BAT seeks support as smoking laws tighten

British American Tobacco, one of the world’s most maligned corporations, is hunting an agency to enhance its relationships with governments and appease their health concerns.

The search comes amid spiralling tobacco taxes and global pressure to outlaw smoking in public places.

A BAT spokeswoman said: 'We are continuously looking at new suppliers in a variety of areas, including regulation and CSR.' She
declined to discuss details of the brief.

BAT's public affairs function sits within the firm's regulatory arm. London-based corporate, trade and regulatory affairs manager Jeffries Briginshaw is overseeing the agency search.

Weber Shandwick worked for BAT in the UK until 2001. The firm has since handled most government relations in-house. It is thought the brief up for grabs could carry millions of pounds in fees.

The industry has faced significant obstacles to the way it does business. An EU ban on tobacco advertising came into effect in August.

BAT sold its 55 per cent stake in the BAR Formula One racing team this month to Honda – the EU ban prevents its brands' logos appearing on cars in European races.

BAT has 17 per cent global market share but only a six per cent share of the UK segment. The spokeswoman said BAT was trying to 'push Dunhill and Lucky Strike heavily' in the UK. It has turned to eastern Europe and Asia to drive growth as smoking in Western nations continues to decline.

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