From The Guardian
Global profits for tobacco trade total $35bn as smoking deaths top 6 million
New figures reveal worldwide profits but big companies insist they are not switching to emerging markets to avoid regulation
By Simon Bowers
Revenues from global tobacco sales are estimated to be close to $500bn (£316bn), generating combined profits for the six largest firms of $35.1bn – more than $1,100 a second.
London's role as a hub of the multinational tobacco trade is in part a legacy of the British empire. While BAT sells very few cigarettes in the UK, for example, it is a big player in many emerging economies. In Turkey it sells Viceroy and Pall Mall brands; its Kent cigarettes are big sellers in Russia, while Gold Flake and John Player Gold Leaf are popular in Pakistan. Rothmans in Nigeria and Kent and Montana in Iran are also important for BAT. India, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Iraq, Egypt and Yemen are also promising markets for the company.
The big four tobacco firms – Philip Morris, BAT, Imperial and Japan Tobacco – insist they do not recruit new smokers in developing countries; rather, they grow sales by converting existing smokers of local tobacco products to their stable of aspirational Western brands – often "safer" products, they say.
A British American Tobacco spokesperson said: "There is constant speculation that we're breaking into emerging markets to avoid regulation. But this is not true. We didn't invent smoking, nor 'export' it anywhere, and we have been in many of these developing markets for hundreds of years – in the case of Africa, India and Brazil, since the early 1900s.
"As disposable income grows around the world, particularly in developing countries, more smokers are upgrading to premium brands rather than low quality local alternatives – and this doesn't just apply to cigarettes."
And yet almost 80% of the 6 million people killed last year by tobacco-related illnesses were from low- and middle-income countries, according to new research from health lobby campaigners.
The study identified tobacco as the No 1 killer in China, where smoking is said to cause 1.2 million deaths annually. It is also blamed for more than a third of male deaths in Kazakhstan and in Turkey – other major smoking nations.
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