More BAT Duplicity
In my tireless efforts to bring you the low-down on the tricks of the tobacco trade let me tell you about this little gem I came across recently from British American Tobacco (BAT):
Under the page header the eye is drawn to the large print: ‘Our Guiding Principles’.
So BAT has principles. How very reassuring! Below that, just to make it clear, they write: ‘Steering the values of our business and our people’ and, repetitively, ‘Our Guiding Principles provide certainty about what we stand for and act as a compass to guide our behaviour.’
Nice to know BAT’s Guiding Principles provide certainty, etc. Below these words is a screen on which you can see a short video: ‘Strength from adversity: a case study in Japan’. Click on the Play button and we get the BAT logo and company colours, the title of the film repeated and the wording ‘Pulling together in the wake of the tsunami in Japan’. Well, good for them! BAT was involved in assisting recovery from the terrible tragedy in Japan in 2011, it seems. The film shows, amid the awful devastation, individuals and small groups of men wearing suits and ties who explain how they made every effort to assist those affected by this disaster. And whom, in particular, did they assist? Their retailers, their employees living along the coast, vendors and shop owners, and we hear from the local representative and the Vice President of this company.
But just a minute. What company are we talking about? Was BAT so big in Fukushima? Actually, no. It’s nothing to do with BAT. Look closely and you will see the film is about the Toyota Motor Corporation’s dealerships.
Let’s take a look another of BAT’s so-called guiding principles on this site. This is what it says—I promise I am not making it up:
Freedom through Responsibility
We always strive to do the right thing, exercising our responsibility to society and other stakeholders. We use our freedom to take decisions and act in the best interest of consumers.
So society is just a stakeholder? Perhaps they meant to say ‘We always strive to exercise our responsibility to our shareholders.’ At least that would be believable. And if they wanted to show concern about doing the right thing and exercising their responsibility to society, to say nothing of acting in the best interests of their consumers, perhaps they should consider stopping making cigarettes.
Not surprisingly, what BAT says elsewhere on this site about the health risks of smoking is also put in a way that could be considered misleading:
The health risks in groups vary by the amount smoked, being highest in those that smoke for more years and smoke more cigarettes per day.
This could be taken as implying that if you don’t smoke too much or for too long it’s not so risky. But any smoking–even one cigarette a day—damages your health.
Experts advise no smoking during pregnancy—and we agree.
Do pregnant women need BAT’s patronising comment that they agree with the experts? And what if you happen not to be pregnant, or if you’re a man, then do experts not advise no smoking?
The only way to be certain of avoiding the risks of smoking is not to smoke.
So that lets BAT off the hook. No mention, however, of the fact that no matter how much smokers may want to avoid the risks of smoking, many find it extremely difficult to quit because they’re in the grip of nicotine addiction.
More disingenuousness is to be found in the section headed ‘Can people quit smoking?’, the question implying that perhaps they can’t:
Smoking can be hard to quit. Any adult thinking of starting to smoke should consider that it may be difficult to stop later.
Do adults thinking of starting to smoke first visit BAT’s website where they find the advice that they should consider that it may be difficult to stop later? Or do they smoke because they’re lured by the false promise of pleasure that BAT offers and then they find they’re hooked?
Then we have:
There is nothing so powerful about the pleasure of smoking that prevents smokers from quitting…
Note the implication that smokers may be prevented from quitting because they don’t want to give up the wonderful pleasure of smoking. Once again BAT conveniently avoids mentioning the real reason smokers may have difficult in quitting: it’s nothing to do with pleasure but everything to do with drug (nicotine) addiction caused by their poisonous products.
Text © Gabriel Symonds