"Voluntary Marketing Standards" Mask Marketing Reality

Tobacco SpinA BBC investigation has found British American Tobacco (BAT) violating its own voluntary international marketing standards in Nigeria, Malawi and Mauritius, using tactics that appeal to youth and circumvent advertising restrictions. BAT promotes and sells single cigarettes in these countries, a marketing strategy that appeals to youth, who often can't afford to buy an entire pack. BAT also sponsored musical events that had no formal age checks at the door. Celebrities at these events wore clothing bearing cigarette brand logos. In Mauritius, where cigarette advertising was banned in 1999, BAT paid to paint retail stores the same color as their leading brand, Matinee. In Malawi and Nigeria, posters were seen depicting single cigarettes and pricing cigarettes individually. BBC observed children as young as eleven buying single cigarettes. BAT's website says the company's voluntary marketing standards "embody ... our commitment to marketing appropriately and only to adult smokers." They promise their tobacco advertising will not "be aimed at, or particularly appeal to youth," will "not feature a celebrity," and that the company will engage in "no event sponsorship unless the participants and audience are adults." Previously-secret tobacco industry documents show that BAT adopted voluntary marketing standards as a way to "demonstrate responsibility" while staving off stricter government regulation of their products.