Clear The Air News Tobacco Blog Rotating Header Image

Tobacco Tax

Tobacco tax in Saudi Arabia: 213% increase in smokers seeking help to quit

Download (PDF, 86KB)

New tax brings UAE’s into era of fiduciary responsibility

Download (PDF, 29KB)

Nearly Three Quarters of UK Smokers Avoid Paying Tobacco Duties

Major new survey reveals true impact of high Government taxes and new regulations

Government warned of risks of a second duty increase in under one year

The trade association for the UK tobacco industry is today publishing the results of the largest annual survey of 12,000 UK smokers that reveals the impact of the Government’s high tobacco taxes and shows the problem being made worse by new draconian regulations introduced this year including plain packaging.

Key findings:

– 72.5% or around 7 million smokers buy tobacco from sources where UK taxes won’t be paid including illicit tobacco and from abroad.

– 41% of smokers bought tobacco from illicit tobacco sources.

– Smokers on higher incomes (over £60,000) were as likely to buy illicit as those on low incomes (under £6,000).

– 48% of smokers who earned less than £6,000 bought tobacco from illicit sources.

– 40% of smokers who earned more than £60,000 bought tobacco from illicit sources.

– Smokers are stockpiling cheap or illicit tobacco with 53% of cigarette smokers buying 200 or more when they buy from sources that won’t have paid UK tax.

– 88% of smokers thought that tobacco prices are too high – just 2% thought that prices were too low.

– 57% of smokers said that rising prices tempt them to purchase tobacco that won’t have paid UK tax.

– Taxes on tobacco have increased by 65% since 2010 and by 5.9% at the 2017 spring Budget.

– 45% of smokers said that the ban on small tobacco packs and the introduction of mandatory plain packaging tempted them to purchase illegal tobacco. 31% said it did not tempt them.

– Analysis by Oxford Economics says that banning small tobacco packs will cost HM Treasury £2.1 billion in its first year.

– HM Treasury lost out on £3 billion from tobacco purchases which didn’t pay UK taxes in 2015-16.

– Only 12% of smokers who knew of illicit tobacco in their local area reported it to the authorities.

– This is a 40% fall compared to the 20% who reported it in 2016.

Tobacco on which UK taxes is not paid is a major issue for law enforcement and taxpayers. £3 billion of tax were lost to the illicit trade and cross border shopping in 2015-16, an amount that cannot be spent on important public services. The link between high tobacco taxes and the illicit market is acknowledged by many leading independent institutions including the Royal United Services Institute.

This survey of over 12,000 smokers supports these conclusions with the vast majority saying that tobacco prices are too high; government taxes account for up to 90% of the price of a pack of cigarettes.

The regulatory changes to the UK tobacco market this year – the ban on small packs and the introduction of plain packaging – might make the problem worse, with 45% of smokers saying they are more likely to purchase illicit tobacco because of the changes. Moreover, smokers are increasingly buying larger amounts of untaxed tobacco with 53% saying they buy 200 cigarettes or more from non-taxed sources.

In addition, government policies appear to have alienated smokers so they are not concerned when they know illegal tobacco is being sold in their local area. Just 12% of smokers who had seen illicit tobacco reported it (a 40% decrease on last year (20%) and 64% of those who did not say this is because it is ‘none of their business’ (a 7 percentage point increase on 2016). There is also growing evidence found by a recent Trading Standards report to suggest the children are increasingly accessing illicit tobacco given its widespread availability and affordability.

Overall this survey confirms that the Government’s policies do not have the support of smokers and are likely to be a large contributing factor to the high level of illegal tobacco in the UK.

Responding to this year’s findings, TMA Director General, Giles Roca, said:

“These results reveal the true extent of how the Government’s high tax policy, in creating some of the highest tobacco prices in Europe, has continued to push smokers to buy from non UK duty paid and illegal sources. High taxes have cost the Treasury billions of pounds in lost revenues whilst giving a boost to the criminals who are behind the illegal trade. There is also worrying evidence that children are increasingly accessing tobacco from these illicit sources.”

