Search tips
Search criteria 


Logo of tobcontTobacco ControlVisit this articleSubmit a manuscriptReceive email alertsContact usBMJ
Tob Control. 2007; 16(1): 1–8.
PMCID: PMC2598451

“The law was actually drafted by us but the Government is to be congratulated on its wise actions”: British American Tobacco and public policy in Kenya


Background and objective

British American Tobacco (BAT) has historically enjoyed a monopoly position in Kenya. Analysis of recent tobacco control debates and a case study of BAT's response to the emergence of competition in Kenya are used to explore the company's ability to shape public policy and its treatment of tobacco farmers.


Analysis of internal industry documents from BAT's Guildford depository, other relevant data and interviews with key informants.


BAT enjoys extensive high‐level political connections in Kenya, including close relationships with successive Kenyan presidents. Such links seems to have been used to influence public policy. Health legislation has been diluted and delayed, and when a competitor emerged in the market, BAT used its contacts to have the government pass legislation drafted by BAT that compelled farmers to sell tobacco to BAT rather than to its competitor. BAT was already paying farmers less than any other African leaf‐growing company, and the legislation entrenched poor pay and a quasi‐feudal relationship. BAT's public relation's response to the threat of competition and the ministers' public statements extolling the economic importance of tobacco growing suggest that BAT has manipulated tobacco farming as a political issue.


The extent of BAT's influence over public policy is consistent with the observations that, despite ratifying the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, progress in implementing tobacco control measures in Kenya has been limited. The benefits of tobacco farming seem to be deliberately exaggerated, and an analysis of its true cost benefits is urgently needed. Tobacco farmers must be protected against BAT's predatory practices and fully informed about its activities to help them have an informed role in policy debates. As image, particularly around the importance of tobacco farming, seems key to BAT's ability to influence policy, the truth about its treatment of farmers must be publicised.

Driven by the recent expansion of transnational tobacco corporations (TTCs) across many low‐ and middle‐income countries, the burden of tobacco's health effect is shifting. It is predicted that, by 2030, 70% of the estimated 10 million global deaths from tobacco will occur in developing countries.1 In this context, sub‐Saharan Africa (SSA) offers an opportunity for global health, being the only region in the world where primary prevention of the tobacco epidemic remains possible.2 However, with TTCs investing heavily in the region during the last decade and with evidence of rapidly rising consumption, particularly among youth,3 this window of opportunity is closing rapidly.

Implementation of comprehensive regulatory measures is required to prevent further escalation of the epidemic in SSA, and the World Health Organisation's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) provides excellent opportunities in this regard. The African nations recognised this in pressing unanimously for a comprehensive treaty while simultaneously acknowledging the need to find an alternative income for countries dependent on tobacco farming, notably Zimbabwe and Malawi.2,3 Tobacco farming represents a unique dimension to the tobacco control debate in SSA, and previous analyses of tobacco industry documents suggest that the tobacco industry has attempted to hijack such debates by presenting tobacco control as a “first world” concern that would lead to economic destabilisation and exacerbate poverty and malnutrition among tobacco‐growing countries.4 By contrast, a growing body of evidence suggests that tobacco farmers face considerable financial and health risks from growing tobacco.5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12

As African nations seek to implement the provisions of the FCTC, tobacco control legislation will have to be developed and enacted, providing opportunities for the tobacco industry to influence policy. The fact that Kenya has signed and ratified the FCTC13 while (as detailed below) efforts to implement legislation consistent with the treaty have been unsuccessful amid persistent reports of BAT influence14 highlights the possible barriers. Hence, there is an urgent need to understand the tobacco control policy environment in Africa, including the relationships between tobacco farmers and TTCs, which are clearly integral to this. However, there remains a dearth of research in this area. This paper seeks to address this gap by examining British American Tobacco's (BAT) policy influence in Kenya.

BAT merits particular attention as it is the dominant player in SSA, with a market share of over 90% in 11 countries.3 The selection of Kenya reflects its significance to BAT's operations in Africa, the role it seems to have in BAT's efforts to influence policy regionally15 and the nature of Kenyan tobacco politics.

After an introduction to the origins and character of BAT's political influence in Kenya and an overview of recent tobacco control debates in the country, this paper uses a case study of the company's response to an emergent competitor, Mastermind Tobacco Kenya (referred to in the documents as MTK or MTCo), to examine BAT's influence on policymaking. The paper therefore aims to shed important light on issues critical to the development of tobacco control across SSA.


A 1998 legal settlement in the USA led to the creation of two document depositories, including one in Guildford, UK storing an estimated 8 million pages of documents from BAT. Full methodological details are provided online at In brief, relevant files were identified in the Guildford Depository via an iterative search strategy. Documents were then indexed in a specially designed database to construct a historical and thematic narrative. Additional data were obtained from tobacco industry journals, social science and medical databases, newspapers, annual reports, four visits to Kenya and through interviews with key public health informants.


BAT, Kenya and the politics of tobacco

BAT's presence in Kenya dates back to around 1908,16,17 although BAT Kenya (BATK) was created only in 1965. Kenya is now the third largest cigarette manufacturer in World Health Organization's African region,18 and BATK is the largest cigarette‐manufacturing company in East and Central Africa.19

Tobacco growing in Kenya began in the late 1930s, when the colonial government invited BAT to conduct experiments with flue cured tobacco.20 Although BAT concluded that “Kenya is not an ideal country to grow tobacco”,21 it later expanded tobacco farming in response to the Kenyan government's invitation to make the country self‐sufficient in tobacco, thereby reducing foreign exchange losses from leaf imports.22,23 Although now an important part of BAT's Kenyan business,24 the documents suggest that historically the company's involvement in tobacco farming largely reflected political priorities, with one document describing the leaf development programme as merely “an adequate P.R. platform”.25 Box 1 gives the details of the structure and profitability of tobacco farming in Kenya.

