The sixth edition of The Tobacco Atlas and its companion website finds 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 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.

Most countries are putting loads of efforts to reduce tobacco consumption. The truth is that smoking is a huge burden on healthcare systems around the globe. That is why in many places there are restrictions on tobacco advertising.

In Australia, as well as many other countries, direct advertising of tobacco to consumers has long been banned. However, one has to realize that for tobacco companies this is a vital part of business. They have to advertise to survive. This means that they are willing to exploit loopholes in local advertising laws in order to maintain their market presence.

But how do they do that?

Scientists talked with former tobacco industry employees in order to discover the ways tobacco industry exploits loopholes in Australian advertising laws. This study showed that cigarette manufacturers are incentivising retailers with cash payments, promotions and rebates. In other words, advertising strategy shifted towards people who sell tobacco. Cigarette companies are also providing retailers with such experiential incentives like all-expenses paid holidays, exclusive parties and events, tickets to international sporting events. And it’s not just about companies – tobacco business is also incentivising retail staff to reach sales targets.

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Tobacco companies are pretending to be reformed. Some even support public health incentives. And aforementioned tactics are oftentimes used very openly.

How much money does the tobacco industry make?

The value of the global tobacco market (excluding China) was about $800 billion in 2014, up from $780 billion in 2013.  The operating profit of the industry is about $50 billion. Industry commentators refer to tobacco as a “remarkably lucrative business”. No wonder the industry fights so aggressively to protect its profits despite the overwhelming evidence on disease and deaths.

Tobacco-related CSR activities

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities are a loophole the tobacco industry (TI) frequently exploits to raise their profile, particularly when all other forms of tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship are prohibited in a given country. The money tobacco companies spend on CSR activities at regional and country levels are a part of their marketing strategy and should not be considered as charity donations.

Tobacco Industry Exploiting COVID-19 Pandemic To Gain Foothold In Government

The tobacco industry has been exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting health sector resource shortages to gain a stronger foothold in the policy corridors of many national governments – making huge donations of PPE and other desperately needed goods, new research has shown.

The Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2020, released by STOP (Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products) on Tuesday, a global tobacco industry watchdog, scores some 57 countries around the world for their policy performance vis a vis the tobacco industry.

Key findings reveal that the tobacco industry used endorsement of charitable contributions to capitalize on the vulnerability of governments facing a shortage of resources during the COVID-19 pandemic, including donations of free PPE in Bangladesh, artificial respirators in Costa Rica, sanitizer in Kenya and Indonesia.


But those donations often came at a price – for instance in Indonesia the company also asked the local government of Bali to roll back restrictions on outdoor tobacco advertising.

RepoTobacco companies have managed to exploit the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to the fullest for their benefit. The tobacco companies have particularly used their Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR) as pretence to infiltrate into policymaking and administration and extract a variety of benefits, the study says.

The study report titled ‘Tobacco Industry Interference Index: FCTC Article 5.3 Implementation Report, Bangladesh’, was disclosed in Dhaka at a webinar, jointly organised by research and advocacy organisation PROGGA (Knowledge for Progress) and Anti-Tobacco Media Alliance (ATMA).

Tobacco industry affected UNICEF’s health objectives

The tobacco industry has been found to have manipulated children’s rights agency UNICEF for over a decade in order to derail their tobacco free initiatives. Internal documents have shown that they did so by strategically partnering with UNICEF to divert attention to other children’s health rights issues and away from what they considered a threat to future business.

Claim against tobacco giants by poverty stricken farmers in Malawi

A claim against British American Tobacco (BAT), Imperial Brands, their parent companies and subsidiaries, has been filed in the High Court in London, by several thousand impoverished tenant tobacco farmers, their wives, children and other family members, all working on small tobacco farms in Malawi. They allege that the tobacco companies are liable in negligence and have been unjustly enriched.

It is claimed that the companies’ actions, for the sake of maximising profits, has resulted over many years in the systemic exploitation of poor and illiterate workers, trafficked from the south of Malawi to tobacco farms in the central and northern regions.

BAT plc’s pre-tax profit in 2019 was more than £8.3 billion, and Imperial plc’s pre-tax profit was more than £1.6 billion. But the workers at the bottom of their supply chain in Malawi earn little to nothing for their work, living in terrible conditions trapped on the remote farms in serious food poverty.


Big Tobacco uses Corporate Social Responsibility Awards to polish its tarnished image

The tobacco industry also employed skilled public relations professionals to manipulate scientific results, society, and culture to create a favourable environment for their products.  Across the globe, the tobacco industry continues to apply marketing and public relations tactics to promote both its traditional cigarettes and new tobacco products. To maintain and attract more tobacco users the tobacco industry continues to work towards abolishing effective existing tobacco control legislation, delaying emerging tobacco control legislation, and opposing all other tobacco control measures designed to protect the public from the many adverse harms associated with tobacco use and exposure to second hand smoke.

Advertising is a vector of the epidemic

To continue making tens of billions of dollars in profits, the tobacco industry must constantly recruit new customers to replace the millions of smokers who die each year – and the younger they are, the more profits the industry will generate before they quit, sicken or die. They do this with the help of slick advertising campaigns designed by some of the world’s leading agencies. They sell addictive and deadly products to women as a sign of emancipation, and to the young as a sign of maturity, vitality, popularity and sex appeal. These agencies are complicit in the global tobacco epidemic. 

They help the tobacco industry to exploit every possible marketing and advertising tactic to influence perceptions and to recruit and retain users – growing and sustaining the tobacco epidemic for profit. This is why the industry continues to spend billions of dollars on marketing and advertising every year, despite tobacco marketing bans in many countries. The poor, vulnerable and youth are prime targets for the industry’s deceptive marketing.

It is clear and obvious tobacco companies want to keep you using their products of death.