The Tobacco Industry is truly enormous, supplying over five trillion cigarettes per year by the year 2000. As the health risks of tobacco became apparent in the mid-twentieth century, various tobacco firms actively denied the health effects and spent huge sums on advertising to deny the risks. As the scientific understanding of tobacco harm progressed, these lobbying efforts evolved into a huge anti-science front. While today the risks of smoking are fully accepted in the western world, the tobacco industry continues to lobby governments for lower restrictions on smoking and is alleged to bribe and lobby African politicians. They are active in encouraging smoking in the undeveloped world and active in trying to prevent the ban of menthol cigarettes in the developed world.
- 1 Big Players
- 2 Health effect denial
- 3 Lobbying & political donations
- 4 References
While most of the large companies are international in their reach, they generally perform well in their home markets. The largest five companies from the UK and US, detailed below, command approximatley $109bn in revenue. That's more than the GDP of Bangladesh, with a population of about 164 million.
The Tobacco industry in the United States in dominated by the 'Big Three' or 'Big Tobacco' companies:
- Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris USA; US Smokeless Tobacco CO and John Middleton, had a net revenue of $24.363bn in FY2010. Altria produces brands such as Marlboro, Benson & Hedges, Lambert & Butler and Players.
- Lorrilard had a net revenue of $5.932bn in FY2010 and produces brands such as Newport and Kent. They are very large in the manufacturing of Menthol cigarettes, and lobbying to prevent them being banned.
- Reynolds American, the parent company of R.J Reynolds Tobacco Company, Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company and American Snuff company, had a net revenue of $8.551bn in FY2010. Reynolds American produces brands such as Camel, Pall Mall and Natural American Spirit,.
The United Kingdom is home to two of the world's largest tobacco companies:
- Imperial Tobacco is the world's biggest producer of cigars, rolling tobacco and rolling papers. Their famous brands include Drum, Rizla, Embassy, Lambert & Butler, John Player Special, Regal, Richmond, Superkings and Golden Virginia. Their net revenue for 2010 was £28.173bn
- British American Tobacco is a leading tobacco producer in many countries, often producing locally recognised, national favourite brands. Their lead international brand is Lucky Strike. They also produce Dunhill and Vogue. Their 2010 Net Revenue was £14.883bn.
- Japan Tobacco Inc. is Japan's major tobacco company, with over 65%, and increasing, of the Japanese tobacco market under their control. They control 40% of the UK's tobacco market, too, with products such as Amber Leaf (their own), and Benson & Hedges and Camel (produced under licence).
- China National Tobacco Corporation is the largest single producer and vendor of tobacco in the world, largely due to the fact that they hold a virtual monopoly on the Chinese tobacco market, roughly 30% of the world's cigarette consumption.
Health effect denial
The first serious claims that tobacco smoking led to negative health effects were made by American doctor Isaac Adler in 1912. Little public awareness was raised, and it was next Fritz Lickint, of Germany, who published in 1929 a strong statistical link between lung cancer and smoking. As he was looking at lung cancer patients, he was able to prove that sufferers of lung cancer were more likely to be smokers. Prior to World War I, lung cancer was very rare, and Lickint tried to explain this through smoking. Lickint also argued that the much higher rate of lung cancer in men than women was because of the much higher smoking rate among men.
It was only in the early 1950s when large scale studies confirmed the link between lung cancer and smoking. Richard Doll, who also did ground-breaking work on the health effects of asbestos, published research in the British Medical Journal in 1950, showing the link between lung cancer and smoking. This spurred further research including the British Doctors Study (of over 40,000 doctors), proving conclusively that smoking causes lung cancer. Eventually, the Surgeon General of the United States published "Smoking and Health: Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General of the United States," spurring millions to quit smoking.
The Tobacco Institute (discussed below) was founded in 1958 by the major American tobacco companies. While they generally did not outright deny the health effects of smoking, the Tobacco Institute and similar industry-funded organisations threw mud at the scientists, and their research, which showed links between smoking and deadly disease. They published adverts and pamphlets. They were ultimately closed down in 1998, as part of the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. Below are some compelling examples of industry front groups trying to obscure the truth on smoking.
Tobacco Industry Research Committee
The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition
Center for Indoor Air Research
The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition
Lobbying & political donations
The Tobacco Institute was founded in 1958 as a trade organization by cigarette manufacturers, who funded it in proportion to each company's market share. It was intended to work alongside the Tobacco Industry Research Committee. While the TIRC was focused on the science, the Tobacco Institute was more dedicated to promoting smoking and casting good light on tobacco smoking and the economic news about smoking. It also attacked studies, but this by casting doubt rather than combating science to science.
National Smokers Alliance
Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco
- World Health Organisation - Smoking by Country
- International Monetary Fund - Bangladesh's nominal GDP: $105,402bn
- Altria Financial Report 2010, Page 1 Altria Net 2010 Revenue $24.363bn
- Lorillard Press Release on Financial Report 2010 Lorillard Net 2010 Revenue $5.932
- Understanding Menthol, a Lorrilard project
- Reynolds American 2010 SEC Report, Page 25 Reynolds American Net 2010 Revenue $8.551bn
- Imperial Tobacco Financial Report 2010, Page 2 Imperial Tobacco Net 2010 Revenue £28.173bn
- British American Tobacco - Message from the Chairman British American Tobacco 2010 Net Revenue: £14.883
- Adler, Isaac (1912). Primary Malignant Growth of the Lung and Bronchi.
- Witschi, H (2001). "A short history of lung cancer". Toxicological sciences : an official journal of the Society of Toxicology
- Proctor, R. N (2001). "Commentary: Schairer and Schoniger's forgotten tobacco epidemiology and the Nazi quest for racial purity". International Journal of Epidemiology
- "Mortality from lung cancer in asbestos workers." Doll, R; British Medical Journal; 1955
- "Smoking and Carcinoma of the Lung" - Doll, R. & Hill, A; British Medical Journal; September 1050.