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Eliminating child labour in Malawi: a British American Tobacco corporate responsibility project to sidestep tobacco labour exploitation
  1. M G Otañez1,
  2. M E Muggli2,
  3. R D Hurt3,
  4. S A Glantz1
  1. 1Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, University of California, San Francisco, USA
  2. 2Mayo Clinic Nicotine Research Program, St Paul, Minnesota, USA
  3. 3Nicotine Dependence Center, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Professor Stanton A Glantz
 Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, University of California, San Francisco, 530 Parnassus Ave, Ste 366, San Francisco, CA 94143-1390, USA; glantz{at}


Objectives: To examine British American Tobacco and other tobacco industry support of the Eliminating Child Labour in Tobacco Growing Foundation.

Design: Analyses of internal tobacco industry documents and ethnographic data.

Results: British American Tobacco co-founded the Eliminating Child Labour in Tobacco Growing Foundation (ECLT) in October 2000 and launched its pilot project in Malawi. ECLT’s initial projects were budgeted at US$2.3 million over four years. Labour unions and leaf dealers, through ECLT funds, have undertook modest efforts such as building schools, planting trees, and constructing shallow wells to address the use of child labour in tobacco farming. In stark contrast, the tobacco companies receive nearly US$40 million over four years in economic benefit through the use of unpaid child labour in Malawi during the same time. BAT’s efforts to combat child labour in Malawi through ECLT was developed to support the company’s “corporate social responsibility agenda” rather than accepting responsibility for taking meaningful steps to eradicate child labour in the Malawi tobacco sector.

Conclusion: In Malawi, transnational tobacco companies are using child labour projects to enhance corporate reputations and distract public attention from how they profit from low wages and cheap tobacco.

  • BAT, British American Tobacco
  • CECCM, Confederation of European Community Cigarette Manufacturers
  • CORA, Consumer and Regulatory Affairs
  • ECLT, Eliminating Child Labour in Tobacco Growing Foundation
  • ICFTU, International Confederation of Free Trade Unions
  • ILO, International Labour Organization
  • ITGA, International Tobacco Grower’s Association
  • IUF, International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations
  • MSF, Manufacturing, Science and Finance trade union
  • PM, Philip Morris
  • TAMA, Tobacco Association of Malawi
  • TTCs, transnational tobacco companies
  • corporate social responsibility
  • economics
  • public policy

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  • This work was supported by NIH grants R01 CA87472 “Analysis of Tobacco Industry Documents” and R01 CA90791 “Tobacco Industry Documents on ETS – The Next Front.” Dr Otañez holds a postdoctoral fellowship from the American Legacy Foundation. (The views in this paper are not those of the American Legacy Foundation or its Board of Directors.) None of the funding agencies had any role in the selection of the topic for this paper or preparation or revision of the manuscript.

  • Competing interest: none declared

  • Portions of this work were presented at the American Ethnology Society Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, April 2004