The latest figures show tobacco companies are profiting from death and addiction at an even greater rate than we reported last month. The Guardian reports that revenues topped half a trillion dollars last year with profits over $35 billion. That’s nearly $6,000 dollars per smoking-related death. With smoking in decline in the west, more and more of the profits come from China and other developing countries. But big tobacco insists it’s not their fault that people in these countries are smoking in every greater numbers.
The big four tobacco firms – Philip Morris, BAT, Imperial and Japan Tobacco – insist they do not recruit new smokers in developing countries; rather, they grow sales by converting existing smokers of local tobacco products to their stable of aspirational Western brands – often “safer” products, they say.
A British American Tobacco spokesperson said: “There is constant speculation that we’re breaking into emerging markets to avoid regulation. But this is not true. We didn’t invent smoking, nor ‘export’ it anywhere, and we have been in many of these developing markets for hundreds of years – in the case of Africa, India and Brazil, since the early 1900s.
“As disposable income grows around the world, particularly in developing countries, more smokers are upgrading to premium brands rather than low quality local alternatives – and this doesn’t just apply to cigarettes.”
And yet almost 80% of the 6 million people killed last year by tobacco-related illnesses were from low- and middle-income countries, according to new research from health lobby campaigners.
The study identified tobacco as the No 1 killer in China, where smoking is said to cause 1.2 million deaths annually. It is also blamed for more than a third of male deaths in Kazakhstan and in Turkey – other major smoking nations.
China accounts for about 40% of the global market for tobacco. The big four western firms have been eager to gain a foothold, but the industry remains firmly in state control.
The New Tobacco Atlas – produced by the World Lung Foundation and the American Cancer Society and published in Singapore at the World Conference on Tobacco or Health – found that tobacco-related deaths had tripled in the last decade: they now account for more than 15% of male deaths and 7% of female deaths.
The study indicated cigarettes had become an average of 21.7% more affordable in low and middle-income countries.
Health campaigners insist the industry is in fact lobbying hard to block international standards on tobacco control. “The tobacco industry thrives on ignorance of the true harms of tobacco and using misinformation to subvert health policies that could save millions,” said Peter Baldini, chief executive of the World Lung Foundation.
In the recent Google debate on the legalisation of drugs, Elliot Spritzer and other opposing legalisation repeatedly raised the point that a legal market could end up in the hands of corporate psychopaths like these and that if that happened we would have a disaster on our hands. I’m beginning to think he has got a point. Mind you at least Marijuana doesn’t cause cancer.
- War, Famine, Pestilence and Tobacco (yourbrainondrugs.net)
- Global profits for tobacco trade total $35bn as smoking deaths top 6 million (The Guardian)
- 6 Million People Killed By Tobacco In 2011, This Century Could Claim 1 Billion Lives (inquisitr.com)
- China tobacco bigger than Wal-Mart? – CNN International (blog) (business.blogs.cnn.com)
- War on Drugs online debate – March 13, 7pm GMT (yourbrainondrugs.net)