Tobacco industry

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The tobacco industry comprises those persons and companies who are engaged in the growth, preparation for sale, shipment, advertisement, and distribution of tobacco and tobacco-related products. [1] It is a global industry; tobacco can grow in any warm, moist environment, which means it can be farmed on all continents except Antarctica.


According to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the "tobacco industry" encompasses tobacco manufacturers, wholesale distributors and importers of tobacco products. This evidence-based treaty expects its 181 ratified member states to implement public health policies with respect to tobacco control "to protect present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke." [2]

Tobacco, one of the most widely used addictive substances in the world, [3] is a plant native to the Americas and historically one of the most important crops grown by American farmers. [4] 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 cash crop export from British North America and the United States. [5] Until the 1960s, the United States grew, manufactured and exported more tobacco than any other country. [6]

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. Policy and law restricting tobacco smoking has increased globally, but almost 6 trillion cigarettes are still produced each year, representing an increase of over 12% since the year 2000. [7] Tobacco is often heavily taxed to gain revenues for governments and as an incentive for people not to smoke. [8]


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 as well as the spinoff of Altria's international tobacco holdings as Philip Morris International in 2008, five firms dominate international markets - in alphabetical order:

Altria 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. [9]

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. [ citation needed ]

1949 advertisement for Camel cigarettes Sports stars smoke camels.jpg
1949 advertisement for Camel cigarettes

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 [10] 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." [11] Between 1995 and 2005 only 59% of cases were won by the tobacco industry either outright or on appeal in the US, [12] 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. [13] The U.S. Supreme Court has also denied the industry's major grounds for appeal of Engle cases. [14]

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. [15] 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). [16] 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". [17] 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.

Jeffrey Wigand, the former research chief at America's third-largest tobacco company, exposed safety problems related to the tobacco industry. Jeffrey Wigand (178631094).jpg
Jeffrey Wigand, the former research chief at America's third-largest tobacco company, exposed safety problems related to the tobacco industry.

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. [18] By 2014 all the major multinational tobacco companies had entered the e-cigarette market. [19] 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. [19] A 2017 review states, "The tobacco industry dominates the e-cigarette market." [20] All of the large tobacco companies are selling e-cigarettes. [21] A 2017 review states, "Small companies initially dominated the electronic nicotine delivery systems (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." [22]

Major tobacco companies are dominating the political and policy-making environments just as they have in conventional cigarette policy making. [19] 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. [19] 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. [19] 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. [19] The cigarette companies try to take advantage of the existence of independent players while acting through the industry's traditional allies and front groups. [19]

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. [23]

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. [24] The Supreme Court's decision overturns a ruling made by the Oregon Supreme Court that upheld the award. [25]

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 Schwab v. Philip Morris [26] 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. [27]

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 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 Spain.svg  Spain 102.9

Cigarette production by factory

Strengberg's old, now closed tobacco factory in Jakobstad, Finland Jakobstad Tobacco Factory 1.jpg
Strengberg's old, now closed tobacco factory in Jakobstad, Finland

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. [28]

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, [29] 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

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cigarette</span> Small roll of cut tobacco designed to be smoked

A cigarette is a narrow cylinder containing a combustible material, typically tobacco, that is rolled into thin paper for smoking. The cigarette is ignited at one end, causing it to smolder; the resulting smoke is orally inhaled via the opposite end. Cigarette smoking is the most common method of tobacco consumption. The term cigarette, as commonly used, refers to a tobacco cigarette, but the word is sometimes used to refer to other substances, such as a cannabis cigarette or an herbal cigarette. A cigarette is distinguished from a cigar by its usually smaller size, use of processed leaf, and paper wrapping, which is typically white. Since the 1920s, cigarettes have been a major source of advertising revenue for the media, of traffic for small stores, and of tax revenue for governments.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Passive smoking</span> Inhalation of tobacco smoke by persons other than the intended active smoker

Passive smoking is the inhalation of tobacco smoke, commonly called secondhand smoke (SHS) or environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), by persons other than the active smoker. It occurs when tobacco smoke diffuses into the surrounding atmosphere as an aerosol pollutant, which leads to its inhalation by nearby bystanders within the same environment. Exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke causes many of the same diseases caused by active tobacco smoking, although to a lower prevalence due to the reduced concentration of smoke that enters the airway. The health risks of secondhand smoke are a matter of scientific consensus, and have been a major motivation for smoke-free laws in workplaces and indoor venues, including restaurants, bars and night clubs, as well as some open public spaces.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nicotine marketing</span> Selling technique

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 heated tobacco 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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Philip Morris International</span> Multinational tobacco company

Philip Morris International Inc. (PMI) is an American multinational tobacco company, with products sold in over 180 countries. The most recognized and best selling product of the company is Marlboro. Philip Morris International is often referred to as one of the companies comprising Big Tobacco.

