Across the developed world, tobacco addiction is in heavy decline for a variety of reasons – facts about the risks of smoking, education, laws restricting where people can pollute the air, heavy fines for violators (both the addicts and the dealers), concern for people’s health, declining wages, etc. Even in countries that have been filth pits of cigarette smoke (e.g. Japan, South Korea, Russia, China, et al), the trend is the same.
Out of desperation to find new markets, the drug dealers are seeking new markets: Africa and Asia, Indonesia being one of the worst examples. Which is exactly how the tobacco companies want it. In the third link (a news item from 2012), the reporter says “There is no minimum age for buying cigarettes. […] Cigarettes are today the number two item of household expenditure, after rice.”
Youtube: Indonesia’s tobacco children
In the past these nations were poor and could not afford cigarettes, so tobacco companies never tried hard to infiltrate their societies. But as wages rise across Asia and Africa, laws against smoking remain lax (due to criminal lobbying by cigarette companies to prevent new laws) and wealthy countries cease smoking, these peddlars of filth are desperate to replace their old markets with new and equally profitable ones.
Updated May 2017
Nearly 80% of the more than 1 billion smokers worldwide live in low- and middle-income countries, where the burden of tobacco-related illness and death is heaviest.
Tobacco users who die prematurely deprive their families of income, raise the cost of health care and hinder economic development.
What galls me the most about it is the attitude of developed countries, G20 et al, who do little to prevent this. The WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) is only a treaty, an agreement to reduce smoking globally with no physical force behind it (e.g. no power to arrest, no seizure and forfeiture of assets). Philip Morris openly flaunts and breaks the law in India with little or no consequences due to intimidation and bribery.
The countries which are quitting and banning tobacco are doing nothing to prevent these companies from targeting these countries and creating new victims. It makes you wonder if the demographics of African and Asian countries plays a part in their indifference.
Cigarette companies lie about “economic damage to African countries” by blocking advertising and sales, but there is even greater economic risk by allowing death merchants to operate without restrictions. Health costs will skyrocket, and both business trade and tourism will dwindle as people and companies from G20 nations (whose smoking populations are decreasing) will refuse do deals with or stop travelling to countries where smoking is rampant. The African and Asian economic booms will start to slow, driving people back into poverty while still addicted to cigarettes and their health deteriorates.
Malawi is one of the poorest countries in Africa, and one of the biggest exporters of tobacco leaves. This is doubly damaging to the country: the price of tobacco is decling which means lower incomes; the deforestation of the country is akin to Brazil; and food production sharply declined while foolishly chasing tobacco revenues.
Surprisingly, Reuters has performed actual journalism and produced a damning two part investigation on Philip Morris’s tactics and activities, and released its documents publicly. PM labels anti-smoking laws (weaker than laws in G20 countries) as a “regulatory runaway train”, and those trying to prevent smoking in developing countries as “anti-tobacco extremists”.
Documentcloud: Philip Morris documents released by Reuters