“The regulations that came fully into force this year banning small tobacco packs and introducing plain packaging are making the problem worse by pushing smokers towards the illicit market rather than encouraging them to quit.”

“There is a real risk that the problem could be made worse if the Government decides to increase tobacco duty for a second time in nine months in the upcoming Budget. These findings suggest the Government needs to completely re-think its tobacco taxation policy.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. The findings are drawn from a survey of 12,605 smokers from across the UK conducted in June 2017.

2. This is the fourth year that the TMA has polled smokers to find out their attitudes towards illicit tobacco.

3. £3 billion of tax from tobacco products was lost to the illicit trade (£2.4 billion) and cross border shopping £600 million) in 2015-16. HMRC, 2016, Measuring tax gaps, tobacco tax gap estimates 2015-16.

4. Oxford Economics estimated that the impact of the ban of packs of fewer than 20 cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco smaller than 30grams would be a reduction in tax revenue of £2.1 billion in its first year.

5. The Treasury raised tobacco duty at the budget in March 2017 by 2% above inflation. The autumn budget will take place on 22nd November 2017.

6. A survey undertaken by North West Trading Standards in 2015 found that 39% of children had purchased cigarettes with non-English health warnings.

7. The Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association (TMA) is the trade association for the UK’s tobacco industry. Our members are British American Tobacco UK Ltd, Gallaher Ltd (a member of the JTI Group of companies) and Imperial Tobacco Ltd.

8. Findings from previous year’s surveys can be found at http://www.the-tma.org.uk.

SOURCE The Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association (TMA

Tobacco demand to fall 40% after new excise tax

Download (PDF, 168KB)

Possible effects of raising tobacco taxes across the EU

Increasing cigarette prices through taxation could reduce cigarette consumption and smoking related deaths across EU countries. This is according to a study published today in BMC Public Health which modelled a 10% tax increase on tobacco. Here to tell us about the model, how different EU countries would be affected, and the potential policy implications is Christian Schafferer, author of the article.

Christian Schafferer 21 Sep 2017

In the European Union (EU), approximately 700,000 people die of smoking-related diseases every year. The reduction of tobacco consumption has thus become one of the major social policies of the EU.

The tobacco control policies (MPOWER) proposed by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2008 serve as a guideline for the health authorities of the EU member states. The six MPOWER measures mandate (i) increases in the tobacco tax; (ii) monitoring of tobacco usage; (iii) support for quitters; (iv) creation of a smoking-free environment; (v) warning against the dangers of tobacco; (vi) and banning tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

Numerous empirical studies have demonstrated that most consumers, when confronted with higher retail prices, indeed reduce consumption.

Among the MPOWER measures, taxation is the most common single policy tool to control tobacco use. Economic theory suggests that increasing tobacco taxes will result in higher direct costs for smokers and thus lower consumption.

Theoretically, the tobacco industry could absorb the additional costs to prevent higher retail prices, but, in reality, increased costs are passed on to the consumers.

Numerous empirical studies have demonstrated that most consumers, when confronted with higher retail prices, indeed reduce consumption, while others switch to lower-priced products or turn to smuggled goods.

Modeling a 10% tax increase

In our study, we estimated the effects of a hypothetical cigarette price increase of 10% on consumption, tax revenues and death toll of smoking in 28 EU countries.

Unlike previous studies, our statistical model also accounted for the fact that income affects the responsiveness of consumers to price changes. Research has shown that smokers with high disposable income are less affected by rising cigarette prices than those with lower income. In other words, the price elasticity of demand changes with income (income threshold effect).

The price elasticity of demand is used to measure changes in demand of goods in response to changes in price. It gives the percentage change in quantity demanded in response to a one percent change in price.

Our statistical model separates the observed 28 countries into three income clusters (regimes), assuming that all of the countries within a cluster have about the same response patterns to price increases. Using data for the years 2005 to 2014, our model estimated the price elasticity of each income cluster.

