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Tobacco Companies Target Developing Countries

Tobacco Companies Target Developing Countries

In the face of increased taxes, frightening warning photos on packages, bans on advertising, and even bans on displaying cigarettes openly in stores, tobacco profits are under seige. Companies are under pressure to maintain shareholder value — which means upping consumption of their products and enrolling new smokers. With rates of smoking beginning to drop in North America, tobacco companies have begun to turn away in their bid for new smokers here and instead have turned their focus to developing countries. Many of these countries rely on the tobacco industry for jobs, and so are helpless to stop tactics such as advertising on billboards and on television. Indonesia faces tobacco advertising overload, even seeing cartoon characters placed on the packaging to enlist a new generation of smokers.

Tobacco remains a legal product and consumers are as ever free to make their own decisions. However, given the cost to society smoking creates, and the marketing techniques employed by these companies, there is certainly a social responsibility to protect consumers on insidious marketing stragegies aimed at having consumers engage with a harmful product.

The powerful tobacco lobby seems to be making inroads in Britain, where plans to force shopkeepers to keep cigarettes hidden behind the counter may be getting watered down by the new coalition government to the dismay of the nation’s public health bodies. Tobacco lobbyists insist that hiding tobacco products will lead to an increase in smuggling and other illegal activities.

In contrast, New Zealand is planning on introducing a series of extremely tough non-smoking measures, including a ban on shop displays similar to that introduced by Canada several years ago. The overall rate of smoking in Canada has dropped over the last 10 years, to which the ban on displays may have contributed significantly.  (Canada, however, seems to have stalled in their commitment to take anti-smoking measures, as indicated by their quiet shelving of an initiative to make warning labels on packages even tougher – have the lobbyists gotten to Parliament Hill?).  It remains to be seen what reaction the tobacco lobby will have on the planned New Zealand initiatives. Misinformation campaigns and quiet but poweful subsidies of groups opposed to the bans are already in place.

Given that tobacco remains a legal product, how far can limits on the marketing of these products go? Can a company that claims to be supportive of smoking cessation programs in the West, yet markets their harmful and addictive product directly to children elsewhere in the world, be trusted with anything?

Shannon is an Ottawa blogger who writes at ThreeSeven.ca and saves the world at ecochick.ca.

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photo credit: thanks to SuperFantastic via flickr

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22 comments

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8:41PM PST on Nov 30, 2010

Marketing cigarettes in other countries is nothing new. Japan has one of the highest smoking rates. I'm not the least bit surprised by this news. After seeing what our leaders in this country have done to the middle class, robbing us of our carefully saved retirements, and now attempting to downside Social Security, I am not surprised in the least. Greed and lack of care for one's fellows is standard operating procedure, the world over. They (the top 1%, the "leaders" of industry, Wall St., the pols) honestly don't give a damn that Haitians are dying of cholera or hunger, that people in Nigeria have their water polluted by oil, that our fishermen in the Gulf have lost their livelihoods, that women in Africa are raped, that women in the middle east have no rights. They have no soul, no morality. It is up to those of us who still remember what caring means, to never let up.

10:46PM PST on Nov 27, 2010

Just awful

3:47AM PST on Nov 17, 2010

We live in an amoral,unethical and hypocritical world where money is king. Remember the Godfather and the comment about drugs and where and who to sell to? Oil is drilled with absolutely no regard for the environment and people of the Niger Delta in Nigeria where there have been constant and continuing oil spillage for over 50 years. Tobacco is aggressively marketed in Nigeria and most other developing countries. Quite a few prominent politicians in the UK own shares in BAT and one in particular has been a director. Some British Pension funds are also heavily invested in tobacco companies.

11:05PM PST on Nov 16, 2010

One more of the unlimited examples of how MONEY trumps everything else. And people who have money and power will always use it to get more money and power -- in this case off the bent backs and blackened lungs of the 3rd World's masses.

10:07PM PST on Nov 16, 2010

This is outrageous, but given the drift of our politics, money is the only God, and those seeking profit are given free reign to prey on the uneducated. What an evil act of pure greed!!

7:23PM PST on Nov 16, 2010

You can't tell me your surprised by this.

5:17PM PST on Nov 16, 2010

The tobacco companies are pure evil.

5:16PM PST on Nov 16, 2010

Luckily, I have not smoked before in my life and never will. Thank you for posting.

3:53PM PST on Nov 16, 2010

I keep hoping the world will be smoke free before I die.

2:22PM PST on Nov 16, 2010

Clearly the ONLY thing these companies care about is profits!

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