To examine the complicity of British American Tobacco (BAT) in cigarette smuggling in Asia, and to assess the centrality of illicit trade to regional corporate strategy.
Analysis of previously confidential documents from BAT’s Guildford depository. An iterative strategy combined searches based on geography, organisational structure, and key personnel, while corporate euphemisms for contraband were identified by triangulation.
BAT documents demonstrate the strategic importance of smuggling across global, regional, national, and local levels. Particularly important in Asia, contraband enabled access to closed markets, created pressure for market opening, and was highly profitable. Documents demonstrate BAT’s detailed oversight of illicit trade, seeking to reconcile the conflicting demands of control and deniability.
BAT documents demonstrate that smuggling has been driven by corporate objectives, indicate national measures by which the problem can be addressed, and highlight the importance of a coordinated global response via WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.