We’re quitting smoking, so why is big tobacco booming?

We’re quitting smoking, so why is big tobacco booming?


Smoking rates in the UK
have been falling for decades,
but at the same time cigarette companies
are making more money than ever.
They’ll tell you they are moving away
from cigarettes and towards healthier alternatives,
but if you look a little closer
that’s nowhere near the full story.
So, what’s really behind big tobacco’s
big profits?
Cigarette makers are in a bit of a bind.
Public opinion against smoking has swayed so far
that they essentially can’t endorse their own product.
So, to stay relevant they have engineered
an image overhaul.
As a company, we have embarked upon a path of
achieving a smoke-free future.
So the bulk of their marketing in the UK
would suggest that they are moving towards
healthier alternatives like vapes.
But if you look at the financial reports,
profits from these new products don’t come
anywhere near what traditional cigarettes
bring in.
From what we can see from their company accounts,
the clear majority of their profits
still are earned from combustion tobacco
products such as traditional cigarettes.
So it’s basically like printing money
because it’s basically nicotine wrapped
in various layers of paper and all of those
sort of things are cheap to make,
but they can sell them for a very high price,
because people are addicted.
In 2015, the main six tobacco manufacturers
earned more profits than
Coca Cola, Walt Disney, FedEx,
Google, McDonald’s and Starbucks combined.
And you don’t make that kind of money
in a smoke-free world.
So despite their product killing most of its users,
they are soldiering on.
And with every new hurdle,
their tactics have to get a little smarter.
So, tax increases on tobacco are a big problem
for the manufacturers.
Increasing taxes is the most effective
policy we have for reducing smoking.
They should increase the cost of cigarettes.
We have done steadily and it works.
I want to ask some people how this has
impacted their smoking habits
and if you have been affected by high prices,
then let us know in the comments below.
Has the price changed since you guys
started smoking?
Yes, definitely.
Ridiculous.
It’s like, quadruple the price.
It used to be like £6.30.
Now they are like at least £8.60.
Super expensive, super expensive.
What is that price increase?
The government taxing it all the time,
trying to cut down on smoking.
Do you know who’s doing it?
I don’t know actually,
probably the government to kind of discourage it.
Actually, a lot of the price increases are coming
from the people making the cigarettes.
Oh, bloody big tobaccos again.
I feel shafted.
Between 2013 and 2015, the government increased
taxes across all price brackets of cigarettes.
At the same time, the manufacturers hiked
their prices for premium cigarettes
by another 53 pence.
But for a pack of the cheapest cigarettes
they actually took money off, six pence to be exact.
It’s called price-shifting and it’s a way for
manufacturers to keep their profits up
overall without losing the smokers
who can’t afford a price rise.
And by maintaining the availability of cheap tobacco,
they are also reducing motivation to quit.
This means especially the poorest smokers
will miss out on the benefits of a tobacco tax.
It’s keeping profits up for now
but there’s a flaw in the plan.
Two-thirds of long-term smokers
will actually die due to smoking-related ills.
So the tobacco industry has a fundamental problem.
A lot of their existing consumers will die,
so other existing consumers will quit.
So to continue to sell cigarettes over time,
they need new people to start smoking.
So, finding new customers is pretty tricky
if you can’t advertise, market
or even display your products in a shop.
But luckily for manufacturers, this whole world
of opportunity has opened up.
When you’re looking at a heavily regulated industry,
that still have billions of odd dollars to spend,
what better tool is there than social media
where they can access billions of young people
on platforms that are very underregulated
in this area?
An influencer working for the cigarette brand
Lucky Strike shared this document with Caroline’s team
which is basically a contract.
It tells them when they should post to their followers,
how many posts they are expected to do,
the hashtags they are meant to use and the general cool images that they are supposed to be promoting.
This was completely secret marketing, you know.
These were not influencers who were saying: ‘Here is a post I was paid to promote.’
This was part of an industry-wide strategy
to make smoking look cool again
to an entire new generation
of people online,
to make it look like smoking was all over your
news feed and to make it look like smoking was normal.
These tactics work as a short-term fix,
but they can’t keep big tobacco in business forever.
With a customer base that won’t stop dying,
what they really need is a clean slate.
So, where do you find millions of people who haven’t been bombarded with anti-smoking campaigns?
They’re targeting markets in Asia,
in India, Indonesia, south-east Asia,
Africa and so they are shifting the epidemic
away from the developed countries
into the less developed countries.
They’re doing all of the things that
we have made illegal in the UK.
They advertise, they market to children,
they put their products in places
where consumers are going to see
those brands.
They try to make those products seem glamorous
and very western, so they make people want to
engage in this smoking behaviour.
So I’ve been exchanging a few emails with
Sarah Boseley, she’s the Guardian’s health editor.
She’s done loads of work about big tobacco’s
shady tactics in the developing world.
Definitely Africa has been targeted.
When you started looking into it,
what did you find?
There’s a lot of lobbying by the industry.
A lot of it was quasi threats,
they were putting government ministers under pressure
trying to persuade them not to pass the legislation.
We actually got hold of various letters
from tobacco companies
using legalistic language to government ministers
who simply don’t know as much about it
as the companies do.
So they are saying: ‘Look, you are going to be
in breach of international regulations,
risks having damaging consequences on Togo’s economy and business environment.’
So you know, your country is going to go
down the pan if you bring in plain packaging.
Obviously not true.
Do you think that there is potential for
smoking rates in, for example, Kenya
to be as high as they once were
in the UK?
Unfortunately, I think, there is every possibility
that smoking could take off,
but the World Health Organisation is doing all it can
to urge the governments on to impose restrictions,
so there is a chance that this could be
nipped in the bud and I just really hope it is.
So every year there’s 350 million miles of
cigarette smoke.
That’s enough to make a continuous chain of cigarettes
from the Earth to the Sun and back
with enough left over for several
round trips to Mars.
It’s the most successful business enterprise
in the history of human civilisation,
as well as being the most deadly.
If you are a smoker or an ex-smoker, please let us know about your relationship with cigarettes
and whether learning about big tobacco changes
how you think about smoking.
Thank you for watching and, if you want to see more videos from the Guardian,
don’t forget to like and subscribe.

