British American Tobacco

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British American Tobacco (BAT) is a transnational tobacco company (TTC), headquartered in the United Kingdom (UK). Its businesses operate in all regions of the world. (See map below)1

Background

BAT was established in 1902 when the Imperial Tobacco Company and the American Tobacco Company formed a new joint venture.2 The company diversified into the paper, cosmetics, and food industries (1960s); department stores (1970s); and insurance companies (1980s). In the late 1990s it divested from non-tobacco business.23

Major divisions and subsidiaries

BAT acquired Reynolds American Inc. (RAI) and its tobacco subsidiary R J Reynolds in 2017. It continues to operate as Reynolds in the US.

BAT retained the name Imperial Tobacco in Canada.4 The UK-based company Imperial Tobacco is part of Imperial Brands.

BAT’s complex corporate structure is illustrated in this report.5

It also has:

In the 2000s BAT began diversifying into newer nicotine and tobacco products through its Nicoventures group of companies (see Products below for details).

It also owns Fiedler & Lundgren, a Swedish company which produces snus.

BAT has investments in non-nicotine products including cannabis and various “wellness” products. In 2020, it set up a new investment arm, Btomorrow Ventures, and in 2022, a biotech investment company, KBio Holdings Limited.7 See Non-nicotine subsidiaries & investments below for details.

For details of all holding companies and subsidiaries see the BAT section of the Supply Chain database.

Products

The page Tobacco Industry Product Terminology lists product types and the terms used on Tobacco Tactics.

Conventional tobacco products

Key brands

Key BAT cigarette brands include Dunhill, Kent, Lucky Strike, Pall Mall and Rothmans, which are sold globally. Camel, American Spirit, and Newport are sold in the US.10  Other international brands include Vogue, Viceroy, Kool, Peter Stuyvesant, Craven A, State Express 555 and Shuang Xi, but BAT states that these do not form part of its “Strategic Portfolio”.10

BAT also sells what it calls “traditional oral” tobacco products, including Grizzly and Kodiak moist snuff. It sells snus brand Camel in the US and other brands in Sweden and Norway through its subsidiary Fielder & Lundgren.10

More information can be found on the BAT corporate website (see below).

Production and key markets

The map below (figure 1) shows the countries in which BAT has subsidiaries. The Tobacco Supply Chain database shows that BAT is directly involved in tobacco leaf agriculture and processing in 29 countries, manufactures its products in 42 countries, and has distribution operations in 91 countries.

According to Euromonitor International, in 2023 BAT had a share of around 21% share of the global cigarette market outside China (by retail volume, figure rounded).11

A map showing the countries where BAT has subsidiaries

Figure 1: The countries where BAT has subsidiaries. (Source: Tobacco Control Research Group, University of Bath)

Asia Pacific is by far the largest regional market for cigarettes, making up over one third of the total global market excluding China (regions as defined by Euromonitor). BAT sells nearly one third of its cigarettes in this region. Sales in other regions (Eastern Europe, Latin America, Western Europe, Middle East and Africa, and North America) range between 17% and 11% of its total sales.11

Research published in 2023 showed that in 2020 BAT had the highest cigarette market share in 24 of the markets in which it operated (out of 90 for which data was available).12

In its June 2024 trading update, BAT listed its key markets for combustibles as the US, Germany, Japan, Romania, Brazil, Mexico, Bangladesh and Pakistan.1314

For more information on the global and regional market shares of the ‘Big 4’ transnational companies, see Tobacco Companies.
See the Tobacco Supply Chain database for country specific information.

Newer nicotine and tobacco products

As the harms from smoking conventional products have become better understood, and tobacco control measures have been put in place, the cigarette market – from which tobacco companies make most of their profits – has started to shrink. To secure the industry’s longer-term future, TTCs have invested in, developed and marketed newer nicotine and tobacco products.15

Key BAT brands include:1016[

BAT now refers to all of these as “smokeless” products.16

In June 2024, BAT listed its top markets for e-cigarettes as the US, Canada, and five European countries including the UK. Key markets for its HTPs included Japan, South Korea, and six in Europe. It listed three Scandinavian markets, Switzerland, UK and Poland for its “modern oral” products.13

Nicoventures, Nicovations and the Voke inhaler

Nicoventures Limited was set up as a division of BAT in 2010, to produce licensed nicotine products.171819 Two subsidiaries were set up for different types of product:

Nicovations Ltd focused on “regulatory approved” inhaled nicotine products.201721 BAT had plans to develop a nicotine inhaler called Voke in a collaboration with Kind Consumer Limited. An electronic product – e-Voke – was licensed as a medicine in 2014 by the UK regulatory agency MHRA.22 However, BAT abandoned Voke in 2017, choosing instead to market its e-cigarettes commercially.23242526

Nicoventures Trading Ltd merged with CN Creative (acquired by BAT in 2012). By 2014, this company focused on non-licensed products, including e-cigarettes.27 A further subsidiary, Nicoventures U.S. Limited, was established in 2017 when BAT acquired RAI.2829

See also Claiming a public health role below.

