and 66,000 in Vietnam.

“Successful tobacco business means more diseases and death. Tobacco is not only damaging to health, but also causes social, economic and environmental harms to the world. All of this are preventable,” said Bungon Ritthiphakdee, Executive Director of SEATCA.

In the ASEAN Region where half of all adult men smoke and where 10% (125 million) of the world’s smokers live, tobacco kills about 500,000 people per year. Tobacco use in ASEAN not only impoverishes the users but also burdens national economies with more than USD 10 billion in health care costs annually due to tobacco-related illnesses and premature deaths.  

“Smoking prevalence is much higher among men with low education and in low-income groups.  In many ways, tobacco and poverty are part of the same vicious cycle in which tobacco worsens poverty. Money spent on tobacco means less money spent on basic necessities such as food, health care, shelter, and education,” added Ritthiphakdee.

Tobacco farming is not a lucrative employment activity and does not lift farmers out of poverty. On average, a tobacco farmer in the Philippines earns USD 1,328.00 to 2,507.00 per year. This is nothing compared to the millions tobacco executives take home in their annual paychecks. The farmers’ income will never be enough to cover healthcare costs once they start getting sick from years of handling tobacco which poses health risks. 

Child labor in tobacco growing has subsidized the cheap prices tobacco companies pay for the leaves. “Tobacco companies should not benefit from child labor. They do not have a zero-child labor policy and purchase leaves made from child labor. Thousands of children are employed in hazardous conditions in Indonesia’s tobacco farms and other tobacco-growing countries in the ASEAN Region. Work in tobacco farming also interferes with schooling for some children,” remarked Ritthiphakdee.

Nearly all the countries in the ASEAN region are Parties to the global treaty, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and are obligated to reduce tobacco use. Effective public health measures include substantial increase on tobacco tax, ban on tobacco advertising and promotions at point-of sale, and plain packaging of tobacco. 


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

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SEATCA is a multi-sectoral non-governmental alliance working to promote health and save 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.


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