The Kenyan government has a longstanding stake in BATK,33 being its second largest shareholder with a 20% holding.34 The company has long enjoyed high level political connections. Former chairman BM Gecaga, who had close ties to the powerful family of Kenya's first president Jomo Kenyatta,35 was a nominated Member of Parliament36 (nominated by political parties represented in parliament), whereas Harris Mule, non‐executive director of BATK, was Vice‐Chairman of Transparency International Kenya, and was involved in Kenya's recent constitutional review process. Another non‐executive director, Professor Joseph Kimura, has recently been appointed Chairman of Higher Education Loans Board by the current president, Mwai Kibaki ( The long‐time president Daniel Arap Moi was regarded as sympathetic to the tobacco industry,8 and documents indicate his close relationship with BATK.37,38,39,40 Mr Mule has also undertaken several major consultancies for the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the International Food Policy Research Institute. He has also held ministerial posts: 1978–1986—Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance/Planning; 1972–1978—Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance and Planning. Allan Ngugi is also a Non‐Executive Director of BAT Kenya. He is also the Chief Executive Officer of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (BAT Kenya is a member of this organisations; see

Importantly, BAT's close political links have continued into the post‐Moi era. Documents suggest that the new president Mwai Kibaki has had a close relationship with BATK, having publicly spoken on its behalf while Minister of Health41 and being described by BAT as “a close friend of our chairman and a good ally of the company”.36 As mentioned above, the long awaited Tobacco Control Bill, originally sent to the Ministry of Health for final approval in 1999,42 has languished in the Attorney General's office amid reports of industry influence,43 with successive annual reports44,45,46,47 from BATK noting the company's efforts to amend it. Anticipating the bill's re‐emergence, tobacco companies, including BAT and Mastermind, funded a retreat for over 40 Members of Parliament at an exclusive coastal resort.48,49 There are now indications that the bill has been so heavily diluted after industry lobbying that some of its original advocates are seeking to delay its passage.14 More recently, Ministry of Health efforts to enact tobacco control measures, including smoke‐free legislation and health warnings consistent with the FCTC, through a different route in an attempt to bypass the Tobacco Control Bill and pre‐empt industry lobbying failed when BATK and Mastermind's challenge to Kenya's High Court succeeded in suspending the legislation.31,50,51

The international importance of such links is reflected in BAT's identification of Kenya as key to its attempts (largely unsuccessful in Africa) to prevent developing countries from supporting the negotiation of a strong FCTC.15,52,53,54 At one BAT‐sponsored regional meeting of the International Tobacco Grower Association (previously discredited as a front group funded and directed by the TTCs)4 in Nairobi, the Minister of Agriculture suggested that, in considering the FCTC, Kenya “cannot ignore the economic and social benefits this crop brings to our country”.29 Similar sentiments have been expressed elsewhere in Africa (see, for example, BAT's statement on tobacco in Africa. = 34706DE89998E74C85ED4C85840FC711&DTC = 20040616&TMP = 1.55

BAT's response to the emergence of competition

In the late 1980s, BATK's de facto monopoly status was undermined by the launch of two local companies, Mastermind and Cut Tobacco. Despite still being the country's largest manufacturer, by 2002 its market share had dropped from 90%3 to 71%, Mastermind's had progressed to 22%, followed by Cut Tobacco at 7%.56

BATK became aware of a potential threat to its pre‐eminence in 1987.57 Of the two new cigarette manufacturers registered in that year,58 Mastermind was the more important one, benefiting from both a detailed awareness of BATK's potential weaknesses and a powerful political backing:

Mastermind Tobacco Company … is spearheaded by Wilfred Murungi, an ex‐BAT Kenya Director, in association with Rujigiro, financed by Baganza, the ousted President of Burundi … It also appears to have a godfather in the person of Nicholas Biwott, who is a front man for President Moi's commercial interests.59

Box 1: Tobacco farming in Kenya

Approximately 35 000 small‐scale farmers grow tobacco in Kenya, in Eastern, Western, Central & Nyanza Provinces. In all, 4500 hectares of land is devoted to tobacco farming, representing 0.19% of total arable land.26 BATK has a contractual arrangement with around 20 000 of these small‐scale farmers.8 It offers them crop inputs and advice, and buys leaf from them once dried (cured). The price farmers receive for their tobacco leaf is dependent on BATK's evaluation of its quality. Usually no independent assessors are present.27 Under BATK contracts, crop inputs such as seeds, pesticides and fertilisers are given to farmers as a loan, which is then deducted from their final earnings. BAT documents suggest that traditionally the costs of such inputs were financed by the state,28 although we have been unable to confirm this. Interviews with tobacco farmers suggest that these inputs are grossly overpriced, with one farmer stating “The loan the tobacco firm provides is really weighing down on us. Actually after the deduction you get nothing. Year in year out of the company ensures that you have an outstanding loan”.8 Such findings are substantiated through research on a small number of tobacco farmers which shows that having allowed for the loan, labour, fuel and costs, over 80% are losing money.10