Market Strategy

Transformation narrative

On its website BAT describes itself as a “multi-category consumer goods business”,3031 and often downplays the role of tobacco.32 BAT corporate material refers to its goal of “transformation” towards a “Better Tomorrow” and a “smokeless world”.16303334

BAT argues that it needs to “drive value from combustibles to fund New Category Investments”.16 In 2020, it stated that 10% of its revenue came from “non-combustible” products, but at this point they were not making the company a profit.35 At the end of 2023, when its share price was falling,36 BAT announced that it expected to break even with these products ahead of target,37 and a few months later that its “New Categories [had] achieved profitability”.3438 Its 2023 annual report stated that its ‘new categories’ now made up just over 12% of its revenue.16

However, the vast majority of BAT’s revenue – around 83% in 2023 – comes from the sale of cigarettes and other conventional tobacco products.1639

In June 2024, BAT reported an increase in its cigarette volume share in “key markets”, flagging the “strong performance” of combustible brands in the US.13 It states that it is committed to “managing the combustible cigarettes business in a responsible manner”.16 But it appears its main sense of responsibility is to shareholders.

Share buybacks

A key goal remains delivering financial returns to shareholders, including via share buybacks.40 BAT stopped share buybacks in 2023, stating that this was to reduce debt and invest in newer products.41 After pressure from shareholders it sold US$2 billion of shares in India’s ITC Limited to enable it to reduce its debt and resume buybacks,642 comprising GB£700 million in 2024, and GB£900m in 2025.34

  • BAT’s annual reports, financial results and information for investors can be found on its corporate website (see below).

In order to achieve a “Better Tomorrow”  BAT argues that there needs to be a “global alignment on health policy” – a consensus to be achieved with the involvement of the tobacco industry,43 and what it calls “progressive regulation” – in favour of the products that it sells.44  See also Claiming a public health role below.

TACTICS TO UNDERMINE TOBACCO CONTROL

Tobacco industry interference is widely understood to be the greatest barrier to progress in reducing the deadly health impact of tobacco.45 Article 5.3 of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), obliges countries to protect their health policies from the “commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry”.46

TCRG has identified a range of tactics used by tobacco companies to interfere with and undermine tobacco control, in order to further their commercial goals.4748

Undermining national or international laws

BAT has been accused of violating laws in multiple countries, relating to trade, finance and tobacco taxation, as well as tobacco control.

The 2014 EU Tobacco Products Directive Revision banned the sale of menthol cigarettes and rolling tobacco.49 After a four year ‘phase-out’ period, granted after industry lobbying, the ban came into force in May 2020, and related to ‘characterising’ flavours in tobacco and all components, including filters and rolling papers.5051 In the run up to the ban, BAT  developed new brand variations and changes to filters. It later released new menthol sticks for HTP devices, made from tea leaves but containing nicotine, which were not covered by the ban. For details see Menthol Cigarettes: Industry Interference in the EU and UK

In 2023, BAT was found to have under-declared profit in the Netherlands (see below for details of BAT’s tax avoidance),52 and was investigated for a “range of infringements” in Nigeria.53

Following a criminal investigation by US authorities, BAT pleaded guilty in 2023 to charges that it had conspired to violate US sanctions and commit bank fraud, by selling tobacco products to North Korea via subsidiary Marketing Singapore (BATMS).5455 BAT agreed to pay penalties of over US$635 million. 1654565758 Despite this, BAT stated that “adhering to rigorous compliance and ethics standards has been, and remains, a top priority”.59

BAT has also been accused of actions in Iran that violate sanctions. See the section below on illicit trade for more details.

Details of pending legal cases can be found in BAT’s annual report, available from its corporate website (see below).

Legal threats and actions

BAT has legally challenged multiple tobacco control measures, including:

The website Tobacco Control Laws publishes detailed and up to date information about regulation at country level.62
For countries that are parties to the WHO FCTC  progress is detailed in the Implementation Database for the WHO FCTC.

