Tobacco Control Alliance calls for withdrawal of BAT’s student’s competition

Activists protesting over alleged bribery by BAT.The Kenya Tobacco Alliance has called on the Ministry of Education to order the withdrawal of a student's competition organized by the company photo COURTESY

University and college students across the board have been cautioned against engaging in a competition organized by the British American Tobacco (BAT) Company termed ‘ Battle of minds’.

This is according to Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance (KETCA) that believes the company is targeting Kenya after failing to market its product in Kenya due to the bad publicity its company has garnered over the years.

The Battle of minds is a local internship competition where local winners represent their country in a regional round.

The winners of the regional round then get invited for the global finals that are set to be held in London in April this year.

At a press conference in Nairobi on Monday, KETCA Chair Joel Gitali said BAT Company and other Tobacco companies are investing heavily in corporate social responsibility (CSR) after finding it difficult to market and promote their products and entities through conventional media.

‘We understand that BAT company is undoubtedly using the “Battle of Minds” competition to promote its image and lure students into believing that it is a reputable and caring company. Far from it, Tobacco companies globally are known to produce products that kill their users when used as prescribed, ” said Gitali.

KETCA is now calling on the government to take action against tobacco companies that are constantly in violation of laws and policies that have been enacted to protect Kenyans from deadly effects.

They also want the ministries of; Health, Interior, Education and Information, Communications and Technology to stop BAT from running the said competition in the institutions of higher learning and caution students against being lured into participating.

According to Gitali, the government should hold BAT accountable for constantly violating Kenyan laws.

This comes just two days after the company announced that it was planning on reopening its Tobacco leaf collection centers in Migori County.

The leaf centers were closed more than five years ago at the height of a bribery scandal that rocked the company.

The company had been accused of bribing government and health officials and insiders from a rival company in an effort to stifle the Kenyan antismoking laws.

According to the World Health Organisation, the tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced, killing more than 8 million people globally each year.