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Uganda: BAT soccer deal goes down to health

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All too often we hear how a beleaguered ministry of health in a developing country has seen the tobacco industry manipulating other, more influential ministries to ensure that overall government policy promotes tobacco, rather than protecting people from it. Heartening news, then, from Uganda, where the Ministry of Information received a highly tempting offer of US$60 000 from BAT last year, for sponsorship of television broadcasts of the World Cup soccer tournament on state television. Alerted just in time, the Ministry of Health managed to put together an alternative package of finance, mainly from donors, to sponsor messages on HIV prevention, family planning, and immunisation instead. And once in a while, viewers even see an anti-smoking spot on Uganda Television. But before raising our glasses to BAT, without whose efforts none of this might have happened, we have to note the proliferation of tobacco ads on the private sector radio and television channels. However, during the launch of a new BAT brand recently, a local employee apparently warned the public of the dangers of smoking. What can the fellow be thinking of?Tobacco Control is still awaiting the precise details, but meanwhile it is clearly high time that BAT reviewed its local staff appointments, and that Uganda received a visit from the public relations people and “scientists” that the company likes to send in to deal with such nonsense (as described in numerous past editions of Tobacco Control)

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