On 31 August 2017, following BAT’s acquisition of Reynolds American, BAT announced that Bowles, then Regional Director for Asia-Pacific, was appointed to the newly created position of Chief Operating Officer for its international business (excluding the United States).
Career with British American Tobacco
Bowles joined BAT in 2004 and has held several leadership positions including:
- Regional Director for Asia Pacific (2013)
- Regional Director for the Americas (2011)
- Regional Director for Western Europe (2009)
- Managing Director BAT Malaysia (2007)
- Chairman of BAT France (2005)
Lobbying/Collaborating with Government Officials on Illicit Tobacco Trade
In January 2017, in his role as Regional Director for Asia Pacific, Bowles led a BAT delegation to meet with Pakistan’s Finance Minister Mohammed Ishaq Dar and senior Government officials to discuss steps to curb the production and smuggling of illicit tobacco.
Following the meeting, Dar said that his government “firmly believed that no economy could grow without the participation of the business community”, and that it was “extending maximum facilitation to private sector to enable it to play its due role in increasing economic opportunities for the people”. Dar added that his government had “taken a number of steps to curb the production and smuggling of illicit tobacco products”. What ‘steps’ Dar referred to is unclear, but Bowles commented that the government’s anti-illicit trade measures “would facilitate legal and quality tobacco business as well as ensure proper taxation of such businesses’.
A few months later, newspaper Pakistan Today reported that the Pakistan government were to reduce tobacco tax. Despite State Minister Saira Afzal Tarar’s recommendation to increase specific tobacco tax, Finance Minister Dar decided to decrease tax, allegedly to reduce illicit tobacco trade. Contrary to advice from the World Health Organization, which states that increasing tobacco taxes are very effective in reducing tobacco demand, the Pakistan government claimed that “if tobacco prices were increased, people would start using smuggled and non-custom paid cigarettes”. This is a well-known tobacco industry argument. For example, BAT claimed on its website (accessed in September 2017) that “’Shock’ increases in tobacco taxes often fail in both these goals [smokers to quit smoking or to cut down drastically] as consumers increasingly look towards the black market instead”. BAT provided no evidence to support this claim.
In 2010, in his role as Regional Director for Western Europe, Bowles was involved in illicit tobacco trade prevention talks with the EU. In July that year he was an official witness to the signing of an agreement between the European Commission and BAT to jointly combat illicit trade in July 2010. Health groups and politicians strongly criticised the Commission for collaborating with tobacco companies on the illicit trade.
A press release by health group Action for Smoking or Health warned that tobacco companies may use such collaborations to stop Government action to reduce smoking and tobacco consumption, but also highlighted that they are still suspected of complicity in the illicit tobacco trade themselves.
In 2014, BAT was fined £650,000 for oversupplying its hand-rolled tobacco to Belgium.
- For more information, visit our page on BAT Involvement in Tobacco Smuggling.
Lobbying Against the Tobacco Products Directive
In 2011, Bowles used EU Better Regulation principles to attempt to undermine tobacco legislation in the European Union (EU). These principles are aimed at improving public policy making and reducing regulatory burden, and mandate that new and changing EU policies undergo an impact assessment (IA), and that those affected by the policy are consulted early in the policy process. Health experts warned that these principles can be misused by tobacco companies to weaken the EU’s interpretation of Article 5.3 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, and try to secure inclusion in policy discussions. This concern is particularly pertinent given evidence that BAT, collaborating with other corporations producing products potentially harmful to health, was instrumental in promoting the EU Better Regulation agenda in the 1990s, anticipating that it would increase their influence over health policy.
When the European Commission undertook an IA of the revision of the EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD), Bowles challenged the legitimacy of the initial IA undertaken by RAND Europe. Writing directly to Marianne Klingbeil, then Acting Chair of the Commission’s Impact Assessment Board, Bowles claimed RAND’s IA did not meet ‘Commission standards’ and that BAT had ‘serious concerns for the next steps of the proposed regulatory process’. Bowles included a BAT-funded expert opinion prepared by Professor Jonathan Klick from the University of Pennsylvania Law School supporting BAT’s position.
Rejecting BAT’s claims, Klingbeil wrote to Bowles:
- “In your enclosure you call for stakeholders to be given further opportunity to comment on the draft impact assessment. However, as outlined in the recent Smart Regulation Communication, the Commission does not believe it is necessary to undertake specific consultations on draft impact assessments in addition to the range of other consultation mechanisms which are used by its services”
- British American Tobacco
- Price and Tax
- Tobacco Smuggling
- BAT Involvement in Tobacco Smuggling
- EU Tobacco Products Directive Revision
- EU Better Regulation
- British American Tobacco, Management Board: Our leadership team, undated, accessed September 2017
- British American Tobacco, Management Board Changes, News Release, 31 August 2017, accessed September 2017
- Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation, Govt Takes Steps to Curb Production, Smuggling of Illicit Tobacco products: DAR, Radio Pakistan, 19 January 2017, accessed September 2017
- Associated Press of Pakistan, Tobacco delegation meets Ishaq Dar, 18 January 2017, accessed September 2017
- World Health Organization, Taxation, undated, accessed September 2017
- F.J. Chaloupka, K. Straif, M.E. Leon, Effectiveness of tax and price policies in tobacco control, Tobacco Control, 2011, 20(3)235-238
- H. Khan Wazir, Govt imperils health initiatives by decreasing tax and tobacco, Pakistan Today, 22 June 2017, accessed September 2017
- British American Tobacco, Pricing and tax. Striking the right balance is crucial, BAT website, undated, accessed September 2017
- European Commission, European Commission and British American Tobacco sign agreement to combat illicit trade in tobacco, Press Release, 15 July 2010, accessed September 2017
- Q. Ariès, J. Panichi, EU struggles to renew deal with Big Tobacco, Politico.eu, last updated 14 December 2015, accessed September 2017
- Action on Smoking or Health, The Two Faces of the Tobacco Industry Shouting about Illicit Trade While Still Complicit in it, Press Release, 31 May 2015, accessed May 2017
- J. Doward, BAT fined for oversupplying tobacco in low-tax European jurisdictions, The Guardian, 16 November 2014, accessed September 2017
- K.E. Smith, A.B. Gilmore, G. Fooks, et al, Tobacco industry attempts to undermine Article 5.3 and the “good governance” trap, Tobacco Control 2009 18:509-511
- K. Smith, G. Fooks, J. Collin, et al, “Working the System”- British American Tobacco’s influence on the European Union Treaty and its implications for policy: an analysis of internal tobacco industry documents. PLoS Med 2010; 7: e1001629
- J. Bowles, Letter from Jack Bowles to Marianne Klingbeil dated 11 January 2011, Released under freedom of information and made publicly available via asktheeu.org, accessed September 2017
- M. Klingbeil, Letter to Jack Bowles dated 26 January 2011, Released under freedom of information and made publicly available via asktheeu.org, accessed September 2017