Tobacco industry

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The tobacco industry comprises those persons and companies engaged in the growth, preparation for sale, shipment, advertisement, and distribution of tobacco and tobacco-related products. It is a global industry; tobacco can grow in any warm, moist environment, which means it can be farmed on all continents except Antarctica.


Tobacco, one of the most widely used addictive substances in the world[ citation needed ], is a plant native to the Americas and historically one of the half-dozen most important crops grown by American farmers.[ citation needed ] More specifically, tobacco refers to any of various plants of the genus Nicotiana (especially N. tabacum ) native to tropical America and widely cultivated for their leaves, which are dried and processed chiefly for smoking in pipes, cigarettes, and cigars; it is also cut to form chewing tobacco or ground to make snuff or dipping tobacco, as well as other less common preparations. From 1617 to 1793 tobacco was the most valuable staple export from the English American mainland colonies and the United States.[ citation needed ] Until the 1960s, the United States not only grew but also manufactured and exported more tobacco than any other country.[ citation needed ]

Tobacco is an agricultural commodity product, similar in economic terms to agricultural foodstuffs: the price is in part determined by crop yields, which vary depending on local weather conditions. The price also varies by specific species or cultivar grown, the total quantity on the market ready for sale, the area where it is grown, the health of the plants, and other characteristics individual to product quality.

Since 1964 conclusive medical evidence of the deadly effects of tobacco consumption has led to a sharp decline in official support for producers and manufacturers of tobacco, although it contributes to the agricultural, fiscal, manufacturing, and exporting sectors of the economy. Laws around the world now often have some restrictions on smoking, but almost 6 trillion cigarettes are still produced each year, representing over a 12% increase since the year 2000. [1] China accounts for over 40% of current world production. [1] Tobacco is often heavily taxed to gain revenues for governments and as an incentive for people not to smoke. [2]


For a history of how tobacco has been grown and marketed, see tobacco, smoking and articles on similar topics.

Position of industry

The phrase "tobacco industry" generally refers to the companies involved in the manufacture of cigarettes, cigars, snuff, chewing tobacco and pipe tobacco. China National Tobacco Co. has become the largest tobacco company in the world by volume. Following extensive merger and acquisition activity in the 1990s and 2000s, four firms dominate international markets - in alphabetical order:

Altria, formerly called the Philip Morris Cos. (Philip Morris Companies Inc.), still owns the Philip Morris tobacco business in the United States, but Philip Morris International has been fully independent since 2008. In most countries these companies either have long-established dominance, or have purchased the major domestic producer or producers (often a former state monopoly). Until 2014 the United States had one other substantial independent firm, Lorillard, which Reynolds American, Inc. acquired. India has its own major player, ITC Limited (25.4%-owned by British American Tobacco). A small[ quantify ] number of state monopolies survive, as well as some small independent firms.

Tobacco advertising is becoming increasingly restricted by the governments of countries around the world citing health issues as a reason to restrict tobaccos appeal[ citation needed ]

Industry outlook in the United States

Anti-smoking ad, 1905 Smoking Dangers - 1905 new.png
Anti-smoking ad, 1905

The tobacco industry in the United States has suffered greatly since the mid-1990s, when it was successfully sued by several U.S. states. The suits claimed that tobacco causes cancer, that companies in the industry knew this, and that they deliberately understated the significance of their findings, contributing to the illness and death of many citizens in those states.

The industry was found to have decades of internal memos confirming in detail that tobacco (which contains nicotine) is both addictive and carcinogenic (cancer-causing). The industry had long denied that nicotine is addictive. [3]

The suit resulted in a large cash settlement being paid by a group of tobacco companies to the states that sued. Further, since the suit was settled, other individuals have come forth, in class action lawsuits, claiming individual damages. New suits of this nature will probably continue for a long time.[ citation needed ]

Since the settlement is a heavy tax on the profits of the tobacco industry in the US, regressive against smokers, and further settlements being made only add to the financial burden of these companies, it is debatable if the industry has a money-producing long term outlook.[ citation needed ]

The tobacco industry has historically been largely successful in this litigation process, with the majority of cases being won by the industry. During the first 42 years of tobacco litigation (between 1954 and 1996) the industry maintained a clean record in litigation [4] thanks to tactics described in a R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company internal memo as "the way we won these cases, to paraphrase Gen. Patton, is not by spending all of Reynolds' money, but by making the other son of a bitch spend all of his." [5] Between 1995 and 2005 only 59% of cases were won by the tobacco industry either outright or on appeal in the US, [6] but the continued success of the industry's efforts to win these cases is questionable. In Florida, the industry has lost 77 of the 116 "Engle progeny" cases that have gone to trial. [7] The U.S. Supreme Court has also denied the industry's major grounds for appeal of Engle cases. [8]

