Seven maps that will change how you think about big tobacco

Tobacco remains a major cause of many of the world’s main killer diseases, including cardiovascular and lung disease, and it’s estimated that if current trends continue then tobacco-related deaths in the 21st century will number 1 billion. In the Tobacco Atlas, the World Lung Foundation and the American Cancer Society have compiled almost everything you need to know about the global tobacco industry, beautifully illustrated across 46 pages. We recommend you read the Tobacco Atlas in all of its glory, but in the meantime here are six maps that will change how you think about big tobacco.

1. Yemen has more tobacco bans than the UK

And so does Egypt, Sudan, Iran, Mongolia, and many other countries. There are 14 possible advertising bans from ‘Banning TV and radio advertising’ to ‘Banning promotional discounts’, and the UK has adopted only 11 of these, while Egypt has adopted 13. Brazil, a country which devotes roughly one million acres of farm land to tobacco, has adopted all 14. More map showing global tobacco bans

2. Women in Central Europe smoke more than anywhere else in the world

According to the Tobacco Atlas, tobacco companies try and link smoking to gender equality, women’s rights, and values such as success, glamour, and slimness. The tobacco industry attempts to make smoking among women more socially acceptible through developing products for women (slim cigarettes, flavoured cigarettes) and targeted advertising. More female smokers globally

3. The average Saudi Arabian smoker smokes more than 30 cigarettes every day

… But as a nation they still smoke less per person than the Belgians. So on the whole there are more smokers in Belgium than in Saudi Arabia (percentage-wise), but when Saudis smoke they really mean it. The Brits, meanwhile, smoke between 500 – 999 cigarettes per person per year as of 2014.

cigarette consumption mapTaken from p.31 of Tobacco Atlas

4. The countries where most tobacco is grown are not where most tobacco is smoked

If you compare it to the map above, you’ll see that a lot of countries that dedicate large areas of farm land to tobacco are not necessarily the same countries that smoke a lot of tobacco. For example, Brazil and India grow a lot of tobacco, but don’t smoke much. Russians are among the world’s top smokers, and grow hardly any themselves. The exception appears to be China, which both grows and smokes much of the world’s tobacco – in fact, more cigarettes are now smoked in China than in the top 29 cigarette-consuming countries worldwide. In terms of the profitability of growing tobacco, the Atlas is suitably pessimistic: “The short-term benefits of a crop that generates cash for farmers are offset by the long-term consequences of increased food insecurity, frequent sustained debt, environmental damage, and illness and poverty among farm workers.” More land devoted to growing tobacco

5. Six gigantic tobacco companies run most of the show

The global tobacco industry, estimated as being worth £22.5 billion in 2010, is run by 6 major players with at least 40 smaller companies weighing in. Perhaps surprisingly, the market leader in the UK is not British American Tobacco or Imperial Tobacco, but Japan Tobacco International. More market shares of tobacco companies

6. Tobacco companies give away huge amounts of money to charity

… At the same time as actively marketing a product which is responsible for more deaths than World War I and II combined. On this map you can see that Philip Morris International gives away about £16 million a year, which in 2013 worked out at less than 0.3% of its net income. More phillip morris charitable donations

7. In Hungary, 13-15 year olds smoke more than 16-19 year olds

It’s true; countries including Hungary, Belarus, Madagascar and Indonesia have higher smoking prevalence rates among 13-15 year olds than among 16-19 year olds. The UK comes out reasonably well, with only 6% of 13-15 being regular smokers, although the term ‘reasonably well’ is only relative. It still means that far too many British young people are seriously damaging their health and potentially the health of those around them. More smoking among 13-15 year olds

 For youth work resources on the topic of tobacco, visit the Tobacco Free Generation website, created by a collective of Scottish youth work organisations.


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