The British American Tobacco has denied that its marketing strategies target the younger generation by deliberately situating tobacco products near primary and secondary schools in Nigeria.
In a statement on Monday, the company said it was committed to ensuring adherence to Nigeria's tobacco laws as well as complying with international marketing principles.
"We are proud to state that we are a reputable and responsible law-abiding corporate organisation, who market and sell our tobacco products in a responsible manner and strictly adhere to our own self-imposed International Marketing Principles that governs, regulates and monitors our marketing approach, within our controlled marketing universe, in countries in which we operate," said Abimbola Okoya, Area Head, Corporate Affairs, British American Tobacco.
"Our principles aim to prevent youth access and smoking at point of sale and discourages the sale of tobacco products near schools.
"It also strongly discourages the use of child labour at tobacco retail points to prevent minors from selling and promoting the use of tobacco products and we strictly monitor our Trade partners with a view to ensuring we do not partner with anyone who engages underaged persons to sell our products."
A report by the Nigerian Tobacco Control Research Group last week showed how points of sales of tobacco products were found within 100 metres of schools surveyed across five cities in the country.
The cigarettes predominantly observed in the study included Benson & Hedges produced by British American Tobacco Nigeria; Rothmans produced by Philip Morris International and BATN; London and Pallmall manufactured by BATN; and Oris marketed by Oriental Group.
The report, 'Big Tobacco, Tiny Targets,' surveyed 221 schools in Lagos, Ibadan, Enugu, Lafia, and Kaduna, and 87 percent of the schools (193) had a point of tobacco sale within 100 metres of the school premises; in 66 percent (127 schools) of the 193, point of sales were within visible distance of the immediate school environment.
Nigeria's tobacco law, as well as the Article 16 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, prohibit the sale of tobacco products in any manner by which they are directly accessible, such as store shelves. They also prohibit the sale of cigarettes in single sticks or in small packets which increase its affordability.
Last June, the Nigerian government announced nine regulations in the Nigeria Tobacco Control Act that would be implemented which included the prohibition of the sale of cigarettes to persons below age 18 and ban on the sale of cigarettes in single sticks.
The regulations are still awaiting approval by the National Assembly.
Ms. Okoya said British American Tobacco remains a "principled international organisation of repute" who continues to contribute positively to the Nigerian economy in a responsible manner.
"We are committed to ensuring adherence to the Tobacco Control Act and regulations governing the sale and promotion of tobacco products in Nigeria.
"We will continue to advocate and drive for compliance to our International Marketing Principles now and in the future."