McCabe Centre speaks about Big Tobacco interference in Africa

Thursday 30 September, 2021



The McCabe Centre's Rachel Kitonyo Devotsu recently joined an expert panel to discuss Big Tobacco's attempts to interfere with tobacco control policy across the African continent.

The panel, which was featured on Vital Strategies' Public Health Power Hour podcast, followed reports from tobacco industry watchdog Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Projects (STOP) which allege bribery and corruption across Africa by British American Tobacco (BAT). Rachel was part of the press conference releasing the reports and was featured in subsequent news coverage.

For the podcast, Rachel appeared alongside STOP Director Jorge Alday, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism Global Editor James Ball and Vital Strategies' host Stephen Hamill. She told the panel that this was not the first time a tobacco company had been accused of illicit activities in Africa.

Though the tobacco industry has a long history of trying to derail tobacco control policies, Rachel said that governments can be empowered to resist industry interference. Capacity building is essential, she said, highlighting how the McCabe Centre's training programs and activities as the WHO FCTC Knowledge Hub on Legal Challenges support government officials to defend tobacco control laws against the threat of legal challenges — one of the industry's favourite disruption strategies.

"Do not feel afraid, it's basically a scare tactic," Rachel said to countries considering tobacco control laws. "For most [governments] who have been taken to court, if they did the [lawmaking] process right, then they have succeeded."

Rachel emphasised the importance of working across sectors because tobacco control cuts across more than just health. She encouraged countries to persevere with public health laws despite efforts by Big Tobacco to distrupt them, because tobacco control laws can have a huge impact on health.

“When a country adopts a tobacco control law, you affect 100% of the population with one stroke of the pen," Rachel said.

Listen to the full Vital Strategies Public Health Power Hour podcast featuring the McCabe Centre's Rachel Kitonyo Devotsu.


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More resources on legal challenges to tobacco control measures are available at the WHO FCTC Knowledge Hub on Legal Challenges website.

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