Nicotine use would be reduced by 12.27% in Bulgaria and Romania; by 8.29% in Latvia and Poland; and by 5.03% in the EU24 countries.

Based on the elasticity figures, we were able to estimate the possible effects of a hypothetical price increase of 10% on consumption, tax revenues and the number of averted smoking-attributable deaths. The latter figure derived from the simulated impact of price increments on the reduction in smokers and was adjusted for the fact that smoking cessation still carries considerable risks of early death.

The results of our study revealed that higher taxation would be considerably more effective in reducing consumption as well as incidences of smoking-related deaths in the two less developed regimes than in the remaining 24 countries (EU24) belonging to the third income regime. Specifically, nicotine use would be reduced by 12.27% in Bulgaria and Romania; by 8.29% in Latvia and Poland; and by 5.03% in the EU24 countries.

Unlike other measures, such as bans on tobacco advertising, taxation not only effectively decreases tobacco consumption but, in general, also has the beneficial side effect of increasing national tax revenues. Our simulation showed that although tax revenues increased by 7.03% in Latvia and Poland, and by 3.15% in the EU24 area, revenues dropped by 1.41% in the least developed countries, Bulgaria and Romania.

Different policies for different countries

What are the policy implications? As the results of the study show, there are three income regimes among the observed 28 European countries. Since each regime is differently affected by cigarette taxation, different policies must be adopted to fight nicotine use. Specifically, other measures to control tobacco use, such as restrictions on advertisements, pictorial warning labels and cessation assistance, are necessary in high-income countries to compensate for the income threshold effect.

Moreover, as the study has shown, higher taxation leads to significant increases in tax revenues in high-income regimes, but in poorer countries it is more likely to lead to considerable losses in tax revenues. Health authorities in less developed countries may thus lack crucial funding to implement anti-smoking measures. External funding (donations from other European countries) would thus be required to ensure success in combating cigarette use.

Illicit trade of tobacco products has not been included in the study, as reliable data could not be obtained for all countries. Moreover, data on cigarette consumption analysed in this study refer to factory-made (FM) cigarettes. Roll-your-own (RYO) tobacco products have become popular in the EU in recent years and may influence consumption behavior. Further research on price effects may thus address the issue of illicit trade and RYO cigarette use.

The effects of a rise in cigarette price on cigarette consumption, tobacco taxation revenues, and of smoking-related deaths in 28 EU countries

Download (PDF, 159KB)

Cigarettes to increase by AUD $2.70 a pack

SORRY, smokers.

http://www.news.com.au/finance/money/costs/cigarettes-to-increase-by-270-a-pack/news-story/cc94b9d54eb6d81f94df34808ed8243b

It’s the 1st of September, which means the government is jacking up the price of tobacco to feed its filthy spending habit.

From today, tobacco excise on cigarettes will rise by 13 per cent, from AUD 62 cents to AUD 70 cents per stick, while excise on other tobacco products will rise 17 per cent from AUD $771.60 to AUD $901.39 per kilogram.

That means a 30-pack of Winfield Blues, currently retailing for AUD $32.50, will rise to AUD $35.20 (HKD 219). “That’s a AUD $2.70 (HKD17) price hike that will make poor, addicted smokers worse off,” said Liberal Democrats Senator David Leyonhjelm, describing it as a “huge, cruel” tax rise.

The 13 per cent increase reflects the last six months of wages growth plus the twice-yearly 12.5 per cent tax increase, while the increase in excise on roll-your own includes these factors plus an additional 3 per cent to bring its taxation into line with cigarettes.

The roll-your own changes were announced in the May budget and will be phased in over four annual changes each September. The new measure is expected to claw back additional AUD $360 million in tax over four years, $35 million of which will be paid to the states and territories.

In 2016-17, the government raked in AUD $10.69 billion in tobacco excise.

“In addition, GST is imposed on both the cost of tobacco and the tobacco excise — a tax on a tax,” Senator Leyonhjelm said. “Tax will rise from 66 per cent of the price of cigarettes to 69 per cent. Tax paid by smokers is at least 17 times the cost that smokers impose on other taxpayers via the health system.