89 thoughts on “We’re quitting smoking, so why is big tobacco booming?

  • I'm a smoker but I don't smoke many everyday, the prices are high but they just make money for the government. If they really want to tackle smoking they can make it illigal to smoke near buildings and pavement and have dedicated smoking areas. This is just a way to tax people more money. In the UK a minimum of £6.50 tax is applied to every 20 packet.

  • As someone who has invested a significant proportion of their pension in tobacco companies I have to say that they have been some of the best performers in my portfolio. BAT is yielding about 6.6% in dividends. As this video highlights, the vast populations of Asia and Africa are going to make it a growth market. Will be buying more tobacco stocks!!

  • Here in Canada at local retail store cigarettes' a pack are 14 to 16 bucks a pack. A half hour away all in my area mainly drive to Shannonville a Village and Mohawk Indian reserve where you can get a carton 10 packs in a bag for 12 dollars and a pack single 2 dollars in proper packaging. Today e ng exposed as deadly as a teen was hospitalized

  • I smoked for years. From about 14 to 18. Used to think I was so cool. These days I heard smoking was becoming uncool to kids. That's certainly how I view it now at 30 (no offence to smokers).

    That is a great way to reduce smokers imo; make it uncool.

  • I started smoking at 15 and in 2013 switched to e-cigs and have been off and on those ever since. Trouble is with e-cigs, is that I found I was on it all the time like sucking a dummy as it does not go out like a ciggie. I would overdose on nicotine and have trouble walking and even hallucinate. Nicotine is just so addictive and you don't think really does much till you go cold turkey from it.