Despite widespread perceptions of the economic importance of tobacco leaf,29 independent data suggest that tobacco makes a minimal contribution to Kenyan exports. Between 1961 and 2001, the maximum contribution that all tobacco exports made in dollar terms to Kenya's total merchandise exports was 4% during the early 1960s, since when the proportion has fallen to between 0.05% and 2%.30 Over the same period, leaf exports alone contributed only between 0.1% and 0.8%. The Ministry of Agriculture data also suggest that a shift to other cash crops could provide far greater revenues to Kenya's tobacco farmers.31 In the Eastern province in 1999, for example, mangoes were 37 times more profitable, whereas papaya and cotton each similarly dwarfed farmers' earnings from tobacco.32

The combination of local expertise and influence was sufficient to instigate a substantial and wide‐ranging response, with the parent company BATCo conducting several examinations of BATK's performance and giving authoritative instructions for reform of its operating company.60 BATCo was particularly worried about the seeming failure of BATK to make sufficient headway among poor, young adult smokers. A competition sensitivity analysis conducted in November 1987 emphasised that:

The admission that BAT Kenya has achieved only low penetration of the 18–24 years age group in the lower income segment is disquieting. … This market is worth examining in its own right and suitable products developed to exploit it.58

In some respects, the arrival of a competitor was seen by BATCo as a welcome opportunity to reshape BATK and overturn its monopoly‐era inefficiencies particularly in the area of marketing:

All the bad habits of monopoly days must be unlearnt and a drive to sell, not only company products, but also company image and service, undertaken without delay.58

BATCo's regional marketing director Richard (Dick) Hartley encouraged Kenya's managing director Terry McDowell to reconsider the previous voluntary commitment to restrict advertising and abandon radio advertising.24 He suggested that, in addition to the resumption of radio advertising, new media opportunities be explored,24 particularly given concerns about the introduction of health warnings in January 1985.60

BATK should review the prospects of getting back on radio following their voluntary withdrawal because of the likely negative impact of health warnings on smokers. It will allow greater reach with image advertising to the rural population in times of a competitive threat.61

Recognising the need for a political response

Beyond these largely commercial responses, the threat posed by domestic competition was seen as requiring a political solution. The challenge to BATK's monopoly tapped into several important strands of Kenyan politics and required delicacy in its handling.58

BAT soon became aware of the national sensitivities to a contest between a powerful transnational and a small African competitor. Therefore, its strategic response had to reconcile potentially conflicting requirements to “avoid the accusation of giant multinational squashing a local company, and to maintain our leadership”.62 Worried that BATK did “not appear to be winning the sympathy” of the administration, Terry McDowell noted in relation to press coverage on the issue:

MTCo are portraying themselves as the midget against the giant, the wholly owned tiny Kenyan company against the huge multinational, the small aggressive entrepreneur breaking into export business which has been the preserve of monopolistic BAT. He, Murungi, is also banging the drum on his noble efforts in the field of exports. As you can appreciate his “audacious business approach” is having a favourable impact on the readership.63

Given this context, BAT rapidly decided that it would “be unwise for BATK to go out and kill competition as soon as it comes to the market”, but instead should be seen to welcome it.41

Farmers and tobacco politics in Kenya

The main battleground in making this a winnable contest for BAT was tobacco leaf and the tobacco farmers of Kenya, which constituted a key resource. Publicly, BAT had long alleged its value to farmers and the broader rural economy. Its 1986 annual report—for example, claimed:

The total impact effect of our tobacco growing activities in the rural areas where we operate has been very positive. Especially visible has been the continued improvement in the quality of life of the people, by the provision of an extra cash income from tobacco.64

Such public assertions sit uneasily with independent evaluations of BAT's treatment of tobacco farmers in Kenya (see Christian Aid's interviews with tobacco farmers in Kenya and a study of BAT Kenya contracted tobacco farmers by SocialNeeds Network, a Kenyan NGO in Christian Aid (2004)—Behind the mask: The real face of corporate social responsibility, http://www.christian‐ (accessed 22 Dec 2006)) and the scale of economic exploitation indicated by the documents. BATK's record for under‐paying farmers for tobacco leaf even drew adverse comment from the group's UK headquarters who noted that the “price per kilo paid to farmers is well below inflation each year … We do not agree with BATK's philosophy”.65

BATK's projected profitability in the mid‐90s relied on greater leaf exports, requiring yield increases that BATCo thought would be jeopardised by the former's treatment of farmers:

Much depends on the cooperation of farmers and in that context your pricing philosophy has to be queried. You are paying less to farmers than any other African leaf growing company and only 46% of crop cost actually goes to farmers compared to up to 70% in other countries. While the factors may be somewhat distorted by the poor year in 1991, there would be merit in your reviewing your price to farmer strategy.24 (emphasis added)

BATK were, of course, aware of the gap that existed between their and Mastermind's payments to farmers. A letter in June 1990 acknowledged that Mastermind's “indicated prices are of course above ours”.66 McDowell describes the effect of this differential on BATK's relationship with farmers:

He (Murungi) is advising the farmers that BAT has, through all these years been underpaying them, and now he, the bright knight in shining armour, is paying the price they deserve for their labour. You can imagine the reaction of the farmers. Recently I gave a short presentation to 200–300 on one of their market days and their general attitude towards me was positively hostile.64

Reluctant to compete on price paid to farmers,64 BATK decided on a comprehensive political strategy that would effectively deny farmers the opportunity to sell to its new competitor. By securing control over farmers' sales, BATK hoped that the “tobacco leaf supply situation could constrain (MTK's) initial operations”.58 Although BATK was self‐sufficient in tobacco leaf,67 a newcomer such as Mastermind was inevitably more vulnerable in its supply structure. If the supply of better grades of tobacco could be controlled by BATK, the competition would be starved of suitable leaf and “when they run out they will have to use unripe tobacco”.21 Fearful that the success of such efforts could be undermined by Mastermind being granted import licenses,60 BATK “made strong representation at ministerial level that its competitors should not be given preferential treatment for importation of tobacco”.68