“The government bans the sale of e cigarettes that contain nicotine, even though these are 95 per cent less harmful than cigarettes. The extortionate taxation of tobacco, combined with the ban on e-cigarettes and plain packaging rules, have generated a booming black market in untaxed, unregulated tobacco run by organised crime. This supports the pushing of drugs and illegal guns.”

In 2014, the Liberal Democrats confirmed the party had received “tens of thousands” of dollars from tobacco giant Philip Morris in the lead-up to the 2013 election, but Senator Leyonhjelm denied the donation influenced his vocal opposition to plain packaging.

“The Liberal Democrats have been around for about 20 years, and freedom of smokers’ rights was the first issue, and the party only got its first donation [from Philip Morris] last year,” he told The Guardian. “So it’s not like anyone’s mind was changed or anything.”

According to the Cancer Council, tobacco smoking remains the leading preventable cause of death in the country, claiming the lives of 15,500 Australians every year.

Smokers usually pay 45-50 per cent more on their monthly life insurance premiums, according to analysis by comparison website Finder.com.au. A 35-year-old male smoker will pay $80 per month for an $800,000 life insurance policy, compared to a non-smoker who will only pay $40 for the same policy.

“A smoker’s dirty habit can really add up over the course of the year, and it’s just become even more expensive so now would be a great time to quit and potentially save yourself over $10,000 a year,” Finder.com.au spokeswoman Bessie Hassan said.

“It’s not just the price of a packet of cigarettes but also more expensive insurance premiums, and the cost to your health over time that all add up. It’s important to note that insurers usually require you to have given up smoking for at least 12 months before they classify you as a non-smoker, so start today.”

Taxation: Most effective but still the least-used tobacco control measure

source: Infographic: Stop Smoking: It's Deadly and Bad for the Economy

source: Infographic: Stop Smoking: It’s Deadly and Bad for the Economy

A new report by the World Health Organization (WHO) shares some good news: Six in 10 people worldwide are now protected by at least one of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC)-recommended demand reduction measures, including taxation. The report, launched on the sidelines of the UN high-level political forum on sustainable development, also makes clear that raising taxes to increase tobacco product prices is the most cost-effective means to reduce tobacco use and prevent initiation among the youth. But it is still one of the least used tobacco control measures.

https://blogs.worldbank.org/health/taxation-most-effective-still-least-used-tobacco-control-measure

The facts about this global public health scourge are undisputable:

  • Tobacco use is the leading single preventable cause of death worldwide, killing over 7 million people each year.
  • Cigarettes are addictive by design, and smoking cigarettes can damage every part of the body, causing different cancers from the head or neck to the lungs and cervix and other chronic conditions such as stroke and heart disease, which lead to early death.
  • The direct and indirect economic costs are also enormous, totaling more than US$1.4 trillion.
  • Controlling tobacco use is critical for the achievement of the health and social and economic targets in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

But we know what needs to be done and governments are acting. Governments are implementing “MPOWER”, six tobacco control measures in line with the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). MPOWER includes:

  • Monitoring tobacco use and prevention policies;
  • Protecting people from tobacco smoke;
  • Offering help to quit tobacco use;
  • Warning about the dangers of tobacco;
  • Enforcing bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship; and
  • Raising tobacco taxes.

The WHO report indicates that 43% of the world’s population (3.2 billion people) are now covered by two or more MPOWER measures at the highest level, nearly seven times the number covered in 2007. Eight countries, including five low- and middle-income ones, have implemented four or more MPOWER measures at the highest level: Brazil, Islamic Republic of Iran, Ireland, Madagascar, Malta, Panama, Turkey, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Some additional findings are noteworthy:

