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Tobacco firms “slipping” into Myanmar

| August 22, 2013

While some of the world’s biggest companies were trumpeting their arrival in Myanmar, tobacco manufacturers were slipping into the country without fanfare, according to an Associated Press story.

British American Tobacco was said to have “shepherded a select audience of government officials to a low-key ceremony last month where it formalized a $50 million investment over five years to produce, market and sell its brands in Myanmar.”

In July, BAT published on its website a nearly-400-word note outlining its plans for its re-entry to the Myanmar market. The note said, in part, that BAT’s joint-venture foreign investment was approved by the Myanmar Investment Commission in January.

Meanwhile, Japan Tobacco was said to have “quietly inked a deal nearly a year ago” with local partner Kyaw Win. A company spokesman, Royhei Sugata, was quoted as saying that a factory was being built but refused to divulge information about the factory’s location, the scale of the project or brand names.

And the story was able to provide almost no information about a Chinese initiative, apart from the fact that “China’s largest tobacco producer is also setting up a multimillion-dollar joint venture.”

Tin Maung, a retired army major and Myanmar’s top anti-smoking campaigner, was quoted as saying that tobacco companies seemed to think that by entering the market stealthily, they could avoid public scrutiny.

And Nang Naing Naing Shane, who heads the Ministry of Health’s National Tobacco Control Program, said the ministry’s strong opposition to BAT, JT and others had been overridden by the Myanmar Investment Commission.

International tobacco control activists will no doubt be looking to see how the major tobacco companies conduct themselves as they make a fresh start in Myanmar. Especially, they might watch to see whether the manufacturers bring with them, as well as tobacco cigarettes, alternative products that many see as being less risky than tobacco cigarettes.

Category: Breaking News

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