David Crow

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David Crow was the Managing Director of British American Tobacco (BAT) Australia until 2015 when he left the tobacco company.[1]

Long-Standing Career with British American Tobacco

Crow joined BAT in 1995 as Regional Marketing Manager of the Asia-Pacific Region.[2]

He has held various leadership positions within the company, including:[1]

  • Marketing Director Australasia
  • Head of Marketing Director W.D. & H.O. Wills, a BAT company

Corporate Social Responsibility: Promoting Minimum Prices Instead of Tax Increases

In 2010, Crow sanctioned BAT New Zealand to submit a proposal to the New Zealand government for fixed minimum tobacco prices.[3] The proposal suggested that minimum prices would stop BAT and its competitors competing on price, and as a result, children could not be attracted to smoking via cheap cigarette prices. This position was part of BAT’s Social Corporate Responsibility (CSR) Strategy claiming to protect children from tobacco-related harm.

BAT’s proposal was rejected by the New Zealand Parliamentary Select Committee on the grounds that an aggressive tobacco tax regime was a more appropriate answer. Minimum prices would help increase tobacco industry profits, but not increase public revenue, whereas evidence shows that an effective tax regime is beneficial for both public health and government revenue.[4][5]

BAT’s proposal was an example of a CSR Strategy; to propose voluntary regulation or mild policy changes in order to fend off stronger measures. To understand why tobacco tax and price are important to the tobacco industry, visit our page on price and tax.

Threatened to Lower Cigarette Prices in Response to Plain Packaging Policy

Following the announcement in 2011 that Australia would introduce plain packaging the following year, Crow told Australian newspaper the Daily Telegraph in December 2011 that this tobacco policy would lead to a "flood" of half-price cigarettes.[6]

Crow also told the newspaper that “cigarette companies would be forced to drastically cut prices” to compete with the illicit tobacco market, and added that cheap prices “basically means more people will smoke, more kids will smoke”.[6]

His statement contradicted BAT's New Zealand proposal to raise the minimum price to protect children.

Admitted that Higher Tobacco Taxes Reduce Smoking Rates

Earlier that year, as a witness before the Australian Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Ageing, Crow had conceded that tobacco tax increases drive down smoking prevalence in a bid to convince the Australian Parliament to focus on increasing tax rather than pursuing plain packaging policy:

“We saw last year very effectively with the increase in excise. There was a 25 per cent increase in the excise and we saw the volumes go down by about 10.2 per cent; there was about a 10.2 per cent reduction in the industry last year in Australia. So there are ways of achieving the objectives that do not infringe on the property rights, do not breach the laws and the international commitments and do not mean that the Australian government would have to compensate people.”[7]

Crow’s admission suggests that BAT considered plain packaging a significant threat to its business, and likely to drive down smoking prevalence even more than the tax increases that BAT had previously vociferously fought against.

TobaccoTactics Resources

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 Bloomberg, British American Tobacco Australasia Limited: David S. Crow, undated, accessed October 2017
  2. P. O’Keeffe, Letter from Patrick O’Keeffe to D Chow enclosing BAT programme, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, 9 December 1994, Bates no: 503932185-503932194, accessed October 2017
  3. ASH New Zealand, BAT NZ presentation to Maori Affairs Select Committee, March 2010, accessed October 2017
  4. 3news Radio, Smoking inquiry launched, Harawira wants total ban, 8 March 2010, accessed October 2017
  5. Inquiry into the tobacco industry in Aotearoa and the consequences of tobacco use for Māori, Report of the Māori Affairs Committee, November 2010, Presented to the House of Representatives
  6. 6.0 6.1 J. Hildebrand, K. Sikora, We'll flood the market with cheap tobacco, says British American Tobacco chief, Daily Telegraph, 17 May 2011, accessed October 2017
  7. House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health and Ageing, Tobacco Plain Packaging Bill 2011, Trademarks amendment, Hansard, Canberra, 4 August 2011, accessed November 2017