Who Really Benefits from Tobacco?

Tobacco is known to kill more than seven million people worldwide annually and causes about 1.4 trillion USD in economic damage each year

www.who.int/fctc/mediacentre/press-release/wntd-2017/ en/

The burden of tobacco is heavily felt in low-and-middle-income countries (LMICs), such as Kenya, that have been targeted by the tobacco industry with their deadly products through aggressive marketing mostly to the vulnerable and unsuspecting population.

But who really benefits from tobacco?

Globally, there are four major tobacco companies – Philip Morris International (PMI), who are the global leaders in tobacco sales, followed closely by the British American Tobacco (BAT), Imperial Brands (IMB) and Japan Tobacco International (JTI).

For far too long, the tobacco industry has claimed to economically empower countries and communities, especially in low-and-middle-income countries. In a recent study conducted by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, tobacco companies are not economically beneficial to the LMICs as the industry claims.

The study revealed the following about the ownership of tobacco stocks for BAT, IMB, JTI and PMI, and sampling of subsidiaries of BAT and PMI in LMICs:

  • Overwhelming majority of shareholders for PMI, BAT, IMB and JTI are found in the US, UK and Japan.
  • More than 96 percent of the disclosed shareholders of BAT, IMB, JTI and PMI are based in ten countries: Bermuda, Canada, Germany, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, South Africa, Switzerland, UK, and USA (the vast majority in Japan, UK, and USA).
  • The majority of subsidiaries of BAT, IMB, JTI and PMI researched are 100 percent owned by the parent multinational tobacco company. “BAT-Nigeria” is owned by shareholders of BAT globally, not locally; “PMI-Mexico” is owned by shareholders of PMI globally, not locally.
  • In contrast to the overwhelming majority of tobacco company shareholders who live in high-income countries, most of the burden of tobacco use falls on low– and middleincome countries. In fact, 80 percent of the world’s 1.1 billion smokers live in low– and middle-income countries, according to the World Health Organization. By 2030, 80 percent of tobacco-related deaths will occur in low– and middle-income countries

The study clearly shows that the people who are reaping the benefits out of the deadly tobacco are from the rich and developed countries not in LMICs where the profits are being made and disease burden resulting from tobacco use hits hardest.