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Tobacco Industry and Tobacco Control in Nigeria

Info: 3066 words (12 pages) Example Literature Review
Published: 9th Dec 2019

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Tagged: Public Health


Worldwide, tobacco smoking has been shown to be the most significant cause of preventable, premature deaths in economically developed countries, and is rapidly achieving this status outside the developed world[1]. An estimated 1.3 billion people worldwide currently smoke tobacco, mostly in the form of cigarettes[2]. About 15 billion cigarettes are smoked daily worldwide[2]. The number of smokers is growing, particularly in low- and middle-income countries where cigarettes are marketed aggressively with little or no government control. Estimates in 2000 indicate that about 5 million deaths that occur each year are attributable to tobacco smoking, an average of one person every six seconds[1]. Half of these deaths occurred in low- and medium-income countries. This figure is expected to rise if the current trend continues unabated. By 2030, tobacco smoking will kill more than 8 million people worldwide each year[2]. If nothing is done, it is anticipated that the increase in deaths from smoking and tobacco-related illnesses will continue such that by the end of the 21st century, as many as 1 billion people will be dying globally[2].

In a bid to curtail globalisation of the tobacco epidemic and its health as well as economic consequences, the WHO initiated the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC)[3]. Though Nigeria signed the FCTC in 2004 and later ratified in 2005, 5 years later, it is yet to implement a comprehensive tobacco control policy[3]. As such, it is essential to explore tobacco industry activity in Nigeria towards a better perspective for implementing effective tobacco control.


Nigeria is a West African country with a population of 150 million (approximately 51% males, 49% females and 21% youths)[4]; it is the most populous country in Africa and the eighth most populous in the world[5]. Furthermore, Nigeria accounts for 47% of West Africa’s population[5]. It has an annual population growth of 2.4%, a Gross National Income (GNI) $1770 per capita in 2007 and current economic growth of about 7.9%[5]. Nigeria also has the second largest economy in Sub-Saharan Africa and accounts for the 41% of the regions GDP[5]. Nigeria became independent in 1960 and after periods of military rule has been a stable democracy since 1999. Following the oil boom of the 1970s, Nigeria suffered major economic pitfalls as a result of corruption and mismanagement. However, over the last decade, Nigeria has experienced strong economic growth mainly as a result of the rise in the price of crude oil[5]. Consequently, Nigeria has become a prime target for increased activities by the transnational tobacco companies (TTC), particularly by the British American Tobacco (BAT), which has been manufacturing cigarettes in Nigeria for more than 60 years.

In October 2000, following a restructuring of BAT Group business operations in Nigeria, British American Tobacco (Nigeria) Limited was created[6]. The company thereafter merged with the ailing Nigerian Tobacco Company[6]. Subsequently in 2001, in London, BAT signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Nigerian government that included the building of a $150 million state-of-the-art cigarette factory in Ibadan the capital of Oyo State in southwest part of the country[6]. The then president of Nigeria, Obasanjo described it as

“a significant and trailblaizing initiative which investors should emulate”. And he adds “I look forward to its completion and will love to personally commission it”[7].

The factory began full operations in 2003[8]. Another factory in Zaria, Kaduna state that is capable of producing 7,200 sticks per minute was also upgraded by BAT[9].

Though there is no current smoking prevalence in Nigeria, data from a survey by the Federal Ministry of Health in 2003, showed a figure of 15% among males and 2% among females[10]. Industry archives will be used to study the evolution of the tobacco industry in Nigeria, and to try to identify potential explanations for its continued active presence as well as effects in the country. Also, the tobacco companies have consistently denied the targeting of underage youths in Nigeria. Thus it is essential to examine their marketing strategies in the country.

Studies have documented that the tobacco industry has identified low- and middle-income developing countries as critical markets for future expansion[1]. However, analysis of industry documents has, thus far, been limited for these countries.


2.1 Tobacco Industry and Tobacco Control in Nigeria

In Nigeria, three tobacco companies operate within the country(Ref:

Nigeria Tobacco Company (initially a subsidiary of BAT, but now BATN); Kwara Tobacco Company (operates under PM Incorporated); and International Tobacco Company.

The history of tobacco control

2.2 Tobacco Industry Document Research

In this, literature based on tobacco industry document research (TIDR) will be reviewed. These are peer-reviewed articles quoting tobacco industry documents. The documents are previously confidential internal records released to the public from national and international offices of seven tobacco manufacturers doing business in the United States of America (USA), and two affiliated organisations: American Tobacco Company, British American Tobacco Company (BAT), Brown & Williamson Tobacco Company, Lorillard Tobacco Company, Phillip Morris (PM) Incorporated, RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company, the Liggett Group, the Tobacco Institute, and the Council for Tobacco Research[11].

