Working Paper "A Novel Tobacco Market Diversification: Unsmoking Rich Countries while Smoking Low-and-Middle Income Countries”
“A NOVEL TOBACCO MARKET DIVERSIFICATION: UNSMOKING RICH COUNTRIES WHILE SMOKING LOW-AND-MIDDLE INCOME COUNTRIES”
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In this working paper, an exploration of available data and information is conducted and findings presented, to support the view that the dichotomous business model and related harm reduction narrative promoted nowadays by the tobacco industry, merits scrutiny by the international community.
The promotion of e-cigarettes as welfare enhancing in rich countries, particularly because they are posited to help adult smokers quit, tends to obfuscate a dire reality. The same tobacco industry that promotes e-cigarettes as harm reduction in rich countries, derives the bulk of its profits by selling cigarettes in lower income countries.
While the cultural dominance of cigarettes, a deadly product, has waned and consumption has fallen significantly in the United States and other high-income countries over the past decades due to the adoption of stringent regulatory and tax measures, and growing awareness of the population about the health risks of tobacco use, the tobacco industry remains securely positioned by expanding into new markets in emerging economies to promote the use of cigarettes.
The issue is troubling because the tobacco industry, by promoting the use of cigarettes in lower income countries, new generations of consumers will become addicted to cigarettes, as happened in the past in rich countries. Now 80 percent of the world’s smokers live in low-and middle-income income countries, and a growing toll of tobacco attributable diseases, premature death, and direct and indirect economic costs, stand to hamper the development prospects of these countries, particularly after the COVID-19 pandemic, the most the most significant global public health and economic crisis in almost a century.
The question posed in one of the books by Stanford University Emeritus Professor, Victor Fuchs, “Who Shall Live?”, to explain the socio-economic correlates of health, applies in this context. It can help us grasp how the global commercialization and use of tobacco products contributes to health disparities in countries across the world.