(Independent) The unstoppable march of the tobacco giants
How the industry ruthlessly exploits the developing world – its young, poor and uneducated
More than half a century after scientists uncovered the link between smoking and cancer – triggering a war between health campaigners and the cigarette industry – big tobacco is thriving.
Despite the known catastrophic effects on health of smoking, profits from tobacco continue to soar and sales of cigarettes have increased: they have risen from 5,000 billion sticks a year in the 1990s to 5,900 billion a year in 2009. They now kill more people annually than alcohol, Aids, car accidents, illegal drugs, murders and suicides combined.
On Tuesday, people around the globe will mark World No Tobacco Day – a distant hope.
The West now consumes fewer and fewer of the world’s cigarettes: richer countries have changed – from smoking 38 per cent of the world total in 1990, they cut down to 24 per cent in 2009. Meanwhile, the developing world’s share in global cigarette sales has increased sharply, rising to 76 per cent in 2009.
An investigation by The Independent on Sunday reveals that tobacco firms have taken advantage of lax marketing rules in developing countries by aggressively promoting cigarettes to new, young consumers, while using lawyers, lobby groups and carefully selected statistics to bully governments that attempt to quash the industry in the West.
In 2010, the big four tobacco companies – Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco, Japan Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco – made more than £27bn profit, up from £26bn in 2009.
The price of their profits will be measured in human lives. In the 20th century, some 100 million people were killed by tobacco use. If current trends continue, tobacco will kill a billion people in the 21st century.