The first step in BAT's political strategy was to reverse the increase in public sympathy for the newcomer. The company's 1991 public affairs programme outlined a strategy to shape both elite and public opinion. This included the extension of its public relations programme to cover the participation of key farmers, develop alliances and resources to be drawn on in future disputes, and use trade media to communicate favourable messages across rural areas.68 Such efforts were to be reinforced by targeted attempts “to promote and sustain the company's good citizen image”69 through its programme of promotions and sponsored events and by making strategic use of an economic impact study.69

Obtaining key allies within the government was seen as vital to securing a favourable political and trading environment, countering both Mastermind and emergent health activism.69 The 1991 public affairs programme highlighted the need for heightened lobbying activities:

In the coming year, therefore, we have to intensify our lobbying and briefing meetings with the political and government leadership through formal and informal contacts… We should aim to make contact with at least one Key Ally, Minister, Permanent Secretary or leading personality [sic] each month.69

Such a programme built on the already considerable efforts of BATK to lobby against the activities of Mastermind64 as indicated by reports of leading political figures giving explicit endorsements to BATK alongside denunciations of Mastermind. For example, when a Mastermind press conference referred to using imported tobacco leaf “they were immediately accused in public by the Minister of Health of using up foreign exchange for products which can easily be made with local produce”, the minister proceeding to praise BATK's efforts in improving the quality of local leaf.41 In November 1990, local newspapers reported how Moi condemned the business practices of Mastermind while praising BAT for their assistance to tobacco farmers. Moi was quoted as stating that it was unfair for a Kenyan owned company “to cheat tobacco farmers and buy their crop directly while they have been assisted by BAT”.70,71

Meanwhile, BATK was also lobbying the government to designate exclusive growing areas or zones. As McDowell reported in September 1990:

We have followed the protocol of talking to the administration hierarchy – starting at the bottom. Last week Tim Kaloki and Mareka had a meeting with the Permanent Secretary in the Office of the President, Mr Oyugi. Short of meeting the President, this is as far as we can take it. Mr Oyugi has agreed that we should have separate growing zones. We now wait to see what measures unfold.64

BAT's efforts to constrain MTK's supply of leaf seemed to have succeeded when a joint agreement was reached in 1992 that carved up Kenya's tobacco‐growing areas, allocating areas of exclusive or joint activity and itemising obligations of farmers and their sponsors.72 However, in practice, the agreement failed to work, with McDowell complaining to the Minister of Agriculture, Simeon Nyachae, that “growers have accepted sponsorship from one party and are openly selling their crop to a third party.”73

BATK therefore continued to press for a legislative response to what it perceived as continued “poaching” (acquiring tobacco leaf grown in BAT‐controlled areas) by Mastermind.74,75 By mid‐1994, the group was becoming increasingly frustrated by the continuing absence of satisfactory legislation, and was contemplating dramatic action to regain control in the leaf growing areas:

We believe one alternative is to now cease giving crop inputs to a large section of farmers or to one whole area. The implications are that production may drop but both Government and farmers must realise that the situation is now serious but also that we are no longer prepared to put up with an uncontrolled environment.76

The effect of such a gesture on the livelihoods of such a “large section of farmers” could clearly have been dramatic. The company's desire for a controlled environment seems, however, to have subsequently been realised through the adoption of its political strategy.

By the time BAT entertained President Moi and most of his cabinet to dinner in London in November 1994,77 the political impasse had apparently been broken. BATCo Regional Director Norman Davis recommended praising the president for the recent passage of legislative proposals developed by BAT:

The Kenyan Government has passed a “tobacco law” which looks as though it will be very successful (if properly implemented) in stopping poaching and illegal out of season growing. The law was actually drafted by us but the Government is to be congratulated on its wise actions.77 (emphasis added)

This legislation had previously been described by Davis as “drafted by BAT (K) and, if applied properly, should stop the predations of MTK”. According to Davis, the legislation constituted “an excellent achievement by the company ‐ congratulations to all involved”.78

The Crop Production and Livestock (Tobacco Growing and Marketing) Rules were enacted under the powers of the Minister for Agriculture in July 1994.79 The obligations these placed on farmers were strikingly similar to proposals previously submitted by BATK to the Minister, Simeon Nyachae. Before a meeting with Nyachae in September 1993, McDowell forwarded a report entitled “Rules and regulations governing the production of tobacco in Kenya'80 (for comparison, see table 11).). The proposals intended to restrict Mastermind would clearly subordinate farmers to their designated sponsor, overwhelmingly BATK. In effect, the legislation gave a legal basis to a quasi‐feudal relationship between farmers and the company.

Table thumbnail
Table 1 Obligations of tobacco farmers: a comparison of BATK's proposals for the reorganisation of the tobacco industry with rules passed by the minister of agriculture

The justification for such restrictions rested on the claim, described above, that despite accepting sponsorship from one party, farmers were selling their crop to another party.74 Both the alleged illegitimacy of this practice and the associated claim that Mastermind's purchase of these crops constituted poaching75,76 reflect BATK's claims of obligations owed to it by sponsored farmers. BATK's purported entitlement to purchase the leaf on a non‐competitive basis was seemingly rooted in its supply of crop inputs such as seeds, fertilisers and pesticides. Yet, the documents suggest that the costs of such inputs were ultimately borne by the Kenyan state. A report from a visit to Kenya in 1990 described how “BATK provides the farmers with the crop inputs and claims the money back from either the KCB [Kenya Commercial Bank] or Agricultural Finance Corporation (parastatal).”28 (see box 1).


