British American Tobacco has rejected accusations of so-called â€śindustry interferenceâ€ť in public health policy-making by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and anti-tobacco campaigners promoting World No Tobacco Day.
In a press release issued recently by its West Africa press office and endorsed by Oluwasoromidayo George, the company defended its right to engage transparently on issues affecting its legitimate business.
Kingsley Wheaton, Director of Corporate and Regulatory Affairs at British American Tobacco said: â€śPut simply, weâ€™re just saying that we should be allowed to express our views on issues that affect our business. Some might not agree with what we say, but we think we have the right to be heard â€“ as does any other business or anyone else involved in the debate.
â€śWe understand that some people donâ€™t like smoking. And itâ€™s their right to feel like that. Many adults, however, enjoy smoking and will continue to do so and itâ€™s their right to do that too. We sell a controversial product, but itâ€™s a legal one.
â€śWe comply with regulation and contribute to the economies of more than 180 countries worldwide â€“ not only through the tens of billions of pounds in tobacco taxes paid to governments each year but also through the 56,000 people we directly employ and the hundreds of thousands of others employed indirectly by the industry.
â€śWe report openly and transparently about the work we do around the world and our efforts to engage decision makers to aid their understanding of unintended consequences of some regulation.â€ť
Despite this, some World No Tobacco Day campaigners are attempting to convince governments not to engage in the legitimate industry, labelling it â€śindustry interference.â€ť
Mr Wheaton added: â€śIt appears to us as if some within the tobacco control community are lobbying governments to view any engagement with us as â€śindustry interferenceâ€ť â€“ an approach we view as deceptive and one we firmly challenge.
â€śThe World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control does not in fact instruct governments to stop engaging with the tobacco companies and there are many governments worldwide who see the importance of getting a proper understanding of the impacts of regulation from the industry before making policy.
â€śWe will continue to engage transparently on issues that affect our business. And who would you rather was running this business? The underground criminals with terrorist links who donâ€™t care how young their customers are or what they sell to them or a fully accountable organisation, selling a legal product that has to meet strict product quality standards?â€ť
Â From the business desk