In June 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama signed into law the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act which has been called a "sweeping anti-smoking" bill. [9] Among other restrictions, this Act banned the use of any constituent, additive, herb or spice that adds a "characterizing flavor" to the tobacco product or smoke (Section 907)(a)(1)(A). [10] The aim of this ban is to prevent children and teenagers from becoming addicted to cigarettes at a young age with the US Department of Health and Human Services citing that "studies have shown that 17 year old smokers are three times as likely to use flavored cigarettes as are smokers over the age of 25". [11] This ban however does not apply to menthol cigarettes, which are exempt from the bill.

Lawsuits against the tobacco industry are primarily restricted to the United States due to differences in legal systems in other countries. Many businesses class ongoing lawsuits as a cost of doing business in the US and feel their revenue will be only marginally affected by the activities.

Large tobacco companies have entered the electronic cigarette market by either buying some of the small e-cigarette companies or by starting their own e-cigarette companies. [12] By 2014 all the major multinational tobacco companies had entered the e-cigarette market. [13] They did so either by buying existing e-cigarette companies (including Ruyan, the original Chinese e-cigarette company, which was bought by Imperial Tobacco) or by developing their own products. [13] A 2017 review states, "The tobacco industry dominates the e-cigarette market." [14] All of the large tobacco companies are selling e-cigarettes. [15] A 2017 review states, "Small companies initially dominated the ENDS market, and these firms had no links to the tobacco industry. Today, however, all transnational tobacco companies sell these products. Increased concentration of the ENDS market in the hands of the transnational tobacco companies is concerning to the public health community, given the industry's legacy of obfuscating many fundamental truths about their products and misleading the public with false claims, including that low-tar and so-called "light" cigarettes would reduce the harms associated with smoking. Although industry representatives are claiming interest in ENDS because of their harm-reduction potential, many observers believe that profit remains the dominant motivation." [16]

Major tobacco companies are dominating the political and policy-making environments just as they have in conventional cigarette policy making. [13] As they have done to influence tobacco control policies for conventional cigarettes, the large companies often try to stay out of sight and work through third parties that can obscure their links to the tobacco industry. [13] The one difference from the historical pattern of industry efforts to shape tobacco policy from behind the scenes is that there are also genuine independent sellers of e-cigarettes and associated users (so-called vape shops) who are not necessarily being directed by the cigarette companies. [13] These smaller operators are, however, losing market share to the big tobacco companies, and the real political power is now being exercised by the cigarette companies. [13] The cigarette companies try to take advantage of the existence of independent players while acting through the industry's traditional allies and front groups. [13]

Tobacco control

On May 11, 2004, the U.S. became the 108th country to sign the World Health Organization's Global Treaty on Tobacco Control. This treaty places broad restrictions on the sale, advertising, shipment, and taxation of tobacco products. The U.S. has not yet ratified this treaty in its senate and does not yet have a schedule for doing so.

Most recently, there has been discussion within the tobacco control community of transforming the tobacco industry through the replacement of tobacco corporations by other types of business organizations that can be established to provide tobacco to the market while not attempting to increase market demand. [17]

On February 20, 2007, the US Supreme Court ruled that the Altria Group (formerly Philip Morris) did not have to pay $79.5 million in punitive damages awarded to Mayola Williams in a 1999 Oregon court ruling, when she sued Phillip Morris for responsibility in the cancer death of her husband, Jesse Williams. [18] The Supreme Court's decision overturns a ruling made by the Oregon Supreme Court that upheld the award. [19]

On April 3, 2008, The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit threw out an $800 billion class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of a group or class of people who smoked light cigarettes. The plaintiffs' lawyers were confident that they would be able to win this suit due to the success of the Schwab case [20] wherein tobacco companies were found guilty of fraud-like charges because they were selling the idea that light cigarettes were safer than regular cigarettes. The ruling by the three-judge panel will not allow the suit to be pursued as a class, but instead need proof for why individual smokers chose light cigarettes over regular cigarettes. [21]

Production by country or region

Map of tobacco production across the world TobaccoYield.png
Map of tobacco production across the world

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates the following production of unprocessed tobacco by country/region in 2000. (Figures are in thousands of tonnes.)[ citation needed ]

Country or regionProduction in thousands of tons
Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg  China 2,298.8
Flag of India.svg  India 595.4
Flag of Brazil.svg  Brazil 520.7
Flag of the United States.svg  United States 408.2
Flag of Europe.svg  European Union 314.5
Flag of Zimbabwe.svg  Zimbabwe 204.9
Flag of Turkey.svg  Turkey 193.9
Flag of Indonesia.svg  Indonesia 166.6
Flag of Russia.svg  Russia 116.8
Flag of Malawi.svg  Malawi 108.0