About 4000 pages of these documents first came to light in 1994, through a clerk preparing an inventory of internal papers of Brown & Williamson (owned by BAT) in anticipation of new lawsuits. The first report on these documents was published following year [12]. Thereafter in 1998, the Minnesota Consent Judgement ordered the tobacco companies involved in the trial to make public millions of pages of their internal documents at depository sites where researches could examine the hard copies. As a result of this, approximately 70 million pages of documents, thousands of audiovisual files, and hundreds of other electronic media files have so far been released by the tobacco companies[13]. Since the release of these documents, more than 500 publications (453 peer-reviewed journal articles, 32 books or book chapters, and 51 reports) relating to the tobacco documents have been published across diverse disciplines[14].

In the following, earlier research on tobacco industry strategies is reviewed on now twelve areas with new additions to the originally compiled work of Hirschhold [15]:

Economics & Taxation, History, Ingredients & Design, Marketing & Advertisement, Online Reports, Regional, Documents Research & Commentary, Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) & Secondhand Smoke, Industry Sponsored Research, Litigation, Politics & Policy, and Target Populations[14].

The purpose here is to review key areas that are critical to tobacco control and to study whether these strategies are being employed in Nigeria. Probably the most relevant areas of TIDR for the purpose of this study concern marketing and advertisement, economy and taxation, litigation, industry tactics for resisting public policy on health and corporate social responsibility.

2.3 Economics and taxation

TIDR has supported research findings demonstrating price as a key determinant of tobacco use. Increasing the price of tobacco products through significant tax increases is the single most effective way to decrease tobacco use and to encourage users to quit[16, 17]. Also, evidence has shown that high tobacco taxes is particularly effective in preventing use by youth and reducing use among the poor[16]. Industry documents not only indicate how tobacco manufacturers used price based marketing efforts to respond to tax changes, but also confirm the effectiveness of raised cigarette taxes as a potent policy instrument for governments in reducing tobacco use. Though the tobacco industry claims that increasing taxation leads to smuggling, evidence shows otherwise[16]. A large tobacco tax and price increase in many countries was not followed by any dramatic increases in smuggling. Factors such as weak border controls, poor tax administration, the presence of informal distribution channels, people’s willingness to buy smuggled products can be more important determinants of smuggling than differences in tax rates[18].

Industry use of third parties included using financial analysts working for large investment banks to support their political and public policy agenda[19]. These analysts have been shown to have lobbied members of the US congress, and presented industry friendly testimonies before Congressional committee. Research into industry has also shown how the industries used trade policy to undermine effective barriers to tobacco importation[20].

The tobacco companies have relied on illegal channels to supply markets across Africa since the 1980s. Industry documents suggest that smuggling has been an important component of BAT’s market entry strategy in order to gain leverage in negotiating with governments for tax concessions, compete with other transnational tobacco companies, circumvent local import restrictions and unstable political and economic conditions and gain a market presence[21].

2.4 Smoking and health

The first interest following the release of the tobacco industry documents were concerned with the health effects of smoking. The early TIDR was mainly about disclosures of what the companies knew about the health impacts of smoking. This is especially important for litigation purposes. Indeed, a higher number of the released documents are to do with health effects of tobacco, showing that industry scientists and executives knew about the cancer risks of smoking as early as the 1940s[22]. The tobacco industries’ own research with animals uncovered the cancer-causing effects of tobacco[23]. Consequently, the industry tried to cover-up these findings by taking incriminating documents outside the US[24], and also by closing down company laboratories and firing scientists[11]. The industry leaders also went into great lengths to deny any health hazards of tobacco.

Research findings identifies six strategies employed by the tobacco industry to manipulate data on risk (health hazards are usually discussed in terms of risk)[25]:

  • Funding of research that supports interest groups.
  • Publishing of research that supports interest groups.
  • Suppressing of research that does not support interest groups.
  • Criticising of research that does not support interest groups.
  • Disseminating of interest group data or interpretation of risks to the lay press.
  • Disseminating of interest group data or interpretation of risks directly to policy makers.

The tobacco companies, not only also staged scientific conferences so as to “keep the controversy alive”, but also infiltrated scientific conferences on smoking and health to promote the “controversy”[26].

2.5 Environmental tobacco smoke

The “keeping the controversy alive” was especially important to the tobacco industry with regard to secondhand (or passive) smoke, also known as ETS[11]. Industry documents indicated how the companies obscured evidence of the harm of ETS, including evidence from their own laboratories[27]. The industry knew that secondhand smoke was actually more dangerous than mainstream smoke[27]. Despite this, the industry challenges any published reports discussing the higher risk of ETS in causing lung cancer[28].

