On BAT Malaysia’s website, it states that the company’s business is ‘not about persuading people to smoke’ and that smoking ‘should only be for adults who are aware of the risks’.
This is BAT’s attempt to exonerate itself from liability should smokers try to sue the company because it can claim smokers got into the habit by their own choice after they have been warned of the health consequences. However this caveat emptor principle is outdated and does not apply here.
In reality the industry does promote to youth and non-smokers. It is known to blatantly violate laws or to circumvent them, such as by offering free cigarettes. Distribution of free cigarettes is carried out in Indonesia, even at events largely patronised by youth. In Vietnam despite a ban on person-to-person promotions, female sales promoters are seen going from table to table offering cigarettes in cafes, pubs and food outlets. There were reports that cigarette promoters have been visiting night entertainment outlets ad hoc in Malaysia to promote their products.
In the Philippines, child vendors (formerly known as ‘jump boys’) sell small items including loose cigarettes to make a living. In an internal industry document of Philip Morris employment of these kids have been described as an ‘accepted practice’.