Completion of South Asia Public Health Fellowship 2022

Institute of Public Health Bengaluru, India offered the South Asia Public Health fellowship to investigate the activities of British American Tobacco (BAT) affiliated with Four countries in South Asia , namely India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Following a rigorous selection procedure, seven fellows were selected representing two individuals from each country and one from India. Two themes were identified by the fellows with the advice from country experts in tobacco control to conduct a case study related to activities of BAT country affiliates. Cooperate Social Responsibility (CSR) Activities were identified as the theme of India and Bangladesh and Tobacco Taxation was selected by Nepal and Sri Lanka for their case studies.
During the period of six months duration fellowship enabled the individuals to analyse the tobacco industry activities and interference related to their theme, develop competencies in investigative research and get the opportunity to network with global and regional experts and stakeholders in tobacco control. Each fellow was awarded a valuable certificate of competence with successful completion of the fellowship in the virtual convocation ceremony.
Two members of CCT underwent the fellowship representing Sri Lanka and conducted a case study on “The role of Ceylon Tobacco Company (CTC) in Tobacco Tax in Sri Lanka”. Investigations revealed that BAT directly influenced the cigarette tax increase in 2016 and CTC reportedly sponsored media articles to criticise the government’s move to raise tobacco tax in 2017. CTC officials issued media statements highlighting ‘Government losing tax revenue, Loss of livelihoods involved in tobacco industry, Increasing beedi consumption and Increasing illicit trade’ as counter responses to the tax increase. Three studies undeclared the funders supported the claim showing the increase of illicit cigarettes and possible loss of government tax revenue due to tax increases.
Tactics of CTC were identified to evade tax and some industry documents exposed the interaction of CTC with the Ministry of Finance to influence the tax structure in 1994. Certain actions are taken and the arguments by certain Ministers of Finance in favour of the industry hinted at the possible interference of CTC in recent years.
More details and the final report of all case studies can be found via the following link.