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  1. David Simpson

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    It's particularly disappointing when your traditional friends and admirers drop you in it, In fairness, however, a Wall Street analyst cannot have intended her memo about BAT's business prospects last year to be made public, but only to reassure stockholders. The analyst wrote that the new international marketing standards announced with much fanfare by BAT, Philip Morris, and Japan Tobacco were unlikely to affect the companies' profitability. In other words, the analyst rated then, in health terms, . . . worthless.

    In words eerily reminiscent of a US Tobacco Institute document of 1983 which reassured readers that BAT's US subsidiary Brown & Williamson “will not support a youth smoking program which discourages young people from smoking”, the Wall Street analyst dismissed the new code at a stroke. “We have analyzed the 9-page agreement and believe that the multinationals' strategy is proactive and is a way to improve their image,” wrote Ms Bonnie Herzog of Credit Suisse First Boston Equity. “Also, by proactively setting new international standards,” the briefing continued, “the multinationals could be trying to counter a number of proposals that the WHO has been working on to curb the amount of cigarettes that are consumed on an international level.”

    The refreshingly realistic and un-stuffy analysis, which might have been written specially for this column, added that in many countries existing laws are stricter than the provisions of the international marketing standards; and that Credit Suisse believed the “modest amount the multinationals actually spend on these types of practices will be redirected into other types of marketing promotions [such as] point of sale activity.”

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    This picture from a newspaper in Mauritius offers a classic illustration of highly focused efforts to buy favour from a developing country government, presumably to reduce any risk of effective tobacco control action. BAT recently awarded educational bursaries to these 10 students from economically deprived areas.