  • Dear The Guardian,
    Thank you so much for posting.
    I quit every smoking device and cigarette on March 9th, 2018.
    Other You Tube videos showed me what's in a cigarette and how the tobacco process is done for real.
    😳
    Tobacco field workers are out there 24/7 on top of factory sawdust and other chemicals. 🚭
    I was in shock of how many people work the tabacco fields to allow smoking! 🤯
    I would think they could produce food instead of something that is harmful.
    🍓🍅🍌🍉
    These songs:
    🎼🎤🎵🎶🎹🎸
    "The Endless Parade of Lifeless Packaging"
    by Genesis
    and
    The dearly loved, and departed, David Bowie's live version of:
    "Rock and Roll Suicide" helped me as well.
    What I don't understand is where I reside folks are on disability, but use the money to buy cigarettes and alcohol.
    😡
    My husband and I still struggle on a monthly basis to afford rent, water, electricity and so on.
    😕
    He has never wanted smoking or drinking, we even hate the taste of wine. 🤮
    Love 💜
    From Michigan
    USA 🇺🇸
    Peace ✌

  • It's just vile. Looks ridiculous.
    I've never tried and never would.
    My dad quit like a champ straight out decades ago, my mum still chuffs like a chimney. Price hike hasn't changed it.
    Who wants to smell like a stale ashtray? And if you truth those vapes, your just as silly.

  • We all know the dangers of smoking, there is a ban on advertising, ban on enclosed public spaces and heavy taxation; at what point do people lose agency to make their own decisions?

  • Big tobacco is booming, because when the government comes down on them, they make a product that supposed to help you, to stop smoking, but really it helps you to get more addicted.

    When smoking was done in the 1800’s, they would give chewing tobacco to their children and it didn’t hurt them.
    Then these companies came in and made, ready rolled cigarettes and cigars. And that wouldn’t be a bad thing, if additives were not added to make you smoke more.

  • I will never understand why people still pick up smoking in developed countries. You are literally paying them to kill you with a slow and excruciating death.

  • Quit cold turkey six months ago after reading about the apalling conditions of the farmers and the horrible policies of the tobacco industry in the 3rd world. The health focus always felt patronizing and non-effective, and it felt really liberating doing something that felt so irrational till I learned it hurts people on such a concrete level. In hindsight that's also obviously the case with the physical effects and addictiveness as well.

  • I was very lucky never to have smoked. When I was a teenager in the 1960’s everyone smoked. I was the odd one out! The amount of times I had to tell people I didn’t want to smoke was unbelievable! Bars / pubs in those day after a while it was like a haze of smoke. Eyes stinging and the smell on your clothes was revolting.

    My dad smoked heavy it shorten his life by at least 15 years or so. But he was born in an era when everyone smoked. It’s a horrible industry and it kills people it’s actually a drug why isn’t it completely banded?

  • Tobacco and cannabais are god's herbs. Better than vaping. Which is where the young are going. Who knows what they will slip into the ingredients in the future. Alcohol is the killer.

  • I'm 59 years old and smoked for the majority of my life. 8 years ago, I began vaping. My arteries have cleared to the point where my cardio-vascular doctor released me from care, almost five years ago now.

    The tobacco machine is strong.

  • Have you looked into “mission win now“ Phillip Morris selling cigs in the asain market, they put the advertising back on the cars for the asain races, but footage of mission winnow appears throughout the season on UK EU us telly, Scott free… I don't like cig advertising included branded packets, I think use cig tax to fund way more ads than we see rather than diverting left over tax money to other branches of UK government (smokers tax money is already paying for their ill health, use the rest solely for no smoking ads and helping stop)
    Putting up price is a barrier only to the poorest, its not fair. It doesn't even effect kids from smoking by putting a price barrier in place, it's just annoying to pay an unnecessary premium

  • As a student I stopped smoking because it was too expensive. I was spending £100 a month of cigarettes and coulnt eat proper meals most days. The high prices directly affected my quitting.

  • I've been wondering where all the money the increased taxes from alcohol, tobacco and goods are actually going. Consider, the tax increases have been enormous over the last 10-20 years, yet I haven't seen where any services or infrastructure increased to match. One could argue, that our services and well being have actually decreased.

