*Note: Slanted for your protection.
Hey, smokers! If you thought you were highly profitable to the Big US. Cigarette Companies, think again. In fact, you’re small change compared to the hot new markets in developing countries, where laws are lax and the global economy beckons.
That’s right, Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, and B.A.T., makers of Lucky Strikes, are working hard to bring many impoverished folks around the world fresh, quality cigarettes, the only legal product around that is harmful when used as intended. Cuba, China, Poland, Vietnam, the Philippines, Brazil, Kazakstan, Russia, Portugal…the list of affected countries bleeds on and on. And it seems the Big Cigarette Companies collective efforts are paying off. The World Health Organization (WHO) confirms this with the staggering figures of 1.1 billion people over the age of 15 addicted to cigarettes, and 72 per cent of them are in developing and underdeveloped countries, to use their terminology. So even though US. consumption of cigarettes has fallen (the number has dropped 17 per cent in the last decade), you don’t have to worry about those Big Ciggie Companies. They can sleep well tonight, knowing that the global market (and global lives) is safely in their control.
Here are some horrendous facts to wet your whistle of indignation: In this year’s first quarter, international sales accounted for 71 per cent of Philip Morris’ total tobacco sales of 9.9 billion. Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, and British American Tobacco, the Big Three in industry parlance, account for a full third of the 5.5 trillion cigarettes sold annually worldwide. The Big Three’s exports rose 259 per cent in the last decade. So how does this translate into human lives? Vietnam has the highest male smoking rate in the world, with 72.8 per cent. In the Philippines, 73 per cent of adults smoke, and 50 percent of children aged 7-17 are addicted to cigarettes. In Japan, 50 per cent of adult men smoke: the highest rate among developed nations. Among Japanese women, the number is 35 per cent: also extremely high. And what about deaths? The WHO places the number of deaths from cigarettes at 3 million annually.
Of course this assault has not come without its backlash. Many countries have moved to place trade or ad restrictions on US. cigarettes. That tactic does not last long, however. US. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky, at the behest (or at the beck and call, rather) of the major cigarette companies, has seen to that. Representative Barshefsky has wielded the mighty carrot of economic prosperity and the fearful stick of economic ruin over the heads of the mostly impoverished countries, and they can but cower under the threat that they will be run over in the global market. Plus, if these countries ever do pass laws restricting US. cigarettes in any way, they are severely reprimanded by Rep. Barshefsky for violating free trade agreements.
If you think the new global tobacco deal is going to change any of this (and I don’t insult your intelligence enough to believe you do), guess again. Firstly, although it is being touted as a global measure, in fact there’s nothing global about it. The US. companies will be as free to do their profiteering off of death and misery in other countries as they were before this proposed agreement. The facts of this new deal are so egregious that it prompted tobacco control advocates from 19 countries to release a joint statement condemning the spineless American deal as unethical, since it does nothing to address international tobacco control issues. Indeed, it makes it even more desirable in terms of profits and lax restrictions to market to other countries, a situation that will happen even if the agreement does not go through.
I wish I could end this article with an optimistic ring for the future, but obviously there is nothing optimistic about the continued rampage of the Big Three into other countries. They will continue to reach for fresh hordes of disposable people with no disposable income, and will keep on ripping their last cents away as these adults and children suffer through the throes of nicotine addiction. Can you say Nuremberg Standards? If you can, then you should apply them here. Taking orders from the mighty God of Profits and killing millions of innocent people in the process should not be sanctioned by anyone, and this phenomenon should not go unpunished, though it undoubtedly will.