International Tobacco Growers Association

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The International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA) claims to be a 'non-profit organisation... with the objective of presenting the cause of millions of tobacco farmers to the world'. [1] In fact, it is a tobacco industry front group set up and run by major cigarette manufacturers.

A "Front" for Third World Lobbying

Tobacco industry documents describe the development of the ITGA and show that it was always intended to be a front group for large cigarette manufacturers. In the early 1980s major tobacco companies wanted to “mobilise the global agro-lobby” to help with industry advocacy, so they created a organisation that appeared to represent the needs of worldwide tobacco growers.[2] The ITGA was duly set up in 1984.[3]

A 1988 BAT memo describes how the industry wanted the organisation to function. It says:

Manufacturers ... would ‘control’ the primary funding of the organisation, and would thus be able to ensure that it stuck to politics... The ITGA could ‘front’ for our Third World lobby activities at the World Health Organisation, and gain support from nations hostile to multinational corporations. The ITGA (pushed by us) could activate regional agriculture lobbies which are at present very weak and resistant to industry pressure.[4]

According to an industry document about the management of ITGA by an organisation called Agro-Tobacco Services:

The principal role of the new consultancy will be to control the international voice of agro-tobacco on behalf of its clients, ensuring that best use is made of the ITGA as a vehicle for targeted lobby activities. In particular, the consultancy will provide the coordination, facilitation, and motivation necessary to realize the full potential of the tobacco growers’ lobby. . . . Agro-Tobacco Services will develop and implement action plans for each of the ITGA member organizations, develop new argumentation, and liaise with external allies.[5]

Capturing the "Moral High Ground"

The industry’s plan was for the ITGA to lobby both the World Health Organization and the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation. An industry document from 1991 outlines how they hoped that tobacco growers would capture the "moral high ground" by convincing policymakers of the development and economic benefits of tobacco farming to producing countries. It says:

By providing the resources necessary to transform the ITGA from an introspective and largely ineffectual trade association to a pro-active, politically effective organization, the industry created the opportunity to capture the moral high ground in relation to a number of fundamental tobacco-related issues.[6]

To "Challenge and Ridicule" the World Health Organisation

A 2005 report published by Action on Smoking and Health, Christian Aid and Friends of the Earth described how Shabanji Opukah, British American Tobacco’s corporate responsibility manager wanted to use the ITGA to undermine the World Health Organisation (WHO).[7] It describes how he devised a strategy to "target WHO’s blind spots on key primary health priorities, such as HIV/AIDS prevention and malaria. Working through African and Latin American members, [ITGA] will build actions with their governments to put pressure on WHO.’

It adds that Opukah wanted to get some return for the money BAT had spent supporting tobacco growers at a Pan Africa HIV/AIDS conference, by undermining the WHO's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control through having tobacco growers from the developing world "challenge and ridicule" it:

"On FCTC the ITGA Africa region agreed that these countries’ priority is not tobacco and health issues rather AIDs is the big issue... The ITGA agreed to support fully a proposal for a pan African aids [sic] conference to be held in Zambia in September hosted by the health ministry at which they will discuss the aids scourge in Africa. The ITGA is going to present what their grower associations have been doing to support government and NGO efforts in combating AIDs [sic] in Africa and through that highlight the importance of tobacco to the economy whilst relegating it as an issues [sic] in the health priorities of these countries. Then [sic] idea is to use the forum to challenge and ridicule the WHO convention. I suggest that we support fully the ITGA’s efforts in this regard …Needless to repeat this is one way of us getting value from our subs to ITGA – a natural ally."

2010: Still Attacking the WHO

Almost 30 years on from its inception, the ITGA is still attacking the WHO and Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

In May 2010 the ITGA expressed "outrage" over new recommendations from the FCTC, which included a proposed ban on ingredients used in the manufacturing of tobacco products, claiming the proposal "could wipe out the livelihoods of millions of tobacco growers all over the world".[8]


  1. ‘Who we are and what we do’, ITGA website, undated, accessed 28 July 2011
  2. ‘January 1989 Discussion Paper, Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, 30 January 1989, accessed 28 July 2011
  3. ‘History of the ITGA’, ITGA website, undated, accessed 28 July 2011
  4. International Tobacco Growers' Association, John Bloxcidge, 11 October 1998, accessed 28 July 2011. Note: two acronyms in the original - WHO and MNCs – have been written in full by us here for the sake of clarity.
  5. Quoted in 'Golden leaf, barren harvest', report by the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, November 2001, accessed 28 July 2011
  6. 'Letter from Martin Oldman to Gaye Pedlow enclosing agro-tobacco programme', Martin Oldman, 13 March 1991, accessed 28 July 2011
  7. 'BAT in its own words', Action on Smoking and Health, Christian Aid and Friends of the Earth, 2005, accessed 28 July 2011
  8. 'International Tobacco Growers' Association Exposes the Likely Loss of Millions of Jobs Due to WHO Proposal on Tobacco Ingredients', BusinessWire, 25 May 2010, accessed 28 July 2011