Intimidation

In addition to threatening legal action tobacco companies often threaten to close down operations – with resulting job losses – in order to exert pressure on policy makers, particularly in LMICs.4748

BAT threatened to close operations in Chile in 2015,63 South Africa in 2017,64 and Pakistan in 2024.65 These threats are often in reaction to proposed tobacco control regulations, including plain packaging and taxation. However, TTCs frequently move operations and close factories for business reasons.6347

BAT has been accused of using various forms of intimidation in Kenya and other African countries.6667

See also TCRG research on the intimidation of tobacco control advocates and researchers.68

Lobbying and influencing policy

Accusations of corruption and bribery in Africa

From 2017 to 2021, BAT was under investigation by the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) after allegations of corruption and bribery in Africa.69707172 In January 2021, the SFO announced it was closing the investigation saying: “The evidence in this case did not meet the evidential test for prosecution as defined in the Code for Crown Prosecutors.”73

Further accusations followed in 2021. BAT has consistently denied the allegations.74

Read The BAT Files, which detail how BAT bought influence, interfered with tobacco control measures, and undermined its competitors across the continent.

Lobbying against endgame policies

BAT has lobbied against the New Zealand government’s “Smokefree Aotearoa” plan, a set of measures designed to reduce smoking prevalence to under 5%.75 In 2021, BAT facilitated protests among convenience store owners,76 and in 2023 set up a “Save our Stores” astroturf campaign (with Imperial Brands).77

In October 2023, the UK government announced plans to introduce a similar smokefree generation policy. A law firm acting on behalf of BAT wrote a letter to the Department for Health and Social Care, criticising the consultation process and arguing that the proposals would “materially impact the rights of our clients and others”.78 BAT also published its own “five critical steps” that it said the UK government needed to take.79

Lobbying by UK Diplomats

There have been several instances of senior UK diplomats lobbying governments on behalf of BAT in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), including Bangladesh, Panama and Venezuela.

In 2023, the UK ambassador to Yemen was involved in the opening of a part BAT-owned cigarette factory in Jordan, contrary to Article 5.3 guidelines.80

Claiming a public health role

Similarly to other TTCs, BAT describes its newer nicotine and tobacco products as “reduced risk alternatives” to cigarettes,7 which it promotes as part of its strategy for “A Better Tomorrow”. However, research suggests that marketing newer products only to existing smokers is not likely to be a viable business model for tobacco companies in the longer term, and BAT does not intend to stop selling cigarettes.81 TCRG research shows that BAT (and PMI) use specific narrative framings to “downplay the role of TTCs in the perpetuation of population- and individual-level harms related to tobacco use.”32 See the page on harm reduction for details of how tobacco companies use this concept as a tactic to further their commercial goals.

CSR relating to health

BAT identified harm reduction as one of six key ‘reputation management initiatives’ that would “help BAT rebuild its reputation as a responsible company”.82 Its 2023 annual report refers repeatedly to  “Tobacco Harm Reduction” and states that it is seeking to “actively migrate consumers away from cigarettes and to smokeless alternatives sustainably, responsibly and with integrity”.16 However, the focus remains on consumption of BAT’s products.

Despite developing a narrative around human rights,83 BAT has “not engaged significantly or meaningfully on the human right to health”.84

BAT funds health-related projects for farmers and their families in LMICs (see Child labour below), but it has been accused of exploiting health crises for its own reputational gain. For example, it involved itself in a vaccine drive in Bangladesh, despite having lobbied the government to keep its business running during the Covid-19 pandemic.85

Support through allies

Like the other TTCs, BAT has long used the third party technique to achieve its goals.

Front groups

BAT has a history of using front groups to oppose tobacco control legislation:

  • It is a member of the International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA) and the Eliminating Child Labour in Tobacco-Growing Foundation (ECLT, see below).
  • It financed the Alliance of Australian Retailers, along with PMI and Imperial Brands, to oppose plain packaging regulation in Australia (see Astroturfing below for details).
  • In 2013, to promote the tobacco industry’s tracking and tracing system, Codentify, BAT, Imperial Tobacco, PMI and JTI jointly set up the Digital Coding & Tracking Association (DCTA), which often failed to disclose its relationship to the tobacco industry in its statements.

Think tanks and lobby groups

In 2012, TCRG asked BAT to reveal the UK-based think tanks it had funded during the previous five years, as well as those organisations it had funded that were active in the plain packaging debate. The company replied:

“British American Tobacco is happy to support those who believe in the same things we do – whether that be retailers against display bans or farmers against being forced out of growing tobacco;

* Our support may be financial support, or resources in kind;

* We do not tell these bodies what to say or how to spend the money;

* Many of the bodies, in particular the retailers, feel deeply patronised at the suggestion they are merely industry stooges.”86

In 2013, in response to questions asked at the BAT AGM by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), BAT disclosed that it funded multiple groups, including retail and trade associations.87

See the lists of front groups, think tanks, lobby groups and other organisations linked to BAT in the Affiliations section below. See also the list and map of tobacco industry allies on the STOP website.