Our findings indicate the longstanding, high‐level political links and support enjoyed by BAT in Kenya. The company has been supported by successive Kenyan Presidents— Kenyatta, Moi and currently Kibaki—establishing links with a variety of ministers and appointing influential politicians as non‐executive directors. They also highlight the extent to which BAT was able to influence public policy. Health legislation has continuously been diluted and delayed. Also, the government implemented legislation drafted by BAT that purely benefited the company at the expense of a local company and, more importantly, local tobacco farmers, entrenching their poor pay and quasi‐feudal relationship with BAT and consolidating BAT's control over tobacco farming.

A secondary finding, BAT's commercial response to the threat of competition, illustrates the potential public health risks of increasing competition in a tobacco market. BAT's analysis of the “bad habits of monopoly days”58 indicates poor penetration among young adults, and recommended revitalising marketing to deal with this. The implication that the monopoly's inefficiencies limited tobacco consumption and that BAT would behave differently in a competitive market is consistent with growing evidence that, by increasing competition, trade and investment liberalisation stimulate marketing and in turn consumption.81,82,83,84,85 This is an important finding given current trade liberalisation debates and the International Monetary Fund's ongoing commitment to tobacco industry privatisation.86

In addition to its political contacts, BAT's policy influence seems to be based on both the perceived importance of tobacco leaf farming to the Kenyan economy and individual farmers and the “good citizen” image projected through its role in leaf development and more broadly. The former is illustrated firstly by the key role played by ministers of agriculture both in recent and past events (witness BAT's efforts to influence the FCTC and the legislation enacted by the agriculture minister, respectively), and secondly by repeated references to the social and economic benefits of tobacco growing by present29 and past ministers41 and presidents.71,72 The major public relations response to the threat from MTK shows the importance BAT places on corporate imagery in aiding lobbying. Tobacco farmers were clearly an important audience for BAT's publicity. Such findings, combined by assertions in BAT's annual reports and on its website = 34706DE89998E74C85ED4C85840FC711&DTC = 20040616&TMP = 1), suggest that BAT has assiduously cultivated the perception that tobacco leaf farming is good for both farmers and the Kenyan economy.

What is already known on this topic

We believe there are a number of lessons critical to policy development in SSA. Firstly, despite the economic benefits tobacco farming brings BAT, its benefits to the Kenyan economy and to individual farmers seems to have been deliberately exaggerated. Analysis of the true cost benefits of growing tobacco versus other crops is urgently needed to properly inform this debate. Secondly, tobacco farmers must be protected against BAT's predatory practices and fully informed about its activities in order to prevent them being inadvertent BAT pawns, and help them have an informed role in policy debates. Thirdly, image is the key to BAT's ability to influence policy, and, although assiduously cultivated over years, chinks in BAT's imagery armour can be identified and should be exploited. Such lessons will be critical in overcoming barriers to the domestic implementation of the FCTC as illustrated by Kenya's ratification of the treaty, but the marked lack of progress in implementing legislation that accords with the treaty.

Yet, weaknesses in BAT's position are identified. The foundations of its influence seem to be shaky, given the minimal contribution that independent data suggest that tobacco makes to the Kenyan economy (box 1).30 We have documented clearly its cynical treatment of tobacco farmers, controlled and chronically underpaid by a monopolistic purchaser. Such conditions do not seem unique to Kenya—similar dangers are highlighted in a report on BAT's appalling treatment of tobacco farmers in Uzbekistan.87 Growing evidence shows the economic and health risks faced by tobacco farmers contracted to BAT.5,6,8,9,10 In addition, BAT's political response to the emergence of MTK highlights what it perceives as weaknesses in its position—nationalist sensitivities, its monopoly position and the image of a giant multinational versus a local company.

What this paper adds

Most of the academic literature on tobacco industry tactics focuses on middle‐income and high‐income countries. Little research exists on the conduct of the industry in low‐income countries, and even less in Africa. This paper shows that British American Tobacco (BAT) enjoys considerable influence over public policy in Kenya, having diluted and delayed health legislation and restructured tobacco farming to advance its corporate interests at the expense of local farmers. Such influence seems to stem largely from its extensive high‐level political connections, but also from the perceived economic importance of tobacco farming and BAT's “good citizen” image. Yet, the documents also highlight BAT's poor treatment of tobacco farmers, with BATK paying tobacco farmers less than any other African leaf‐growing company.


BAT - British American Tobacco

BATCo - British American Tobacco Company

BATK - British American Tobacco Kenya

FCTC - Framework Convention on Tobacco Control

MTCo - Mastermind Tobacco Kenya

MTK - Mastermind Tobacco Kenya

NGOs - non‐governmental organisations

SSA - sub‐Saharan Africa

TTCs - transnational tobacco corporations



Funding: This work was supported by the National Cancer Institute, US National Institutes of Health, grant number R01 CA91021.

Conflict of interest: We are funded by the National Cancer Institute, US National Institutes of Health under grant number R01 CA91021 “Globalisation, the tobacco industry and policy influence”. JC and ABG have additionally received funding from the Wellcome Trust, Cancer Research UK and Health Canada for tobacco document‐related work, for which JC has also received funding from the Rockefeller Foundation. ABG is a board member of ASH‐UK and JC is a board member of the International Agency on Tobacco and Health (both unpaid).