Cigarette Production by Factory

Much of global tobacco production is used in the manufacturing of cigarettes. The following is a chart compiled by Dr. Robert Proctor detailing the largest cigarette factories, accompanied by their estimated annual death toll due to the harms of cigarettes to health. [22]

The tobacco industry has had a long relationship with the entertainment industry. In silent era movies, back-lit smoke was often used by filmmakers to create sense of mystery and sensuality in a scene. Later, cigarettes were deliberately placed in the hands of Hollywood stars as an early phase of product placement, [23] until health regulating bodies tightened rules on tobacco advertisement and anti-smoking groups pressured actors and studio executives against such tactics. Big Tobacco has since been the subject focus of films such as the docudrama The Insider (1999) and Thank You For Smoking (2005).

These issues have also constituted a recurring storyline in the AMC series Mad Men , from season 1 beginning with the pilot episode ("Smoke Gets In Your Eyes") through season 7's midseason finale, "Waterloo".

See also

Related Research Articles

Altria American multinational corporation

Altria Group, Inc. is an American corporation and one of the world's largest producers and marketers of tobacco, cigarettes and related products. It operates worldwide and is headquartered in unincorporated Henrico County, Virginia, just outside the city of Richmond.

Tobacco smoking practice of burning tobacco and inhaling the resulting smoke

Tobacco smoking is the practice of smoking tobacco and inhaling tobacco smoke. A broader definition may include simply taking tobacco smoke into the mouth, and then releasing it, as is done by some with tobacco pipes and cigars. The practice is believed to have begun as early as 5000–3000 BC in Mesoamerica and South America. Tobacco was introduced to Eurasia in the late 17th century by European colonists, where it followed common trade routes. The practice encountered criticism from its first import into the Western world onwards but embedded itself in certain strata of a number of societies before becoming widespread upon the introduction of automated cigarette-rolling apparatus.

Passive smoking inhalation of smoke by persons other than the intended active smoker

Passive smoking is the inhalation of smoke, called secondhand smoke (SHS), or environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), by persons other than the intended "active" smoker. It occurs when tobacco smoke enters an environment, causing its inhalation by people within that environment. Exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke causes disease, disability, and death. The health risks of secondhand smoke are a matter of scientific consensus. These risks have been a major motivation for smoke-free laws in workplaces and indoor public places, including restaurants, bars and night clubs, as well as some open public spaces.

Nicotine marketing

Nicotine marketing is the marketing of nicotine-containing products or use. Traditionally, the tobacco industry markets cigarette smoking, but it is increasingly marketing other products, such as electronic cigarettes and heat-not-burn products. Products are marketed through social media, stealth marketing, mass media, and sponsorship. Expenditures on nicotine marketing are in the tens of billions a year; in the US alone, spending was over US$1 million per hour in 2016; in 2003, per-capita marketing spending was $290 per adult smoker, or $45 per inhabitant. Nicotine marketing is increasingly regulated; some forms of nicotine advertising are banned in many countries. The World Health Organization recommends a complete tobacco advertising ban.

Health effects of tobacco circumstances, mechanisms, and factors of tobacco consumption on human health

Tobacco use has predominantly negative effects on human health and concern about health effects of tobacco has a long history. Research has focused primarily on cigarette tobacco smoking.

Operation Berkshire is the name of a program initiated in 1976 by seven of the world's major tobacco companies aimed at promoting "controversy" over smoking and disease.

A menthol cigarette is a cigarette flavored with the compound menthol.

Merit (cigarette)

Merit is an American brand of cigarettes, currently owned and manufactured by Philip Morris USA in the United States and Philip Morris International outside the United States.

Tobacco harm reduction (THR) is a public health strategy to lower the health risks to individuals and wider society associated with using tobacco products. It is an example of the concept of harm reduction, a strategy for dealing with the abuse of other drugs. Tobacco smoking is widely acknowledged as a leading cause of illness and death, and reducing smoking is vital to public health.