Astroturfing

The term ‘astroturfing’ refers to the faking of a grassroots movement in order to influence public opinion. Typically, a third-party runs a campaign on behalf of a tobacco company while hiding industry involvement and funding. This is a well-known tactic used to interfere with tobacco control legislation.47 BAT astroturfing campaigns include:

For more examples of BAT working through third parties, see the section below on its efforts to undermine policy to address the illicit tobacco trade.

Controversial marketing

Targeting youth

BAT’s website has a page on its “Responsible Marketing” practices,88 and states that it is committed to preventing youth smoking:888990

no one under age should ever smoke or use products containing tobacco or nicotine.”88

However, research with BAT’s own documents reveals how it promoted a discourse of self-regulation rather than compliance with tobacco control laws.91

BAT has been accused of targeting youth in its marketing activities around the world,929394 including low- and middle-income countries in Latin America,959697 and Africa.9899100101

For example, BAT promoted single sticks with posters and a ‘buy one get one free’ campaign in Cote D’Ivoire and Cameroon,98 and objected to the restriction on sales of single sticks in Uganda. Single sticks are known to appeal to children and under-age smokers.99102

BAT also attempted to amend TAPS regulations in Pakistan to allow it to export packs of 10 cigarettes – sometimes referred to as ‘kiddy packs’ as they can also appeal to youth – to Sudan, despite these packs being banned from sale in Pakistan.103104

Targeting women and girls

Women smoke less than men globally, although the gap is narrowing.105 They remain a key demographic for tobacco companies, who have identified packaging and brand design as important ways to appeal to women, and TTCs have launched brands specifically aimed at women, often using the terms “light” or “slim”, reinforcing an association of smoking with beauty, glamour and weight loss.106

For example, in April 2011, BAT introduced Vogue Perle, described as “the UK’s first demi-slim cigarette”.107 BAT defended itself against claims it “downplayed” the health risks associated with smoking in favour of the “trappings of style, supermodels and staying slim”.108  Tobacco companies use similar tactics to target women and girls in low- and middle-income countries.109110 As part of its attempt to attract women smokers, BAT introduced “light” cigarettes in a number of African countries.109 See BAT in Africa: A History of Double Standards for details.

Newer tactics have also emerged. For example in 2019, research showed how BAT attempted to co-opt International Women’s Day in order “harness women’s aspirations to advance to sell more tobacco”.111

Targeting minority groups

Prior to its acquisition by Imperial Brands in 2015, BAT owned the Brown & Williamson menthol cigarette brand Kool. Its success amongst Black people in the US was built on several decades of racially targeted marketing.112 Advertisements featured black models, in magazines aimed at the Black community; imagery was borrowed from jazz and hip-hop culture; and Kool sponsored cultural events such as jazz festivals.112113114115

Corporate Social Responsibility

BAT’s own corporate material documents the origins of BAT’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy in the 1990s.91 TCRG research reveals how the key underlying motivation for BAT’s CSR and stakeholder management activities is to promote its corporate image, neutralise opposition and influence policy.116117 Research in other countries supports these findings.118119120

BAT’s CSR activities include funding education programmes and scholarships; partnerships with governments and global organisations; and activities relating to healthcare, education, child labour, the environment and food production, all of which it actively promotes in local media. It has also linked activities to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).121 For example, BAT has repeatedly publicised its involvement in a community gardening programme in Malaysia to improve “food security”,122123124 as well as various programmes aimed at the “empowerment” of women from tobacco farming areas in Brazil, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Kenya.125

Education

The tobacco industry attempts to enhance its reputation, and gain legitimacy, by funding universities. In 2000, BAT gave Nottingham University GB£3.8 million to establish an International Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility.126127128 In 2011, BAT’s introduction of cigarettes targeted at women coincided with its funding of controversial scholarships for Afghan girls at Durham University.129

The company runs various internship and graduate programmes and has granted educational bursaries to young people in LMICs.130131 It runs an annual “Battle of the Minds” competition targeting university students and other young entrepreneurs, again focusing on LMICs.132 Advocates in Bangladesh have described this as being more about promotion of BAT’s brand than employment generation or leadership building.133 In Africa this has been described as a strategy to “shape its image and maintain its legitimacy in the public and commercial spheres.”134