The opinions are those of the authors alone.


1. Gajalakshmi C K, Jha P, Ranson K. et al Global patterns of smoking and smoking‐attributable mortality. In: Jha P, Chaloupka F, eds. Tobacco control in developing countries. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000
2. Saloojee Y. Tobacco in Africa: More than a health threat. In: Boyle P, Gray N, Henningfield J, Seffrin J, Zatonski W, eds. Tobacco and public health: science and policy Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004
3. Oluwafemi A. Regional summary for the African region. In: Shafey O, Dolwick S, Gunidon GE, eds. Tobacco control country profiles. 2nd edn. Atlanta, GA: American Cancer Society, 2003
4. WHO Committee of Experts Tobacco company strategies to undermine tobacco control activities at the World Health Organization. Report of the committee of experts on tobacco industry documents. Geneva, 2000 (accessed 22 Dec 2006)
5. Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids ‘Golden leaf, barren harvest: The costs of tobacco farming'. 2001. (accessed 22 Dec 2006)
6. Christian A i d / D E. Hooked on tobacco: Brazilian family farmers, British American Tobacco and the need to regulate big business. 2002. http://www.christian‐ (accessed 22 Dec 2006)
7. Kweyuh P. Tobacco expansion if Kenya ‐ the socio‐ecological losses. Tob Control 1994. 3248–251.251
8. Kweyuh P. Tobacco farming in Kenya: the profits of deception. Presentation to the International Lung Health Conference and Annual General Meeting of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases (UIATLD), Paris, France, 29 Sep–5 Oct, 1997.‐docs/9709kweyuh.html (accessed 22 Dec 2006)
9. Kweyuh P. Does tobacco growing pay? The Case of Kenya. In: Abedian I, van der Merwe R, Wilkins N, Jha P, eds, The economics of tobacco control: towards an optimal policy mix Rondebosch, South Africa: Applied Fiscal Research Centre, University of Cape Town 1998. 245–250.250
10. Christian Aid Behind the mask: The real face of corporate social responsibility. 2004. http://www.christian‐ (accessed 22 Dec 2006)
11. Asila J. No cash in this crop. New Internationalist 369, July 2004. (accessed 22 Dec 2006)
12. ASH UK British American Tobacco: exporting misery. 2006 (accessed 22 Dec 2006)
13. WHO Updated status of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. (last accessed 22 Dec 2006)
14. Ogwell A E O. National Tobacco Free Initiative Committee, Ministry of Health, Nairobi, personal communication (PP), 9 2005
15. Coates B. Cigarette company documents outline strategy to derail global tobacco treaty. Centre for Public Integrity. 16 May 2003. http://www.public‐ = 85&sid = 200 (accessed 22 Dec 2006)
16. Cox H. The global cigarette: origins & evolution of British American Tobacco 1880–1945. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. 310 [PubMed]
17. Swainson N. Company formation in Kenya before 1945 with particular reference to the role of foreign capital. In: Kaplinsky R, ed. Readings on the multinational corporations in Kenya. Nairobi: Oxford University Press, 1978. 56–57.57
18. World Bank Economics of tobacco for the Africa (AFR) region, 20 June. 2001. (accessed 22 Dec 2006)
19. Oyuke J. BAT to invest Sh 500m in export unit. The East African Standard, online edition, 23 Aug 2002
20. BAT Kenya Limited Briefing on tobacco leaf growing in Kenya, Telefax message from Kaloki TS (BAT Kenya Limited) to Snowden I (BATCO Woking), BAT, Guildford Depository, 28 June 1993 (Bates Range 304549876/9877)
21. BAT Kenya Limited Response to Ton Van Waay's visit report – April 1989, BAT, Guildford Depository, June 1989 (Bates Range 400549650/9658)
22. BAT Kenya Limited Cigarette consumption rising in Kenya, date, author and publication details illegible, BAT, Guildford Depository, (Bates Range 401258112)
23. BAT Kenya Limited Domestic annual usings are in the region of 5,000 tonnes of dry leaf. Briefing on Tobacco Leaf Growing in Kenya, Telefax Message from Kaloki TS (BAT Kenya Limited) to Snowden I (BATCO Woking), BAT, Guildford Depository, 28 June 1993 (Bates Range 304549876/9877)
24. Hartley R S. Letter to McDowell TPG Re: BAT Kenya company plan, BAT, Guildford Depository, 28 Nov, 1991 (Bates Range 301536123/6127)
25. Tice T J. Extract from minutes of Tobacco executive Committee meeting. BAT, Guildford Depository, Bates No. 201018307, 24 Jun 1980
26. Mackay J, Eriksen M. The Tobacco Atlas. Geneva, World Health Organisation (accessed 22 Dec 2006)
27. Madeley J. Big business, poor peoples: The impact of transnational corporations on the world's poor. London & New York: Zed Books, 2001. 51
28. Brandt D. Visit to BAT Kenya 4–6 June 1990, 26 June 1990, BAT, Guildford Depository, Bates Range 301611652
29. The Nation Ministries Split Over Adoption of Tobacco Bill, 30 May 2003. (accessed 22 Dec 2006)
