Big tobacco companies targeting the world’s most vulnerable to increase profits
March 10, 2018
The sixth edition of the Tobacco Atlas and its companion website TobaccoAtlas.org has found that the tobacco industry is increasingly targeting vulnerable populations in emerging markets, such as Africa, Asia and the Middle East, where people are not protected by strong tobacco control regulations.
The report was released at the 17th World Congress on Tobacco or Health in Cape Town, South Africa.
The Atlas, which is co-authored by the American Cancer Society (ACS) and Vital Strategies, graphically details the scale of the tobacco epidemic around the globe.
It shows where progress has been made in tobacco control and describes the latest products and tactics being deployed by the tobacco industry to grow its profits and delay or derail tobacco control efforts.
In response to an evolving tobacco control landscape, the sixth edition includes new chapters on regulating novel products, partnerships, tobacco industry tactics and countering the industry
In 2016 alone, tobacco use caused over 7.1 million deaths worldwide (5.1 million men, 2.0 million in women). Most of these deaths were attributable to cigarette smoking, while 884,000 were related to second-hand smoke.
The increase in tobacco-related disease and death has been outpaced by the increase in industry profits. The combined profits of the world’s biggest tobacco companies exceeded 62.27 billion us dollars in 2015, the last year on record for all the major companies. This is equivalent to 9,730 us dollars for the death of each smoker, an increase of 39 percent since the last Atlas was published when the figure stood at 7,0000 us dollars
“Every death from tobacco is preventable and every government has the power reduce the human and economic toll of the tobacco epidemic,” said Jeffrey Drope, PhD, co-editor and author of The Atlas and Vice President, Economic and Health Policy Research at the American Cancer Society.
“It starts by resisting the influence of the industry and implementing proven tobacco control policies. The Atlas shows that progress is possible in every region of the world. African countries, in particular, are at a critical point-not because they are targets of the industry but also because many have the opportunity to strengthen policies and act before smoking is at epidemic levels.”
“Tobacco causes harm at every stage of its life cycle, from cultivation to disposal. The only way to avert this harm is for all governments to vigorously implement the framework convention on tobacco control and to enforce the proven strategies that reduce tobacco use," said Dr Neil Schluger, Vital Strategies’ Senior Advisor for Science and co-editor and author of The Atlas.
Africa is at a tipping point
The sixth edition f the tobacco Atlas reveals that the tobacco industry deliberately targets countries that lack tobacco control laws and exploits governments, farmers and vulnerable populations across Africa.
In Sub-Saharan Africa alone, consumption increased by 52 percent between 1980 and 2016 (from 164 billion to 250 billion sticks). This is being driven by population growth and aggressive tobacco marketing in countries like Lesotho, where prevalence is estimated to have increased from 15 percent in 2004 to 54 percent in 2015.
Economic growth has increased consumers’ ability to afford tobacco products and there is a lack of tobacco control interventions to deter tobacco use.
Furthermore, in countries like Ethiopia, Nigeria and Senegal, smoking is now more common among youth than adults-potentially increasing the future health and economic burden of tobacco in these countries
In spite of the tobacco industry’s efforts to impede progress, global cigarette consumption and tobacco use prevalence have declined recently thanks to an overall increase in the adoption of proven and innovative tobacco control measures.
Tobacco taxes alone could deliver a 30 percent relative reduction in smoking prevalence by 2025. This is would save 38 million lives and 16.9 trillion US DOLLARS from former smokers becoming healthier.
“We are proud that our two organisations have worked together for almost two decades to engender a healthier world,” Dr Otis Brawley, Chief Medical Officer, American Cancer Society.
He continues that, “more than two billion people are protected by at least one WHO MPOWER measure, but very few countries have taken up every measure. The data are clear that measures like raising taxes and enacting 100 percent smoke-free air laws indisputable work, but too many governments have not yet committed to adopting them. Our life-saving opportunity lies in that gap.”
“The ultimate path to improved tobacco control is political will. “Strong Tobacco control policies deliver a significant return on investment and the Tobacco Atlas offers the best and most recent data on the tobacco epidemic as a resource for governments to pursue effective strategies,” said Jose Luis Castro, President And CEO, Vital Strategies.
The answer does not lie with the industry: as the Atlas makes clear, there is a complete disconnect between the tobacco industry’s claims about harm reduction and its actual work to grow tobacco use among vulnerable populations.