The  Environmental Rights Action/ Friends of the Earth Nigeria  (ERA/FoEN) has  asked the Nigerian government to  investigate on-going ‘Experience Freshness’ secret parties being organised by the  British American Tobacco Nigeria (BATN) to promote its Pallmall cigarette  brand . The group said the parties were being used to influence under age persons to start smoking.
ERA/FoEN  in  a statement issued  in Lagos alleged  that BAT has staged the “smoking” parties secretly in  Sokoto, Kano, Ilorin, Ibadan while the most recent was held at Gateway Hotel, Kuto Abeokuta on Wednesday, August 13. It alleged that the tobacco company has concluded plans to stage the next party in Akure, Ondo state. “It is outrageous that BAT is still conducting  itself this way just weeks  after  a BBC documentary revealed how the corporation has been  marketing cigarettes to children across Africa and how it has used parties and concerts to lure people to smoking”, said ERA/FoEN Programme Manager, Akinbode Oluwafemi.
The group  said its investigation revealed that invitations cards were given out secretly  to youths  in secondary and tertiary institutions, there were no checks at the gate on age limits and young people especially the girls were encouraged to attend. 
Besides, there were heavy presence of bouncers  at the venues but girls especially the young ones were allowed to get into the party free of any check. There were free cigarettes at the gate and young persons were compelled to light and smoke cigarettes before entering, while there were many more sticks given out during the course of the party. There was also dancing completion with music IPOD being the star price while other consolation prices include packs of PallMall cigarettes and lighters. The group also said no one was allowed to enter the venue with a camera.
“We were shocked to discover that people holding the invitation cards were compelled to light up before entering the event venue after which the invitation cards were  withdrawn and confiscated . There were also skimpily branded girls handling out free cigarettes. Most of the girls were less than 18years and were using all tricks to influence people to smoke. It is outrageous. It should stop. This is not what we want for our youths”, Oluwafemi added
The group said that despite all the secrecy that BAT built round the smoking parties it has fool proof evidence of the secret smoking parties and urged government to begin immediate investigation particularly why a corporate organisation is  organising secret parties for youths and under-age  persons.
ERA warned that Nigeria cannot continue to condone such disregard for law and order and asked the government to take the necessary steps to protect Nigerian youths from tobacco marketing and addiction by taking the necessary disciplinary measures against the erring company.
BAT is not new to controversy about its marketing standards targeting young people in Nigeria. In 2003, the company used seven Hollywood movies to repackage it Rothmans brand which generated worldwide outrage against the company leading to it being forced to cancel the show.
In July the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) broadcast a one hour documentary which revealed how BAT has been marketing cigarette to African youths.
The smoking parties, it was gathered is a secretly planned programme to  shore up the sale of BAT’s Pallmall brand.

Philip Jakpor
Media Officer
080372


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ERA has recently received information that a group calling itself the "Niger Delta Coalition in the Diaspora" is still engaging itself in activities and communications giving the impression that it is linked with Environmental Rights Action (ERA).

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