How the Tobacco Industry Bullies Governments to Boost Profits and Harm Public Health

baby smokerTobacco use is a global epidemic. Every six seconds, tobacco use claims another life.

And it costs us. The impact to global GDP (gross domestic product), or economic growth, from smoking is a staggering $2.1 trillion. Yes, that’s with a “t” for trillions, NOT a “b” for billions.

But, isn’t tobacco use on the decline in the US? The short answer is yes. See the graph below from the CDC. There’s been a steady decline in cigarette smoking among adults since the 1960’s. And after a spike in use among youth in the late 1990’s, its trend is heading in a similar direction.

trends_2011bYet, the tobacco industry still thrives. How can this be the case?

Simple – they’re now taking advantage of population growth and weak regulatory environments in low- and middle-income countries. This is their new focus. This is their market. It is what largely explains the significant rise in the number of daily smokers worldwide over the past few decades. In fact, from 1980 to 2012, this number increased from 721 million to 967 million.

In short, the tobacco industry bullies and overwhelms developing country governments with threats of lawsuits to get what it wants. It’s financial muscle vastly outweighs many of these governments, and it takes advantage of it.

On a recent episode of the popular “Last Week Tonight,” John Oliver provides one of the most clear and compelling explanations of the current situation I’ve heard. Though injected with huge amounts of humor, the shocking aspect is the truth behind it.

Enjoy (and take note)!


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