Electronic cigarette Device usually used to quit or be an alternative to tobacco

An electronic cigarette, also known as e-cigarette among other names, is a handheld battery-powered vaporizer that simulates smoking and provides some of the behavioral aspects of smoking, including the hand-to-mouth action of smoking, but without burning tobacco. Using an e-cigarette is known as "vaping" and the user is referred to as a "vaper." Instead of cigarette smoke, the user inhales an aerosol, commonly called vapor. E-cigarettes typically have a heating element that atomizes a liquid solution called e-liquid. E-cigarettes are automatically activated by taking a puff; others turn on manually by pressing a button. Some e-cigarettes look like traditional cigarettes, but they come in many variations. Most versions are reusable, though some are disposable. There are first-generation, second-generation, third-generation, and fourth-generation devices. There are also pod mod devices that use nicotine in the form of a protonated nicotine, rather than free-base nicotine found in earlier generations. E-liquids usually contain propylene glycol, glycerin, nicotine, flavorings, additives, and differing amounts of contaminants. E-liquids are also sold without propylene glycol, nicotine, or flavors.

Stanton Arnold Glantz is an American professor, author, and leading tobacco control activist. Glantz is Professor of Medicine in the Division of Cardiology, the American Legacy Foundation Distinguished Professor of Tobacco Control, and director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) School of Medicine. Glantz's research focuses on the health effects of tobacco smoking.

Ventilated cigarettes are considered to have a milder flavor than regular cigarettes. These cigarette brands may be listed as having lower levels of tar ("low-tar"), nicotine, or other chemicals as "inhaled" by a "smoking machine". However, the scientific evidence is that switching from regular to light or low-tar cigarettes does not reduce the health risks of smoking or lower the smoker's exposure to the nicotine, tar, and carcinogens present in cigarette smoke.

<i>Cipollone v. Liggett Group, Inc.</i> United States Supreme Court case

Cipollone v. Liggett Group, Inc., 505 U.S. 504 (1992), was a United States Supreme Court case. In a split opinion, the Court held that the Surgeon General's warning did not preclude lawsuits by smokers against tobacco companies on the basis of several claims. The case examined whether tobacco companies could be liable for not warning the consumer "adequately" of the dangers of cigarettes as well as ultimately held the stance that smoking was in fact a free choice. The ruling also questioned the Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act of 1965 to determine whether the warning labels on the cigarette products by law had to be less or more alarming than the warning issued.

Tobacco politics

Tobacco politics refers to the politics surrounding the use and distribution of tobacco.

The majority of lifelong smokers begin smoking habits before the age of 24, which makes the college years a critical time for tobacco companies to convince college students to pick up the habit of cigarette smoking. Cigarette smoking in college is seen as a social activity by those who partake in it, and more than half of the students that are users do not consider themselves smokers. This may be because most college students plan to quit smoking by the time that they graduate.

Cigarette smoking for weight loss

Cigarette smoking for weight loss is a weight control method whereby one consumes tobacco, often in the form of cigarettes, to decrease one's appetite. The practice dates to early knowledge of nicotine as an appetite suppressant.

There are various types of heat-not-burn products. Heat-not-burn tobacco products heat up tobacco using a battery-powered heating system. As it starts to heat the tobacco, it generates an aerosol that contains nicotine and other chemicals, that is inhaled. They also generate smoke. Gases, liquid and solid particles, and tar are found in the emissions. They contain nicotine, which is the reason these products are highly addictive. They also contain additives not found in tobacco, and are frequently flavored. It heats tobacco leaves at a lower temperature than traditional cigarettes, which is about 250–350 °C. These products provide some of the behavioral aspects of smoking. The heat source may be embedded; external; or a heated sealed chamber; to deliver nicotine using tobacco leaf. Some use product-specific customized cigarettes. Without using an electrically controlled heating system, there is a device that uses a carbon heat source that, once lit, passes heat to a processed tobacco plug. There are devices that use cannabis. They are not electronic cigarettes. They can overlap with e-cigarettes such as a combination of an e-cigarette and a heat-not-burn tobacco product, for the use of tobacco or e-liquid.

United States v. Philip Morris USA, Inc. was a case in which the United States District Court for the District of Columbia held several major tobacco companies liable for violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act by engaging in numerous acts of fraud to further a conspiracy to deceive the American public about nicotine addiction and the health effects of cigarettes and environmental tobacco smoke.

History of nicotine marketing

The history of nicotine marketing stretches back centuries. Nicotine marketing has continually developed new techniques in response to historical circumstances, societal and technological change, and regulation. Countermarketing has also changed, in both message and commoness, over the decades, often in response to pro-nicotine marketing.

The composition of the emissions generated from heat-not-burn products are generally lower than that found in cigarette smoke. This is due to the comparatively low temperatures, the filter systems, and physical design. The composition of what is produced is complex. The main toxicants found in the emissions of cigarette smoke are also found in the emissions of these products in varying concentrations. The aerosol generated contains levels of nicotine and cancer-causing chemicals that are comparable to regular cigarettes. The emissions contained 84% of the nicotine found in regular cigarettes.


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Further reading