Press Statement: Health groups unite to condemn BAT sponsored conference

Monday, 13 March 2017

Brussels, 13 March 2017- On 22 March 2017, British American Tobacco is due to sponsor the European Conference on Fighting Organised Crime and Terrorism 2017, which lists as speakers and participants high-level EU officials alongside business representatives. As a sponsor, the company has input to the programme and provides speakers to this conference.

Following an appeal by SFP and over 30 other European public health and tobacco control organisations, several EU officials declined their attendance. We would like to thank, in particular:
- Commissioner Julian King, whose Cabinet wrote to us that he was not planning to attend;
- Director-General for Tax and Customs Union Stephen Quest, whose office called to inform us that no top manager in DG TAXUD would attend the conference;
- MEP Ana Gomes, whose office wrote to SFP to let us know she cancelled her attendance.

Other officials listed in previous versions of the agenda also were removed from the version we checked on Friday 10 March. While we do not know the reasons for their cancellations, we are glad to see less support from EU institutions given to a tobacco industry sponsored conference. We welcome these reactions which show that policy-makers are no longer lending their good names and reputations to the tobacco industry’s activities.

Speaking on behalf of the Association of European Cancer Leagues, Luk Joossens, a world leading expert in illicit tobacco trade, said, “BAT can come to Brussels and spin a nice story on fighting organised crime and Terrorism. But this story hides their own history in dealing with illicit trade and their intentions to establish Codentify, the industry-operated solution, as an EU tracking and tracing system before the entry into force of the Illicit Trade Protocol. BAT’s fantasies on fighting organised crime just don’t add up and don’t belong in Brussels.”

Anca Toma, Communications Director at SFP, said: “The tobacco industry has a well-documented history of hiding behind third parties and of sponsoring reputation-building opportunities. This practice is not new in Brussels, where some tobacco companies use trade associations and interest groups, and others use sponsored events, including by online news platforms, to establish links with policy makers. Even so, it is just shameless to hijack the issue of terrorism, a major concern for every single European citizen, to keep selling a product that kills millions.”

The Smoke Free Partnership and health organisations in Europe remain strongly committed to promoting effective measures for combating the illicit tobacco trade The illicit tobacco trade does not only hurt the economy (rough estimates show that it amounts about $40.5 billion a year with $17.6 billion loss for governments in high income countries), it is a public health problem and it deprives the health sector of additional financing, deepens health inequalities and encourages smoking among young people. Around 164,000 lives a year could be saved if the illicit trade was tackled properly.[1]

Over and above, policy makers should be aware that any relationship with tobacco companies will undermine Europe’s credibility and international commitments on the ratification of the Illicit Trade Protocol.

Note to editors:

For further information and comment please contact Anca Toma Friedlaender, SFP Communications Director, at +32 498 457367, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Signatory organisations of the letters:

EU: SFP: Smoke Free Partnership
EU: ECL: Association of European Cancer Leagues
EU: EHN: European Heart Network
EU: CPME: Standing Committee of European Doctors
EU: EPHA: European Public Health Alliance
EU: ECC: European COPD Coalition
Italy/EU: INWAT: International Network of Women against Tobacco-Europe
International: Framework Convention Alliance
International: Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids
Belgium: Stichting tegen Kanker/Fondation contre le Cancer
Bosnia and Herzegovina: PROI: Progressive Reinforcement of Organizations and Individuals
Bulgaria: Smoke Free Life Coalition Bulgaria
Czech Republic: Česko Bez Kouře
Finland: Suomen ASH: Finland’s Action on Smoking and Health
France: CNCT: Comité National Contre Le Tabagisme
Germany: ABNR: Aktionsbündnis Nichtrauchen
Germany: Blue 21/ Unfairtobacco
Ireland: ASH Ireland
Ireland: Irish Cancer Society
Italy: SITAB: Società Italiana di Tabaccologia 
Kosovo: Kosovo Advocacy and Development Center 
Lithuania: NTAKK: Lithuanian National Tobacco and Alcohol Control Coalition
Norway: Norwegian Cancer Society
Poland: MANKO Association
Portugal: CATR: Centro de Apoio, Tratamento e Recuperação
Romania: ARPS: Asociatia Romana pentru Promovarea Sanatatii
Slovenia: No Excuse Slovenia
Slovenia: Slovenian Coalition for Public Health, Environment and Tobacco Control
Spain: IDEPP: Grupo de I+D en Economía, Políticas Públicas y Salud
Spain: XQNS!
Sweden: Tobaksfakta - Independent Think Tank
UK: Action on Smoking and Health (UK)
UK: Cancer Research UK
Ukraine: Life: Regional Advocacy Center

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