30. United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Database, Agriculture Food and Trade (Crops & Livestock Primary & Processed) = Trade.CropsLivestockProducts&Domain = Trade &servlet = 1&language = EN&hostname = = default
31. Ogwell A E O. National Tobacco Free Initiative Committee, Ministry of Health, Nairobi, personal communication (PP), 1 Aug 2006
32. Odhiambo P A. ed. Tobacco vs health. Nairobi: National Tobacco‐Free Initiative Committee, Kenya, 2005
33. Summary of B A.T Kenya Response to the University of Lancaster Study. Letter to Mr. J. S. Mathenge (Permanent Secretary, Office of the President, Nairobi, Kenya) from E. A. Luseno (Director‐Personnel & Public Affairs BAT Kenya), BAT, Guildford Depository 22 Aug 1984 (Bates Range 304007384/7397)
34. British American Tobacco Kenya Annual Rep Financ Statements. 2003. p. 16.
35. Throup D, Hornsby C. Multi‐party politics in Kenya: The Kenyatta & Moi States & the triumph of the system in the 1992 election. Oxford: James Currey, 1998. 359
36. Johnston A C. BAT Kenya 18th/22nd April Tour, BAT, Guildford Depository, 26 April 1988(Bates Range 300027102)
37. Blackman L (1982) Visit to BAT Kenya Ltd, 3–5 November 1982. BAT, Guildford Depository, 16 Nov 1982 (Bates Range 304011959/196)
38. Fax from Davis N to Broughton MF Subject: Meeting with President Moi, BAT, Guildford Depository, 17 Nov 1994 (Bates Range 500045215)
39. BAT Imara Daima Housing Development: Background Notes to Mr Norman Davis, BAT, Guildford depository, 4th Nov 1994 (Bates Range 500045216/5218)
40. BAT Africa Private Enterprise Group Dinner [Guest List], BAT, Guildford Depository, 17 Nov 1994 (Bates Range 500045209)
41. van Waay A, Visit Note Kenya – 29th March to 7th April 1989, Secret, BAT, Guildford Depository, 18 Apr 1989 (Bates Range 400549659/9665)
42. Kimani D New anti‐ tobacco bill to hit industry hard The East African, RJ Reynolds, 29 Sep–5 Oct (Bates Range 521424718‐4719). (accessed 22 Dec 2006)
43. Panafrican News Agency Companies suspected of delaying tobacco bill in Kenya. All‐, 2 April 2001. (accessed 22 Dec 2006)
44. BAT Kenya Annual Rep Accounts. 2001. p. 5.
45. BAT Kenya Annual Rep Financ Statements. 2002. p. 7.
46. BAT Kenya Annual Rep Financ Statements. 2003. p. 7.
47. BAT Kenya Annual Rep Financ Statements. 2004. p. 9.
48. The Standard Tobacco industry calls another MPs' retreat. 19 Nov 2004
49. Simpson D. Kenya beach party ‘helps' tobacco bill. Tobacco Control 2005. 144 [PMC free article] [PubMed]
50. Ogutu J. Public smoking reprieve extended. The East African Standard (Nairobi), 1 July 2006 (accessed 22 Dec 2006)
51. Kimani D. ‘Pre‐emptive' ban polarizes govt and tobacco industry. The East African (Nairobi), 29 May 2006. = News&file = article&sid = 2757
52. BAT Kenya Key Efforts by British American Tobacco CORA Departments on tackling the WHO tobacco free initiative. (Bates Range 321422732/2735). (accessed 22 Dec 2006)
53. Andreas Vecchiet to Michael Prideaux WHO: outcomes of first FCTC Intergovernmental Negotiating Body', 10 November 2000, Bates Range 325047704/7720. (accessed 22 Dec 2006)
54. The Impact of WHO's Global Tobacco Control Proposals on Tobacco‐Growing Economies Report on the Series of ITGA Select Briefings. South Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Kenya, India, March 2000 (Bates Range 321356397/6413). (accessed 22 Dec 2006)
55. Peel M. BAT: How to bypass the local difficulties, Financial Times, 21 Feb 2004. (accessed 22 Dec 2006)
56. The East African Pay $4.7m Tax, KRA Tells Moi Son's Firm 2003. 22 Dec 2006)
57. BAT Kenya Note to Johnston AC, from Vayid MA. Competitive entry sensitivity analysis, BAT, Guildford Depository, 13 November 1987 (Bates Range 400228897/8898)
58. Maganlal: An Unstoppable Family Business Company Survey, The East African, 3 Dec 2001, online edition
59. BAT Kenya Note to Johnston AC, from Vayid MA, Note of a visit to BAT Kenya 30 Nov–1 Dec 1987, . BAT, Guildford Depository, 11 Dec 1987 (Bates Range 400228899/8900)
60. Kenya Gazette supplement no 52, 10 Aug 1984. (accessed 22 Dec 2006)
61. BAT Company plan meeting: BAT Kenya ‐ Marketing, n/d, BAT, Guildford Depository, 1991 (Bates Range 301536248)
62. Hirji T, Stephenson A. Report on Visit to BAT (Kenya) Ltd by Taj Hirji, Alan Stephenson – 22–31 January 1988, Rob Ferris – 21–26 Jan 1988. BAT, Guildford Depository, 23 Feb 1988 (Bates Range 401313638/3650)
63. Letter from McDowell TPG to Hartley RS, Re: Mastermind Tobacco Company Pirating Fire‐Cured Tobacco Grown by BAT Kenya registered farmers, BAT, Guildford Depository, 7 Sept 1990 (Bates Range 301611620/1621)
64. BAT Kenya BAT Kenya Ltd Annual Report 1986, BAT, Guildford Depository, 1 May 1987 (Bates Range 403696046/6066)
65. Drummond JW Company plan 1992–1996; BAT Kenya Limited ‐ Kenya, Leaf, BAT, Guildford Depository, 23 Oct 1991 (Bates Range 301536249/6251)