  • I'm 23, and I've been smoking for 11 years. I quitted one week ago for the 4th time, but this time I bought an e cig to help. My goals are 0% nicotine by the end of the month, and to quit definitly in a year or so. My whole family are smokers or ex smokers. It's harder to quit than weed, than food addiction, harder for me than alcohol… I don't wanna die at 50 anymore. I saw what death by lung cancer looks like and I don't want it.

  • I picked up smoking tobacco later in my life (like 23) through rolling it in my weed and I'm quitting both. I would have continued, however, it's more the extraneous chemicals that go into these products rather than tobacco itself that scares me. Thank you for reminding me today because for the last 2 months I was getting carried away by emotional problems and smoking a little more than usual.

  • Becos the big corporations are lining Trump's pockets. Especially now that he will put a ban on the sale of flavored e-cigarettes. Someone has to make a profit on the lungs of it's customers ‼️😎🇺🇸

  • I started smoking at age 14 (before i knew any better)…
    Cigs were sold to minors, and they were only $1.25usd. They are currently 7x that amount now..
    So if 2 out of 7 smokers quit, cigs still turn a profit of 4x…

  • Attacking manufactures of drugs, and tobacco. This opiate war really has opened some doors for attack… The way I see it alcoholics should be able to sue Jack Daniels, and other manufactures of this drug affecting so many American's. If there is a drug readily available to the consumer it is the alcohol industry…… Go get EM….

  • I quit smoking 5 years ago after smoking about 20 a day for over 20 years. My main motivation came from a book written by two Dutch doctors, Pauline Dekker and Wanda de Kanter, who very clearly demonstrate all the tactics and tricks the tobacco companies use to get you addicted and keep you addicted. I also got help through my GP who prescribed Champix to help me quit. Just motivate yourself to not have any tobacco profiteer, including the tax raising governments, to ever see any money from you ever again. Smoking is a disgusting habit but the behaviour of the tobacco companies is much more disgusting.

  • I've noticed a lot of tobacco smoking in movies recently. The cost is between $15 to 20.00 for a pack of 25 cigarettes in most of Canada. Yet somehow the government(s) reports more revenues every year. 20 years ago a carton of 200 cost $12.00.

  • I’m the adult child of a smoker who died of emphysema….. a smokers death. Big tobacco is evil but in today’s world evil wins, evil gets elected to top jobs in gov”t…..

  • This is why the government needs to revolutionise the school education system. Because, it can teach the next generation to become smarter, more savvy, health conscious and hopefully save the planet.

  • To what extent are the countries in the Global South that Tobacco companies are focusing on likely to build up to smoking the same level as we did 50 years ago? Obviously their markets could grow a lot but the information about how smoking is bad is still out there, their governments should hopefully get wise to this and crack down in the same way that we did and prevent a huge growth in tobacco purchases. You would hope anyway.

  • Another add channel is Netflix. Did you see the amount of series and films where people smoke, smoke and smoke even more than in real life?

  • Realizing tobacco industry knowingly kills its clients is somehow mind-boggling but that's the harsh truth (of this industry and many others). Discovering the predatory behaviour of such industry is on a whole other level. I quit smoking ten years ago. I don't miss it at all.

  • Curious how Andorra is the number one consumer of cigarettes – with 6,300 smoked per year per person on average – and also has the highest life expectancy on earth? Wonder how you square that circle. The interesting question, though, is whether there is clear correlation between mortality and reduced smoking rates. Where there is correlation, however, is between increased rates of obesity + type II diabetes and the decline in smoking..,Perhaps smoking isn't so bad afterall and actually helps to suppress appetite – otherwise, why would we have over 17 different nicotine receptors in the brain?

  • When you allow the market place to dominate and influence governance within national states the outcome will always be a negative one. We have aggressively allowed this to take place with globalization which have weakened decisions making processors of government on so many issues .