Environment & greenwashing

CSR activities relating to the environment are a way for companies to ‘Greenwashtheir reputations. Those relating to waste generated by the tobacco industry itself may also be an attempt to avoid accountability and regulation.135 The Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index for 2023 noted that “Government and public institution endorsements of industry-led cigarette butt litter cleanups were recorded in at least 15 countries”.136 BAT was involved in clean-up activities in Brazil,137 Malaysia,122 and several countries in South East Europe.16 It also publicised its recycling scheme in Fiji.138

Child labour

BAT states that it works to “address root causes” of child labour.16 BAT is a founding member of the industry-funded Eliminating Child Labour in Tobacco Growing Foundation (ECLT)139 and has run programmes in multiple countries including Malawi,118 Pakistan,16 Brazil,16 and Mexico,140 often involving the provision of education, activity camps and health services. It publicises these activities in media and in its ESG reporting.141

Exploitative practices

BAT has been accused of complicity in child labour and the exploitation of farmers in its supply chain.118142143 In 2020, a legal case was brought against BAT and Imperial Tobacco Group (part of Imperial Brands) by over 7,000 Malawian farmers – 4,000 adults and 3,000 children – who were represented by UK legal firm Leigh Day.142144145

According to Leigh Day, the farmers allege that BAT and Imperial “facilitate unlawful and dangerous conditions, in which they, having been trafficked from their villages, have to build their own homes, live on a daily small portion of maize, work 6am to midnight seven days a week, and have to borrow money to be able to feed their families throughout the season.”146  They also allege that the tobacco companies “know, or ought to know, that the conditions they are faced with leave them no choice but to rely on their children to work as child labourers in extremely hazardous conditions”.146

BAT and Imperial attempted to have the case dismissed, but this was rejected by the UK High Court in June 2021.146147148149 While the companies had stated that they could trace the tobacco to the farms where it was grown, in fact those records were only held by the companies supplying the tobacco leaf.147

As of 2024, the court case is ongoing and BAT denies the allegations.

Partnerships with governments

BAT partners with local and national governments in LMICs on multiple projects related to food production and development. For example, the BAT Nigeria Foundation (BATNF) partners with the Lagos State Ministry of Agriculture, sponsoring a farm fair as part of UN World Food Day celebrations.150 It uses this as an opportunity to promote other CSR activities it funds in the country, including irrigation and crop-substitution projects.150151 BATNF has also donated smoking kilns to fish farmers in the state, in partnership with the Lagos State Agricultural Development Authority.152 It has also run a grant scheme targeting National Youth Service Corps members to encourage them to become ‘agripreneurs’.153 Although BAT Nigeria imports most of its tobacco and tobacco farming is in decline,151 through such CSR activities BAT is able to use the issue of agricultural diversification for its own public relations advantage.

British American Tobacco Bangladesh (BATB, in which BAT has a majority share) has close connections to government in the country, which owns share in BATB both directly and via other government-owned bodies, together totalling nearly 10%.16154155 BATB makes various strategic CSR donations. BAT Bangladesh (BATB) runs several programmes relating to the environment, including reforestation, with the Bangladeshi Department for Agricultural Extension.156 It has also provided direct donations to the government’s Welfare Fund, administered by the Bangladesh Ministry of Labour and Employment.157

Photo of group of people holding a large cheque with the BAT logo

Image 1: BAT Bangladesh employees presenting a cheque to the State Minister for Labour and Employment, September 2020. (Source: United News of Bangladesh)

These CSR programmes afford BAT access to influential government officials (see for example Image 1). Between 2014 and 2017, BAT received five exemptions from labour law in Bangladesh, in violation of FCTC Article 5.3.158

More recent activities occurred in Romania, where BAT partnered with the National Authority for Consumer Protection on a campaign relating to the prevention of youth use of tobacco and nicotine products,159 and with a city authority on the installation of solar charging and free Wi-Fi.160

Influencing Science

Documents in the Truth Tobacco Industry Documents reveal BAT’s efforts to mislead the public on the science of smoking and disease. By 1958, industry scientists, including from BAT, understood that smoking caused lung cancer. But BAT’s public denial of this fact continued into the 1980s, when, according to an internal memo, it changed direction, to acknowledge “the probability that smoking is harmful to a small percentage of heavy smokers”.

