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BBC Panorama’s tobacco industry revelations are genuinely shocking

by Henry Scowcroft | Analysis

1 December 2015

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Last night’s Panorama on BBC1 contained new – and shocking – allegations about the behaviour of one of the world’s biggest tobacco companies: British American Tobacco (BAT).

According to the programme, people working on the company’s behalf are alleged to have offered payments to politicians, civil servants and other Government officials in several African countries, in order to buy influence, make changes to tobacco control legislation, and gain market information to undermine competitors.

Notably, they’re alleged to have paid bribes to influence work at the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, a United Nations campaign aimed at reducing deaths from tobacco-related illness that’s supported by the governments of 180 countries.

In our view, these allegations require urgent investigation by the relevant national and international authorities. We’ve become accustomed to the idea that tobacco companies will try every legal avenue available to help them sell a product that kills millions each year. But in 2015, allegations of bribery and corruption are genuinely outrageous.

Global efforts to restrict sales of tobacco are vital. Smoking causes at least 13 different types of cancer. And if present smoking trends continue, estimates suggest that by 2050, smoking will have killed 450 million people around the world over the previous fifty years. It’s an intolerable burden that we should do everything to avoid.

You can watch Panorama’s ‘The Secret Bribes of Big Tobacco’ here:

panorama screenshot