The Big Tobacco Allies – How tobacco companies use intermediaries to foster their corporate social responsibility initiatives and promote their image in Zambia.
The Big Tobacco Allies, a report which exposes the use of intermediaries by tobacco multinationals for their benefit in Zambia, was launched on Friday 05 February 2021. The report, prepared by the Tobacco-Free Association of Zambia (TOFAZA), with support from the African Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA), was launched in a virtual ceremony attended by tobacco control advocates, journalists and other tobacco control stakeholders from Africa and beyond.
The report documents a series of instances where tobacco multinationals use intermediaries to foster their efforts to undermine implementation of the WHO FCTC, and maps tobacco industry allies, exposing how they are exploited by tobacco companies to clean their image and grow their business.
It discloses that while they portray themselves as independent, front groups and allies generally have some form of relation with tobacco companies whom they provide a false impression of widespread support. They help to present tobacco industry arguments through what can be considered as credible and independent entities, and the industry is known to use this tactic to create unnecessary interaction with authorities. It then profits from this to generate conflict of interest that ultimately undermines tobacco control policies.
The report reveals amongst other issues, that tobacco multinationals have partnerships that help grow the tobacco business and image in Zambia, several entities lobby on behalf of the tobacco industry, promoting its claims and activities, and entities run campaigns in favour of the tobacco industry.
To prevent the tobacco industry from exploiting intermediaries to interfere in tobacco control, the report recommends that the government of Zambia adopts the Tobacco Products and Nicotine Products Control Bill of 2018 without delay. It proposes that stakeholders increase advocacy and public awareness on tobacco industry interference in tobacco control policies, and the capacity of CSOs be enhanced to enable them champion and expose tobacco industry interference at all levels. The report also calls for a rejection of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives of tobacco companies, and advices state and non-state entities to prioritise public health and cut collaboration ties with tobacco companies.