10.0 Introduction

The selling of tobacco is a globalised operation resulting in a global health burden.1 In only a few nations (e.g. China, the US, Japan and Egypt) is the tobacco market controlled by companies headquartered in that country.2 Tobacco companies may be either government operated or publicly traded companies. Fourteen countries have major state-owned tobacco companies, accounting for approximately 40% of world cigarette consumption. (When excluding China this figure is only about 5%.) Most of these operations are based in the Middle East/Africa region and Asia Pacific.3 Government ownership alone is not always predictive of a lack of resolve to implement strong tobacco control measures. For example, the Thai Tobacco Monopoly is government owned, yet Thailand is internationally recognised as having one of the world’s most advanced tobacco control programs.4 Privatisation of formerly state owned tobacco companies has been shown to lead to decreased cigarette taxes, overturned tobacco control legislation and increased tobacco consumption and prevalence.5,6

The cigarette business is now primarily concentrated in the hands of five tobacco companies that collectively control about 90% of the world’s cigarette market, four of which are publicly traded corporations. The global tobacco industry produces more than 5400 billion cigarettes a year. The biggest single market is China, where the industry is state owned, with approximately 350 million smokers who account for more than 40% of the global total. Four international tobacco companies—Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco, Japan Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco—account for some 45% of the global market, or around three-quarters of the market outside China.7


1. Haustein K-O and Groneberg D. Society, politics and the tobacco industry. In Haustein, K-O and Groneberg, D, eds, Tobacco or Health? Physiological and Social Damages Caused by Tobacco Smoking. Springer e-books, 2010. 411–31. Available from: https://springerlink3.metapress.com/content/g8571304413tu081/resource-secured/?target=fulltext.html&sid=p5vwkv45auw2nlzc4dirmfbz&sh=www.springerlink.com

2. Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada. The global tobacco economy: A snapshot of economies of multinational tobacco companies and of international tobacco control efforts in 2008. Ottawa: Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, 2009. Available from: http://www.smoke-free.ca/pdf_1/GlobalTobaccoEconomy-2009.pdf

3. Euromonitor International. Meeting the new challenges — corporate strategy in tobacco. London: Euromonitor International, 2011, [viewed 10 August 2011] . Available from: http://www.euromonitor.com/tobacco

4. World Health Organization. Tobacco industry interference with tobacco control. Geneva: WHO, 2009. Available from: http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2008/9789241597340_eng.pdf

5. Gilmore AB and McKee M. Exploring the impact of foreign direct investment on tobacco consumption in the former Soviet Union. Tobacco Control 2005;14(1):13–21. Available from: http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/cgi/reprint/14/1/13

6. Gilmore A, Fooks G and McKee M. The International Monetary Fund and tobacco: a product like any other? International Journal of Health Services 2009;39(4):789–93. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19927416

7. British American Tobacco. Annual report 2010. Global market overview. The global tobacco market. London: British American Tobacco, 2011, [viewed 1 June 2011] . Available from: http://www.bat.com/ar/2010/directors-report/business-review/global-market-overview.html

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