Cancer Sticks: Big tobacco makes Union Carbide look like amateurs

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 tobacco, 600 smoking-related deaths every day

Youtube: The Tobacco Industry is Burning a Hole in Indonesia’s Population

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.

World Health Organization, Tobacco Fact sheet

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.

Philip Morris waging global effort to hobble anti-smoking treaty, files show

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.

Threats, bullying, lawsuits: tobacco industry’s dirty war for the African market

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.

Big tobacco targets the young in poor countries – with deadly consequences

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.

Malawi’s forests going up in smoke as tobacco industry takes heavy toll


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”.

Part 1: Inside Philip Morris’ campaign to subvert the global anti-smoking treaty

Part 2: Philip Morris takes aim at young people in India, and health officials are fuming

Documentcloud: Philip Morris documents released by Reuters


  1. says

    I can’t think of another legal product that has no other purpose than to create addicts, especially one as dangerous as tobacco.

    This is how insidious capitalism is. They create drug addicts and then to keep the money flowing, they lobby to create more drug addicts.

  2. says

    The US has decided to restrict sales of a certain poisonous product within the US, but has allowed its capitalists to export the poison. Because: free markets. Or something.

  3. chigau (違う) says

    Years ago (about 25) in Japan, I bought some cigarettes named ‘Black Death’.
    One of the statements on the pack was along the lines of:
    The only legal product that, when used as directed, will kill you.
    I bought some and saved the package and carried my own smokes in it
    until someone stole it.