66. BAT Kenya Letter from Bishop DJ to McDowell TPG (B.A.T Kenya Ltd), 7 June 1990, BAT, Guildford Depository, Bates Range 301611693
67. Lowe R D, Visit to B. A. T. (Kenya) Ltd 25–29 Apr 1988, BAT, Guildford Depository, 4 May 1988 (Bates Range 400549702)
68. BAT Kenya Memorandum, PUBLIC AFFAIRS KEY OBJECTIVES FOR 1991, from Luseno EA (Director Public Affairs) to Opukah S, 15 September 1990, BAT, Guildford Depository, Bates Range 304011828/ 1830
69. Agriconsult The economic impact of the tobacco industry in Kenya. Nairobi, Kenya, March 1991. Cited in Kweyuh P, ‘Tobacco expansion in Kenya – the socio‐ecological losses'. Tobacco Control 1994. 3248–251.251
70. Mwema K. Reform talks open to public: Kanu has nothing to hide – Moi. Times: The Voice of the People, 30 Nov, 1990. 2
71. Opanga K. Kanu review meeting open to all, says Moi Daily Nation, 30 Nov 1990
72. BAT BAT Kenya and MTK to operate in same areas', BAT Mkulima Wa Tumbaku, Newsletter, Vol 4, March, BAT, Guildford Depository, 1993 (Bates Range 304549890/9893)
73. BAT Kenya Letter from McDowell TPG (Managing Director, B.A.T. Kenya) to Simeon Nyachae (Minister for Agriculture, Livestock Development & Marketing), BAT, Guildford Depository, 7 Sept 1993 (Bates Range 304549828/9829)
74. BAT Kenya Bishop DJ. BAT Kenya File Note, BAT, Guildford Depository, 20 Aug 1990 Bates Range 301611637
75. BAT Kenya Leaf Department Company Plan Guidelines 1994, BAT, Guildford Depository (Bates Range 602000107/0109)
76. BAT Kenya Leaf Department Company Guidelines, attached with Letter from Davis N to McDowell TPG (B.A.T Kenya Ltd), BAT, Guildford Depository, 13 Jun 1994 (Bates Range 602000107)
77. Letter from Davis N to Greener G, Allied Dunbar Assurance plc, BAT, Guildford Depository, 18 Nov 1994 (Bates Range 500045203)
78. Davis N Visit to Bat Kenya, 23–25 August 1994', BAT, Guildford Depository, 30 Aug 1994 (Bates Range 500045312/4316)
79. The Crop Protection and Livestock Act (CAP 321). Kenya Gazette Supplement No. 42, 29 July 1994
80. BAT Kenya Rules and regulations governing the production, marketing and transport of flue cured, fire cured and burley tobacco in Kenya, BAT, Guildford Depository, 7 Sept 1993 (Bates Range 304549830/9847)
81. Taylor A, Chaloupka F J, Guindon E. et al The impact of trade liberalisation on tobacco consumption. In: Jha P, Chaloupka F, eds. Tobacco control in developing countries. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000
82. Bettcher D, Subramaniam C, Guindon E. et alConfronting the tobacco epidemic in an era of trade liberalisation. Geneva: WHO, TFI, 2001
83. Gilmore A, McKee M. Exploring the impact of foreign direct investment on tobacco consumption in the former Soviet Union. Tobacco Control 2005. 1413–21.21 [PMC free article] [PubMed]
84. Gilmore A, Radu‐Loghin C, Zatushevski I. et al Pushing up smoking incidence: a review of transnational tobacco company plans for a privatised tobacco industry in Moldova. Lancet 2005. 3651354–1359.1359 [PubMed]
85. Campaign for Tobacco‐Free Kids Public Health and International Trade Volume II: tariffs and privatisation. Washington DC: Campaign for Tobacco‐Free Kids, 2002
86. Weissman R, White A. Needless harm, International Monetary fund support for tobacco privatisation and for tobacco tax and tariff reduction and the cost to public health. Washington, DC: Essential Action, 2002, ( ) (accessed 22 Dec 2006)
87. British Helsinki Human Rights Group BAT in Uzbekistan 2002. = 23&ReportID = 5 (accessed 22 Dec 2006)
88. MacKenzie R, Collin J, Lee K. The tobacco industry documents: an introductory handbook and resource guide for researchers. London: London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, 2003, (accessed 22 Dec 2006)
89. Bero L. Implications of the tobacco industry documents for public health and policy. Ann Rev Public Health 2003. 24267–288.288 [PubMed]
90. Balbach E. Tobacco industry documents: comparing the Minnesota Depository and internet access. Tob Control 2002. 1168–72.72 [PMC free article] [PubMed]
91. Muggli M E, LeGresley E M, Hurt R D. Big tobacco is watching: British American Tobacco's surveillance and information concealment at the Guildford depository. Lancet 2004. 3631812–1819.1819 [PubMed]
92. Lee K, Gilmore A, Collin J. Looking inside the tobacco industry: revealing insights from the Guildford Depository. Addiction 2004. 99394–397.397 [PubMed]
93. Malone RE, Balbach ED. Tobacco industry documents: treasure trove or quagmire, Tob Control 2000. 9334–338.338 [PMC free article] [PubMed]
94. Collin J, Lee K, Gilmore A. Unlocking the corporate documents of British American Tobacco: an invaluable global resource needs radically improved access. Lancet 2004. 3631746–1747.1747 [PubMed]

Articles from Tobacco Control are provided here courtesy of BMJ Publishing Group