  • One way, how to stop tabaco companies, is to make a big tax(1-2 hundreds %) in a relatively large part of the world for tabaco products to make it unavailable. Yes, I know, that they will sell these products illegaly, but a large tax tells the tabaco companies: What you are doing is bad. And if you will not be responsible and pay us this tax to pay the consequences, we can punish you. But the Great Britain is too small to do something like this with success. The European Union can do something like this better. But I know Brexit …

  • Google tells me that China and India produce tobacco, so I wonder how western cigarette companies can compete there. My guess is marketting.

  • This is only a topic because of a thing called "e cigarettes" a new manifestation to rid the murderous tobacco demons.Look how quickly it's being demonized, I personally do not believe the charts and graphs put out by the industry..I believe that people are more awake then ever about the deadly realities of smoking and smarter people will come along and create a safer way to inhale nicotine as well as smarter people will continue to wake up and stop letting these entities murder you! Big tobacco is failing I dont care what they say, because our conciousness is expanding and humanity is becoming more aware to the evil targeting this world. So FU big tobacco!!

  • Why aren't tobacco companies and shareholders being charged with manslaughter?
    Political corruption? Then charge the politician's too.

  • I live on what this video call undeveloped country, now i shifted my addiction from cigarettes (with it’s nicotine, tar, etc) into a salt nicotine.
    My conclussion is i am a nicotine addict.
    Anyone have a same experience?
    I’m just curious

  • if you sell cigarretes you're selling actual poison.

    it is not like alcohol which can actually benefit health in moderation.

    tobacco has ZERO health benefits and only NEGATIVE health effects.

  • Plenty of cheap cigarrettes, plenty, plenty, just go to your local polski sklep or eastern european food shop, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Czech, Hungary, Poland, Russia, Ukraine.. CIGGIES.. CIGGIES.. cheap as chips. No.. CHEAPER THAN CHIPS!

  • Great Video! I am a smoker, I always will be. Yeah it kills you, but the feeling it gives you outweighs the risks. Plus, smoking is cool, you can't deny it! I'm only 16 but I think I'll be smoking all my life.

    this comment was sponsored by Marlboro Cigarette Company ltd.*

  • Nicotine is more addictive than sugar, cocaine and mmorpg video games. I regret starting, I’ve been trying to quit for 5yrs and every time I manage to stop for a few months I always relapse

  • I was born addicted to nicotine because my mother smoked throughout her pregnancy. I started smoking when i was 12 and immediately felt calmer and more optimistoic about life. There followed a sixty year struggle with nicotine addiction including a 20 year hiatus which left me jumpy and nervous during that entire time. I began smoking again in my 70s with the same result as when I first started. Then about six monhs ago I switched to e-cigarettes. Still addicted but with a much more pleasurable experience plus many social advantages over cigarettes. My health improved also. At the age of 83 I will be addicted until my death but finally free of nasty cigarettes unless of course the various Nanny goverments step in and ban vaping. .

  • Ex-smoker of 7 years now. I quit cold turkey following a Vipassana Meditation retreat for 10 days where no tobacco, drugs, or alcohol were allowed. After I came home I set the date for May 1 and the rest is history. I love the fact that I'm able to not smell like tobacco or deal with cigarette butts anymore!

  • People have no control or choice to start smoking and shouldn't be responsible for the consequences. It's all big tobacco's fault.

  • Been smoke free for 10 weeks and still crave but there is no frickin' way I'm a be smokin' in my fifties (stopped on the last day of my 49th year). Enough is enough it's been great and I miss the sly ritual. I don't miss my stinky car, my run to the shops and other things. It beggars belief how insidious and downright evil the profit motive is!

  • Can you exclusively reporting about tobacco control in Indonesia?
    People here were very sensitive when someone talk about tobacco control, and it's hard, most of people will hate you, even for advocating their health.

    Thank you

  • They want to introduce plain packaging here in South Africa and "Big Tobacco" is running a huge marketing campaign to get smokers to lobby against it citing "My Choices". Lol thought that was illegal but hey

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