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The finale of British American Tobacco Bangladesh’s [BATB] student competition ‘Battle of Minds 2017’ lost its guest of honour, Mayor Sayeed Khokon at the eleventh hour. He pulled out following pressure from civil society organisations that highlighted that the event was a promotional stunt targeting young people with pro-tobacco messaging.

“We congratulate Mayor Sayeed Khokon for taking a strong stand against the tobacco industry and for publicly supporting the health of young people above business interests. An investment in the health of our young people is a powerful long-term investment in the economy of Bangladesh,” said Syed Mahbubul Alam, The Union’s technical advisor on tobacco control for Bangladesh. “Although the Battle of Minds is pitched as an entertaining intellectual challenge for university students, it is in fact a thinly veiled marketing campaign for British American Tobacco and its deadly products.”

The Union and civil society organisations, including the Bangladesh Anti-Tobacco Alliance, Anti-Tobacco Media Alliance, Protyasha, TABINAJ and Work for a Better Bangladesh, wrote to the mayor and his team ahead of the event in November 2017, alerting them to BATB’s campaign targeting young people with their pro-tobacco messaging. The event was due to be held at the start of December in one of the city’s five star hotels.

The Battle of Minds campaign has been run for the last 13 years – a device for recruiting top university students to work for the company, while promoting tobacco products to a wide audience through media coverage of these popular events. The final round of the competition requires participants to complete BATB’s recruitment exam.

Tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship are banned in Bangladesh, but tobacco companies misinterpret the law to run promotional events such as Battle of Minds. The Union is working to close these loopholes, along with Government and civil society organisations in the country.

Bangladesh has one of the highest rates of tobacco use in the world, with over half adult men smoking on a daily basis and almost 30 percent using smokeless tobacco. The Union works to support evidence-based measures to reduce tobacco use in Bangladesh, as part of the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use.

 

 

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