  • Monitoring: Several countries, such as Nepal, India, and the Philippines, that conducted WHO-backed initiatives to monitor tobacco use have used the information to adopt measures to protect people from tobacco use. For example, Philippines’ landmark Sin Tax Reform Law was passed in 2012 after its 2009 global adult tobacco survey showed high smoking rates among men (47.4%) and boys (12.9%). The implementation of this policy measure has contributed to declining tobacco use as evidenced by the country’s 2015 adult tobacco survey results.
  • Protect: Comprehensive smoke-free legislation is currently in place for almost 1.5 billion people in 55 countries. Dramatic progress has been witnessed in low- and middle-income countries, 35 of which have adopted these laws since 2007.
  • Offer: Appropriate cessation treatment is in place for 2.4 billion people in 26 countries.
  • Warn: More people are protected by strong graphic pack warnings than by any other MPOWER measure, covering almost 3.5 billion people in 78 countries – almost half (47%) the global population. And, 3.2 billion people live in a country that aired at least one comprehensive national anti-tobacco mass media campaign in the last two years.
  • Enforce: Bans on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship interfere with the tobacco industry’s ability to promote and sell its deadly products and reduce tobacco use. But only 15% of the world’s population is currently covered by a comprehensive ban.
  • Raise: Raising taxes to increase tobacco product prices is the most cost-effective measure to reduce tobacco use and encourage users to quit, but it is one of the least used tobacco control measures globally.

What the World Bank Group is doing

As an institution, the Bank has long been committed to tobacco control as reflected in its unambiguous Operational Directive 4.76 of 1999 that mandates that the World Bank Group does not lend directly or provide credits, grants, or guarantees for tobacco production, processing, or marketing. The Bank’s policy advice and technical assistance support tobacco tax increases to protect the population from health risks and to mobilize additional domestic resources.

Over the past two decades, Bank teams have carried out substantial analytical work to build the global knowledge base on issues related to tobacco control.

In recent years, the Bank, in partnership with the Gates and Bloomberg Foundations, and in coordination with WHO, has supported countries in the design of tobacco tax policy reforms to raise prices, reduce consumption, and mobilize domestic resources in accordance with the 2015 Financing for Development Addis Ababa Action Agenda.

In addition to support provided to the reforms in Philippines in 2012, in Botswana in 2013, in Ghana in 2014, and in Peru in 2015, the Bank’s assistance to Armenia, Colombia, Moldova, and Ukraine contributed to the adoption of significant tobacco tax increases in 2016. The total population covered by these policy actions is about 250 million people.

Ongoing support is being provided in 2017 to an additional set of countries across regions, including Montenegro, where the government recently announced that tobacco taxes will be increased over the next 3 years in line with the European Union Tobacco Tax Directive’s target rates, and in Lesotho, as part of the 2017 budget presented by the new government to Parliament.

In moving the global tobacco control agenda forward, as the findings of the 2017 WHO report suggest, a dedicated focus by governments with support of the international community is required to raise tobacco taxes since it continues to be the least used tobacco control measure. This is of critical importance to make these deadly products unaffordable, reduce consumption among current smokers, and prevent smoking initiation among children and youth.

While health is the main objective, we also need to argue, on the basis of country evidence from across the world, that raising tobacco taxes can generate a significant fiscal benefit by helping to expand a country’s tax base and increase the budgetary capacity of governments to fund priority investments and programs that benefit the entire population.

Big Tobacco Accused of ‘Dirty War’ Against Smoking Prevention in Africa

In the past, Big Tobacco has been accused of covering up the true extent of the health risks associated with smoking, as well as fighting government restrictions. Now, a new investigation suggests that Big Tobacco is using strong-arm tactics to resist regulations in many parts of Africa.

http://www.care2.com/causes/big-tobacco-accused-of-dirty-war-against-smoking-prevention-in-africa.html

The Guardian reports that after reviewing court documents and other materials, it has uncovered a systematic wave of bullying and intimidation by British American Tobacco. And BAT is soon to close a deal that would make it the world’s leading tobacco company.

The exposé highlights attempts made by BAT to defang, or resist outright, regulation and restriction. For example, the company used threats of economic damage to fight higher taxes on cigarettes, a plan that is standard in the U.S. and much of Europe.