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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Menthol cigarette</span> Cigarette flavored with the compound menthol

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

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 use of drugs. Tobacco smoking is widely acknowledged as a leading cause of illness and death, and reducing smoking is vital to public health.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Electronic cigarette</span> Device that vaporizes a liquid nicotine solution for inhalation

An electronic cigarette is a device that simulates tobacco smoking. It consists of an atomizer, a power source such as a battery, and a container such as a cartridge or tank. Instead of smoke, the user inhales vapor. As such, using an e-cigarette is often called "vaping". The atomizer is a heating element that vaporizes a liquid solution called e-liquid, which quickly cools into an aerosol of tiny droplets, vapor and air. E-cigarettes are activated by taking a puff or pressing a button. Some look like traditional cigarettes, and most kinds are reusable. The vapor mainly comprises propylene glycol and/or glycerin, usually with nicotine and flavoring. Its exact composition varies, and depends on several things including user behavior.

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

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ventilated cigarette</span> Cigarette that delivers a lower concentration of chemicals than regular cigarettes

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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">A Frank Statement</span> Tobacco advertisement

A Frank Statement to Cigarette Smokers was a historic first advertisement in a campaign run by major American tobacco companies on January 4, 1954, to create doubt by disputing recent scientific studies linking smoking cigarettes to lung cancer and other dangerous health effects.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tobacco politics</span> Politics surrounding the use and distribution of tobacco

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

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Youth smoking</span> Overview article

Smokingamong youth and adolescents is an issue that affects countries worldwide. While the extent to which smoking is viewed as a negative health behavior may vary across different nations, it remains an issue regardless of how it is perceived by different societies. The United States has taken numerous measures, ranging from changes in national policy surrounding youth cigarette access to changes in media campaigns, in attempts to eliminate the use of tobacco products among teenagers. Approximately 90% of smokers begin smoking prior to the age of 18.

The Center for Indoor Air Research was a tobacco industry front group established by three American tobacco companies—Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, and Lorillard—in Linthicum, Maryland, in 1988. The organization funded research on indoor air pollution, some of which pertained to passive smoking and some of which did not. It also funded research pertaining to causes of lung cancer other than passive smoking, such as diet. The organization disbanded in 1998 as a result of the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement.

A heated tobacco product (HTP) is a tobacco product that heats the tobacco at a lower temperature than conventional cigarettes. These products contain nicotine, which is a highly addictive chemical. The heat generates an aerosol or smoke to be inhaled from the tobacco, which contains nicotine and other chemicals. HTPs may also contain additives not found in tobacco, including flavoring chemicals. HTPs generally heat tobacco to temperatures under 600 °C (1100 °F), a lower temperature than conventional cigarettes.

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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of nicotine marketing</span>

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 commonness, over the decades, often in response to pro-nicotine marketing.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Iqos</span> Heated tobacco products by Philip Morris International

Iqos is a line of heated tobacco and electronic cigarette products manufactured by Philip Morris International (PMI). It was first introduced in November 2014 in Japan and Italy. Most of the IQOS products are devices that heat tobacco without burning it.

The composition of the emissions generated from heated tobacco 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.

Electronic cigarettes are marketed to smoking and non-smoking men, women, and children as being safer than cigarettes. E-cigarette businesses have considerably accelerated their marketing spending. All of the large tobacco businesses are engaging in the marketing of e-cigarettes. For the majority of the large tobacco businesses these products are quickly becoming a substantial part of the total advertising spending. E-cigarette businesses have a vested interest in maximizing the number of long-term product users. The entrance of traditional transnational tobacco businesses in the marketing of such products is a serious threat to restricting tobacco use. E-cigarette businesses have been using intensive marketing strategies like those used to publicize traditional cigarettes in the 1950s and 1960s. While advertising of tobacco products is banned in most countries, television and radio e-cigarette advertising in several countries may be indirectly encouraging traditional cigarette use.


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Further reading