Documents from the 1970s show BAT scientists had confirmed that second-hand smoke, also known as environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), was harmful. However, in public, BAT lawyers denied the harm, saying: “the question is not really one of a health hazard but perhaps more of an annoyance”.161 In the late 1980s, to distract from health concerns such as ETS, BAT discussed the need for a public relations (PR) and political campaign focused on protecting smokers’ rights.162 It also funded research into ‘sick buildings’, to promote the idea that building design was responsible for ill health rather than ETS. A review of the Truth Tobacco documents covering the period 1985 – 1995 concluded that “At times scientists seemed to be acting more like public relations specialists than scientists.”163

The Truth Tobacco documents also show that scientists working for BAT and its subsidiary Brown & Williamson concluded in the early 1960s that nicotine was addictive. Yet in 1994, the CEO of Brown & Williamson testified before the US Congress alongside the CEOs of Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds (later acquired by BAT). Each said: “I believe nicotine is not addictive.”164165

In Europe in the 1990s, BAT worked to secure the right for the tobacco industry to be consulted on any tobacco policy informed by science, such as impact assessments.166 BAT continues to argue that it should have a role in a “science and evidence-based approach to policy making” and the development of regulation for tobacco products.167

Involvement in the illicit tobacco trade

Like other TTCs, BAT has a long history of facilitating tobacco smuggling. Internal BAT documents from the 1980s and 1990s revealed that in Africa, BAT used the smuggling of its own products as a business strategy to achieve a range of objectives including: gaining access to emerging markets, gaining leverage in negotiating with governments, competing for market share, and circumventing local import restrictions.168

Smuggling proved central to the TTCs’ quest to enter the Chinese market – dubbed the “ultimate prize”.169 In the early 1990s, BAT staff internally described the company’s illegal exports to China as “one of the larger profit centres in BAT industries”, amounting to 25% of global BAT profit.170

More recent activities include:

  • 2000: BAT faced action by the Departments (States) of Colombia which alleged that it committed violations of racketeering laws: “…arising from its involvement in organized crime in pursuit of a massive, ongoing smuggling scheme”.171172
  • 2008: BAT subsidiary Imperial Tobacco Canada pleaded guilty to customs charges related to cigarette smuggling.
  • 2010: BAT signed a cooperation agreement with the European Union (European Control Association, EUCA) and its member states to help tackle illicit tobacco trade. BAT agreed to pay the EU US$200 million over 20 years. In return, the UK government stated that “the manufacturers are released from any civil claims arising out of past conduct relating to illicit trade”.173
  • 2014: UK HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) fined BAT for oversupplying the Belgian market – a practice which can facilitate the smuggling of products across borders.174
  • 2021: BAT stated it “had agreed to dispose of” its subsidiary in Iran, a country in which it held the second largest market share and generated around UK£170 million in revenue and UK£60 million in profit in 2020.175176177 Research by TCRG, using internal BAT documents covering 2000-2014, points to BAT’s potential involvement in the illicit tobacco trade. It explains how BAT’s extensive engagement with government authorities to tackle illicit trade focused primarily on reputational and commercial purposes, at the expense of controlling its own supply chain.178

For more details see BAT Involvement in Tobacco Smuggling.

Efforts to undermine policy to address illicit tobacco trade

Previous TCRG research has outlined how tobacco companies, including BAT, have attempted to interfere with the implementation of track and trace systems. This included using front groups (such as the Digital Coding and Tracking Association) to promote their own ineffective and inefficient technology, formerly known as Codentify (now the Inexto Suite).

In Kenya in 2012, BAT unsuccessfully tried to influence a track and trace tender outcome in favour of the Codentify system through the use of a third party, Fracturecode. Internal industry documents indicate that Fracturecode was closely linked to BAT. For more details, see our page, Kenya- BAT’s Tactics to Influence Track and Trace Tender.

In 2016 the European Union (EU) ran a public consultation for the EU’s track and track system. TCRG research (published in 2020) found that the tobacco industry lobbied extensively for the EU to adopt a system controlled by the industry. TTC interests were repeatedly represented through consultation submissions by multiple trade associations, which were not always transparent about their membership.179

Tax avoidance

TCRG research published in March 2020 found that “Very little profit based taxation has been paid in the UK [by tobacco companies] despite high levels of reported profits, both in the domestic market and globally.”180 While BAT has a relatively small share of the UK tobacco market (less than 10%), the company made hundreds of millions estimated profit in the UK and hundreds of billions globally. However, since 2010 it has paid virtually no UK corporation tax (effectively 0%) despite paying 20-30% in other countries.180

An investigation by journalists from the Investigative Desk and TCRG researchers found that BAT uses “aggressive tax planning” strategies to reduce the amount of tax it pays.181182