The Guardian reports:

In one undisclosed court document in Kenya, seen by the Guardian, BAT’s lawyers demand the country’s high court “quash in its entirety” a package of anti-smoking regulations and rails against what it calls a “capricious” tax plan. The case is now before the supreme court after BAT Kenya lost in the high court and the appeal court. A ruling is expected as early as next month.

The Guardian has also seen letters, including three by BAT, sent to the governments of Uganda, Namibia, Togo, Gabon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso revealing the intimidatory tactics that tobacco companies are using, accusing governments of breaching their own laws and international trade agreements and warning of damage to the economy.

But we have seen these tactics before.

Starting as early as the 1970s, health warnings about cigarettes began to grab national attention. At that time, tobacco companies used every advertising and legal mechanism they could to prevent further regulation and to avoid plain packaging. As a result, some 70 years after the health dangers of cigarettes came to light, we are only now restricting tobacco in a way that seems appropriate to its risks.

While tobacco companies are in retreat in the West, African, Latin American and now Asian markets have become key areas of interest. As well as exploiting labor in these regions, tobacco companies now want to ensure that their products last long after the West has rejected cigarettes.

For its part, British American Tobacco has always claimed to abide by strict codes of conduct. The company has defended its use of the courts as a means to clear up ambiguous interpretations in local regulation and to ensure international regulations are being followed where appropriate.

British American Tobacco maintains that it does not oppose regulation per se and believes that reasonable restrictions on tobacco are warranted as, tobacco is a harmful product.

However, campaigners have long said that BAT falls short of that standard. Many African nations have signed on to the World Health Organization’s treaty on tobacco control, but that status still needs to be ratified, meaning that no uniform policies exist. Sub-Saharan Africa in particular has shown its vulnerability to manipulation by outside businesses with money.

The Guardian exposé highlights this clearly in one extract regarding tobacco regulation in Kenya:

Extract – letter
“If these measures are brought into effect, the economic and social impact will be extremely negative. They could even threaten the continuation of our factory which has operated in Bobo Dioulasso for more than fifty years with more than 210 salaried employees.”

Excerpt from letter from Imperial Tobacco to the prime minister of Burkina Faso, 25 January 2016, concerning new regulations on plain cigarette packaging and large graphic health warnings.

The Sunday Times has previously reported on an investigation which found that BAT sold cheaper, highly addictive cigarettes to Africans in the 1990s. The company also allegedly marketed smoking without sufficient health warnings.

BAT may dispute such claims or suggest that these are simply past infractions. However, more recent reports claim that people affiliated with BAT have attempted to bribe African officials to advance tobacco products in sub-Saharan Africa and to avoid certain regulations.

As of 2016, these allegations — made both by former BAT employees and by outside investigators — even prompted lawmakers in the U.S. Congress to call for a full investigation to determine whether BAT breached any laws due to its involvement in Africa.

Overall, tobacco use remains low across Africa. A major “Lancet” study published in 2010 puts cigarette smokers at about 14 percent of the total population — far below that seen in the Americas. However, data suggests that the rate of smoking uptake is rising at an alarming rate — by as much as four percent per year.

Will the Guardian’s revelations prompt further action against British American Tobacco? That remains to be seen, but we must do everything we can to help African nations get the full facts on tobacco’s health impacts and resist Big Tobacco’s strong-arm tactics.

Nations that cannot fight tobacco industry should raise taxes, says WHO

World Health Organization says many governments have neither funds nor expertise to take on big tobacco companies

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/12/nations-that-cannot-fight-tobacco-industry-should-raise-taxes-says-who

African nations whose attempts to regulate cigarettes are increasingly bogged down in the courts by wealthy tobacco companies should impose high taxes to deter people from developing a smoking habit, the World Health Organization says.

Vinayak Prasad of WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative said many African governments were at a disadvantage in the fight against the industry over regulatory controls, like graphic health warnings on packs, which are the norm in the west. They have neither the funds nor enough expertise to deal with the big tobacco companies’ threats, intimidatory letters and law suits.