The industry put up a good fight over ETS worldwide through their own research, camouflaged as legitimate, unbiased scientific investigation[29]. As they did in other areas, the tobacco industry put together a global network of consultants and specialists whose only aim was to criticise any evidence of the health hazards of ETS[30]. These consultants were not only restricted to the US and Europe, but also extended to Asia and Latin America[30].

Another area crucial to the industry maintaining the controversy of ETS, was by sponsoring studies on in-flight air quality (IFAQ), so as to prevent in-flight smoking restriction[31].

2.6 Marketing and advertisement

The tobacco companies and their interest groups have always insisted that advertising does not lead to cigarette uptake by non-smokers, rather it is meant for people that are already smokers to switch their brands[11]. Also, the industries have continued to deny marketing to children. As most adults start smoking in their youths, this is the group that had to be targeted to by tobacco advertising and promotions. The tobacco industries also created slogans like “children shouldn’t smoke until they are adults” around the world, while remaining silent on health implications attached to cigarette smoking. Furthermore, evidence indicates of how the tobacco companies tried to attract young adults to cigarette smoking through indirect advertisements like the controlled circulation magazines depicting brand names, corporate names, trade names, emblems or other distinctive features of tobacco products[32]. Further evidence from the industry documents revealed interest on the part of the tobacco companies in marketing cigarettes to minors[22]. The tobacco companies have created special product formulations[33], developed unique packaging designs, pricing schemes, sports sponsorships[34] in addition to campaigns which appeal to young smokers.

Documents from the industries also indicate how they target other groups like women with adverts using images of liberation, equality, slimness and vigour[33]; immigrants[35]; African Americans[36]; homeless and mentally ill[37]; and college students[23]. Furthermore, the documents show how closely the industry monitored social and economic class, racial character, age and sex, patterns of smoking and other subcategories[11].

With the decrease in prevalence of smoking in the developed world, industry documents show plans and strategies of the multinational tobacco companies in marketing to other parts of the world, especially in places where restrictions are fewer and the populations are less aware of health risks[38].

2.7 Industry tactics for resisting public policy on health

Evidence of tobacco industry interference with tobacco control measures has well been documented[11]. Saloojee and Dagli[39] identified seven categories of tactics used by the industry to resist government regulation. They include

Conducting public relations campaigns,

Buying scientific and other expertise to create controversy about established facts,

Funding political parties,

Hiring lobbyists to influence policy,

Using front groups and allied industries to oppose tobacco control measures,

Pre-empting strong legislation by pressing for the adoption of voluntary codes or weaker laws, and

Corrupting public officials.

Another method that was identified to be employed by the transnational tobacco manufacturing and tobacco leaf companies in Africa was stressing the economic importance of tobacco to the developing countries that grow it[40]. Analysis of industry documents and ethnographic data to show how tobacco companies used this argument in the case of Malawi, producing and disseminating reports promoting claims of losses of jobs and foreign earnings that would result from the impending passage of the FCTC[40].

TIDR revealed how the tobacco industry has been setting up and assisting pro-tobacco organisations that appear to be acting independently (such as smoker’s associations, agricultural and tobacco grower associations, among others) to oppose tobacco control measures.

Evidence from the corporate documents suggest that illicit tobacco trade, primarily smuggling and counterfeiting was a strategy employed by the industry to increase the sale of cheap cigarettes and use by target groups (such as children, and poor). Document analyses have detailed the complicity of the transnational tobacco companies (TTCs) in Europe[13], Asia, North America, South America and Africa[13].

Drawing upon tobacco internal documents, research was able to demonstrate how the tobacco industry operates as a global force, as it planned, developed, and marketed its products on a global scale[41]. The industry has used a wide range of methods to buy influence and power, and penetrate markets across the world. The industry has also tried to undermine tobacco control efforts including the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control through intelligence gathering, surveillance and infiltration of public health groups [42, 43].

2.8 Litigation

Revelations from the tobacco documents convinced the juries in US lawsuits that the companies had been negligent and deceitful. The corporate documents have also been used to expose the industry’s litigation strategies[44]. Researchers through the industry documents were able to demonstrate that much of the of tobacco industry’s expert witness testimonies and depositions was developed by and for tobacco industry lawyers[45]. In addition, TIDR also revealed direct financial ties between the tobacco industry and groups that organise judicial seminars in an effort to influence jurisprudence[46].

2.9 Corporate social responsibility

Tobacco companies have sought to regain the public’s respect as well as investor confidence by embracing the principle of “corporate social responsibility”. The industry documents show how one company, Phillip Morris, created its CSR statement, and the principal corporate reasons for doing so: to restore its battered reputation, maintain employee morale, mitigate future lawsuits, and invariably increasing the value of corporate stock[47]. Reviewed industry documents reveal how the tobacco companies use the concepts of CSR to develop public statements[47].

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