Analysis of BAT company reports between 2010 and 2019 found that BAT (and the other main TTCs, PMI, JTI and Imperial) use several methods to avoid or lower their tax bills:181

  • Shifting dividends – for example, each year BAT shifts around EU€1 billion in dividends via Belgium, paying tax at less than 1%.
  • Group relief – losses from interest paid on internal loans lead to group tax relief, meaning BAT paid almost no UK corporation tax.
  • Notional interest deduction – EU€3.5 billion in assets were held in holding companies in Belgium, helping BAT to deduct several millions in notional (fictitious) interest between 2010-2017.
  • Profit shifting via intra-firm transactions – for example, BAT Korea Manufacturing Ltd in South Korea sold its cigarettes – on paper – to Rothmans Far East, another BAT subsidiary. The cigarettes were then re-sold back to BAT Korea Ltd at a much higher price. By this method BAT moved an average of EU€98m of Korean profits to the Netherlands.

BAT was able to reduce its tax bill by an estimated GB£760 million over 10 years.181 While seen as morally wrong by many, or at least socially undesirable, tax avoidance is not illegal; it is sometimes referred to as ‘tax planning’, whereas tax evasion is a crime. However, BAT’s activities do not even appear to be in the spirit of its own code of business conduct.183

BAT states that it “complies with all applicable tax legislation and regulations in the countries where we operate”.184 However, at that time BAT had been, or was still, involved in tax disputes in multiple countries: the Netherlands (the largest claim at EU€1.2 billion), Brazil, South Korea and Egypt.181

In September 2019, the European Commission announced an investigation into tax avoidance by 39 multinational companies, including BAT.181185

Non-nicotine subsidiaries & investments

BAT’s corporate material refers to its development of products for “wellbeing and stimulation”.16186 It has been accused of “health washing” its reputation by connecting itself to pharmaceutical and wellness products while continuing to sell tobacco products: there are concerns that the ‘health halo’ from these products could help to normalise its brand.187

Btomorrow Ventures

In 2020, BAT set up a new investment unit called Btomorrow Ventures (BTV).188189 As part of a “transformation”, BAT announced plans to go “beyond nicotine”.190 The new division invited investment in areas ranging from “BioTech & Science, Technology, Wellbeing & Stimulation to Environmental Social Governance”.189191 BAT launched a dedicated website in July 2021 and invited companies to pitch for investment to help “accelerate this transformation”, specifically those relating to “digital transformation” and the “sustainability agenda” (see Greenwashing).189192

A year later the website appeared to have dropped the term “sustainability” in favour of “new technologies and future sciences.”193 BAT has promoted BTomorrow Ventures globally through its ‘Battle of the Minds’ competition.194195

By 2023, BAT stated that BTV had made “22 investments (including three successful exits) in companies specialising in biotech & science; technology, and consumer brands across functional food and beverages.”196 BAT’s current investments can be found on the BTomorrow Ventures website.189

The Waterstreet Collective

The Waterstreet Collective – despite saying its operates independently – is in fact a wholly owned subsidiary of BAT.197 A “food and beverage services” company,197 it was set up in 2022 for “the development, procurement, marketing and sale of wellbeing and stimulation products and associated accessories”.198 Its Ryde drinks are made in the US and have been marketed in Canada and Australia.199200 Free samples were handed out to Australian university students without BAT’s ownership being disclosed to the students or the university, or on the product packaging.187

Kentucky Bioprocessing

In 2020, BAT began developing a vaccine for COVID-19 via its Reynolds-owned pharmaceutical company Kentucky Bioprocessing Inc. In January 2022, it set up a new biotech investment company, KBio Holdings Limited (KBio).201

Cannabis

BAT has also invested in multiple companies developing hemp, cannabis and CBD products, including Organigram (Canada), Sanity Group (Germany) and Charlotte’s Web (US).196  See Cannabis for details.

Key employees and board members

  • Tadeu Marroco, previously finance director, was appointed CEO in May 2023, replacing Jack Bowles.202
  • Bowles was appointed CEO in April 2019, succeeding Nicandro Durante who had been in post since 2011.203
  • Soraya Benchikh was appointed CFO in November 2023.204

Luc Jobin became Chair of BAT in 2021.205 Jobin held senior roles at Imperial Tobacco Canada from 1998 to 2005 and was Non-Executive Director of RAI before it was acquired by BAT.205 He succeeded Richard Burrows.206

A full list of current senior employees and board members can be found on the BAT corporate website (see below).

