Apia-based cigarette manufacturer looks to expand its brand in local market
Apia-based British American Tobacco (BAT) Samoa, which manufactures Rothman cigarette brand, has shown interest in supplying cigarettes for the American Samoa market. The company has been told by the local Department of Commerce to put an official request in writing.
BAT Samoa’s interest was shared with DOC director Keniseli Lafaele and Human Resources Department director Sonny Thompson during a meeting with Samoa deputy prime minister Fonotoe Pierre Laufolo in June this year in Apia, when the two ASG officials were in Samoa for meetings with their Samoa counterparts on several issues.
(BAT also manufactures and sells in the territory their cigarette brands Pall Mall, Benson & Hedges, and Kools.)
Lafaele said a BAT representative was present during the meeting and when given a chance to speak, the official expressed their interest in supplying cigarettes — BAT brand — to the territory that's currently being supplied by BAT USA, whose agreement to supply the local market will expire later this year.
“BAT Samoa would like to take up that opportunity at the expiration of BAT USA’s contract,” Lafaele told Samoa News yesterday. He recalled the BAT Samoa representative also stated the two companies are the same.
“We informed the BAT Samoa representative to put his request in writing and forward it to us and we then would review it and respond regarding his request appropriately,” said Lafaele, who noted that ASG hasn’t heard back from the representative.
However, he believes this is part of the Samoa task force team’s ongoing discussions in preparation for the meeting of the two Samoa’s task force teams, leading up to the inter Samoa talks or the Samoa Summit, which is expected to be held later this year.
Asked for any other comments on this matter, Lafaele said tobacco is one of the leading causes of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) — the major driver of health care costs in the world; as it is in the territory and sadly, a leading cause of chronic diseases and death in the world including the territory.
And because of this, cigarettes are heavily taxed in the states and the territories — perhaps other countries as well — resulting in high prices for these items, he said.
“Do high prices deter people from smoking? The verdict varies, but tobacco remains a reliable and lucrative source of government revenues,” he said. “The demand for tobacco is relatively inelastic — less sensitive to the movements of tobacco prices and other factors. Kind of like one's desire to play bingo or golf for a wager — some monetary reward.”
“To these consumers of tobacco, bingo or golf- regardless of one’s income level or wealth, existence of other more socially acceptable uses of financial resources such as water bottles for school children — because water fountains at school don't function or there's an ASPA 'boil your water before drinking' order — they still buy tobacco, play bingo, and play golf,” he said. “To them, the 'high' they get from these consumptions is a form of income, psychological income…something advertisers are keenly aware of.”
And does he favor BAT Samoa selling cigarettes to the territory over BAT USA? Lafaele said, “This should make for interesting and lively two-Samoa task force discussions so I won't spoil it for the members and the audience.”
Samoa News notes the health requirement, such as filter and tobacco ingredients may differ from country to country, including restrictions by the US Surgeon General’s Office, which is the operational head of the US Public Health Service. For example, one such requirement is the US Surgeon General’s Warning printed on the side of the US cigarette package — which is a must, but not necessarily part of the Samoa manufacturer’s product.
Bringing a ‘foreign’ manufactured cigarette into the territory may therefore need US approval through certain departments, including the territory’s health department.