His comments follow the exposure by the Guardian of the attempts by multinational tobacco companies to delay and dilute regulatory controls in Africa through litigation and threats. At least eight African governments have been pressured by the industry.

“Just focus on getting the tax raised,” urged Prasad. WHO, the World Bank and others were trying to encourage and assist countries in changing their tobacco taxation, which countries from the Philippines to India had demonstrated could raise millions of dollars for healthcare or other essential government spending.

Developing nations do not have enough money or staff devoted to public health, he said. Often those in government who lead on tobacco control are also the key players for other areas, such as mental health.

“The tobacco epidemic has already reached the African continent. Countries have started to prioritise it but inherently the systems are weak. They need to build human resource capacity and technical capacity to respond to industry threats,” he told the Guardian. “We are working extremely hard [to help them] but we need to do more.”

Reacting to the Guardian’s reports, former public health minister Caroline Flint said: “It is sad to see firms like BAT fighting African governments for years over health warnings on cigarette packages and modest taxes. In any western nation they would have conceded these issues years ago. It speaks volumes about their approach to Africa that the tobacco giants appear willing to fight on all fronts to protect their sales.”

Lord Rennard, the vice chair of the all-party parliamentary group on smoking and health, said a tax on the profits of firms “could provide funds for legal support to governments in poorer countries seeking to resist tobacco damaging the health of their local populations”.

The tobacco industry also vigorously opposes hikes in the taxation of cigarettes, which is proven to reduce the numbers who smoke. The companies and tax advisers who intervene on their behalf with governments claim that tax hikes lead to smuggling from countries where the prices are lower. Prasad says that is not so if taxation is simplified, so that the same sum is levied on every carton regardless of brand.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of campaigning group Ash, said the revelations showed that the industry had not turned over a new leaf, focusing on vaping and aiming for a smoke-free future, as it claims. “The Guardian has thrown a spotlight on the dirty truth, the leopard hasn’t changed its spots, it’s still promoting the same old lethal products the same way it always did, in countries where it can get away with it,” she said.

“Last century 100 million people died from smoking; if Big Tobacco isn’t stopped then this century a billion will be killed by their lethal products and most of them will be from low and middle income countries. The tactics being used in Africa of denial, deception and delay were used very successfully in the UK in the last century, but they’re no longer being allowed to get away with it here and smoking rates have plummeted as a result. Africa needs to learn from our experience, if you regulate the industry strictly the smoking epidemic can be halted and reversed.”

Dr Tom Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US, said in a tweet that the revelations showed the “outrageous and shameful activities of tobacco industry in Africa”. US senator Richard Blumenthal, who spent his career promoting anti-smoking legislation, and was one of 46 state attorneys general to secure hundreds of billions of dollars in damages from tobacco companies in a 1990s settlement, said that in developing markets “tobacco companies have actively resisted” health regulation. “They have actively intervened with governments, and particularly so in Africa.”

José Luis Castro, president and chief executive officer of Vital Strategies, an organisation that promotes public health in developing countries, said: “The danger of tobacco is not an old story; it is the present. The industry is using every tool at its disposal to hook new smokers, especially kids, in Africa and other parts of the world.” There is a huge gap between what the industry says and what it does, he said. “It’s time this sham was called out in every country and in every public forum. When the tobacco industry gets near government, it poisons efforts to protect health.”

The multinational companies say they do not oppose tobacco regulation that is sound and evidence-based. “However, where there are different interpretations of whether regulations comply with the law, we think it is entirely reasonable to ask the courts to assist in resolving it,” British American Tobacco told the Guardian.

Imperial Tobacco also said it supported regulation, but it would “continue to make our views known on excessive, unnecessary and often counter-productive regulatory proposals”.

Philip Morris International said it has contact with public authorities on a range of issues, “such as taxation, international trade, and tobacco control policies. Participating in discussions and sharing points of view is a basic principle of public policy making and does not stop governments from taking decisions and enacting the laws they deem best”.

This content is funded, in part, by Vital Strategies.