The following work or have worked for BAT:
Jeffries Briginshaw | Jack Bowles | Jeannie Cameron (see JCIC International) | Richard Burrows | Kenneth ClarkeMark CobbenDavid CrowNicandro DuranteDavid FellAnn GodbehereGiovanni GiordanoAndrew GrayTomas HammargrenLuc JobinRobert LerwillJean-Marc LévyAdrian MarshallDes NaughtonTadeu MarrocoChristine Morin-PostelGerard MurphyNicandro Durante | Shabanji OpukahDavid O’ReillyKieran PoynterMichael PrideauxAnthony RuysNicholas ScheeleKaren de SegundoNaresh SethiBen StevensKingsley WheatonNeil Withington

Affiliations

BAT is a member  of various national and international organisations and networks. It also works with think tanks and other lobbying organisations, and employs a wide range of consultants.

Memberships

BAT is or has been a member of the following organisations: 207

The American Chamber of Commerce to the European UnionAmerican European Community Association | Association of Convenience Stores (UK) | Australian Association of Convenience Stores (see Lobby Groups) | British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium | BusinessEurope | European Policy Centre | Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS)207 | Cooperation Centre for Scientific Research Relative to Tobacco (CORESTA) | Czech Association for Branded Products | European Cigar Manufacturers Association (ECMA) | Confederation of British IndustryEliminating Child Labour in Tobacco Growing Foundation (ECLT) | European Smoking Tobacco Association (ESTA) | European Risk Forum207 | European Government Business Relations Council – Ad Hoc Council208209 | European Travel Retail Confederation | European Smokeless Tobacco Council (ESTOC) | Federation of Wholesale Distributors | Institute of Economic Affairs | International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) UK | International Trademark Association (INTA) | ICC Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy (BASCAP)Kangaroo GroupMARQUES | The Mentor Group |  Polish Confederation Lewiatan (see Lobby Groups) | Scottish Grocers’ Federation | Scottish Wholesale Association | Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Belgium210 | Tobacco Europe (previously the Confederation of European Community Cigarette Manufacturers, CECCM)207 | Tobacco and Nicotine Products Chemicals Group (formerly Tobacco Industry Platform)211212 | Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association (TMA) | Transatlantic Business Dialogue | UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) | Unite

Other funded organisations

BAT has also provided financial support, directly or indirectly, to:
Alliance of Australian Retailers | Anti-Counterfeiting Group | All-Party Parliamentary Corporate Governance Group (APPCGG) | All-Party Parliamentary Corporate Responsibility Group (APCRG) | Centre for European Reform | Americans for Prosperity Foundation (see Think Tanks) | Centre for Policy StudiesChatham HouseBusiness in the Community (UK) | Benkert | Business Action for Africa213 | The Common Sense Alliance  | Commonwealth Business Council | Conference Board214 | Consumer Choice Center | European Council on Research, Development and Innovation215 | Digital Coding and Tracking Association (DCTA) | European Policy CentreEuropean Science and Environment ForumFOREST | Forum for EU/US Legal-Economic Affairs | Fraser Institute Free Market FoundationGlobal Reporting Initiative  | Institute of Business Ethics | Institute for Competitiveness (I-Com)| Institute of Public Affairs | International Tax and Investment Center | International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA) | Niagara Institute (See John Luik) | Rural Shops Alliance | VNO-NCW

  • See also the STOP database and map of industry allies, available on exposetobacco.org

Consultancies

BAT is known to have used the following companies for public relations, lobbying, marketing, research or other consultancy services:207216217218

Bernstein Public Policy207 | Business Platform Europe207| BXL Consulting | Bureau Veritas219 | Clifford Chance | Corporate Responsibility Consulting (CRC) | Crosby Textor Group | Health Diplomats (see Delon Human) | Edelman | EUK Consulting | EUTOP207 | Europtimum Conseil207| FTI Consulting | Goddard Global | Hume Brophy | Instinctif Partners  | Kantar | Morris and Chapman219 | Pappas & Associates220 | Red Flag | Meseuro207 | MARMEL207 | MC Public Affairs Ltd207 | N+C207 | Open Gate Italia207 | Simply Europe207 |Trade & Access Consulting207 | Weber Shandwick (see also Priti Patel)

Individuals that have consulted for BAT include:

Axel Gietz | Delon Human | Peter Lee | John Luik | Carl V Phillips | Riccardo Polosa | Francis Roe

Relevant Links

Tobacco Tactics Resources

TCRG Research

For a comprehensive list of all TCRG publications, including TCRG research that evaluates the impact of public health policy, go to the Bath TCRG’s list of publications.

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