Going Into BAT

Posted 18th May 2020 by Dave Cross
British American Tobacco Plc (BAT) will be sending tobacco controllers into a state of apoplexy with the news that a vaccine it has developed to combat COVID-19 is ready for human trials. When BAT told the world it was working on something to combat the pandemic, many ideologues appeared to prefer that people die from the virus than have a big tobacco company involved in the solution.

BAT has announced that human trials could begin as early as June as it seeks to see if the experimental vaccine it developed has potential to combat the virus. The trials would be dependent on the firm obtaining authorisation from drug regulators.

The company’s subsidiary Kentucky BioProcessing used a tobacco plant related process to develop the vaccine and BAT says that pre-clinical trials went well. The benefit of its approach, according to a spokesperson, is that the lead time to produce quantities of vaccine are drastically reduced from over half a year to a matter of weeks.

If anyone was thinking such news might meet with universal approval, then think again. Andrew Rowell, a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Bath, recently accused tobacco companies of seeing “an opportunity in the pandemic”.

Rowell plies a trade at the Tobacco Control Research Group at the University of Bath, an organisation funded by billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s Bloomberg Philanthropies. “Big tobacco has exploited the pandemic to push its branding and products. The industry never misses a trick when it comes to exploiting the chaos of international crises, including wars. The current pandemic is no exception,” writes Rowell. Some might argue that Bloomberg’s barmy army is also hell bent on exploiting the chaos of this international crisis.

There are examples,” he writes breathlessly, “of tobacco companies offering assistance in the form of ventilators, gels, PPE and even cash. They are even involved in trying to develop a vaccine.

Oh, the horror.

Oh, the evilness of it.

In March, as many governments began to lock down their populations, British American Tobacco began co-opting universal health messages. These were then placed on branded face masks, which were subsequently handed out to social media influencers for free.

Giving away PPE for free? That’s terrible.

Then, he says that BAT have used Twitter and Instagram, “as a COVID-19 marketing tool, especially in countries where oversight was likely to be less stringent. BAT simply changed the #todayiwill hashtag to #todayIwillstayhome, to reflect the messaging from governments for people to stay at home”.

So, Rowell is vilifying BAT for having the temerity to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, provide equipment to help offer treatment and personal protection, and to adopt a stance that supports government messages around the world?

Just imagine how many Bloomberg-funded tobacco controllers’ heads would explode if the BAT vaccine works.

Related:

  • “Coronavirus: big tobacco sees an opportunity in the pandemic”, The Conversation – [link]


 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, dog walker