There are already one billion tobacco smokers worldwide, and this number is likely to rise further with Asian tobacco companies poised to enter the global market, according to SFU health sciences professor Kelley Lee.
“While companies like British American Tobacco and Philip Morris, traditionally known as ‘Big Tobacco’, have been rightfully targeted by tobacco control efforts to date, on the horizon are several companies based in Asia ‘going global’ with their business strategies,” says Lee, a Tier I Canada Research Chair in Global Health Governance.
“Their aim is to grow their share of the world market through increased marketing, new products and lower prices. This is likely to mean more smokers worldwide.”
Lee and her team are the first to study the global business strategies of Asian tobacco companies, recently published in a special issue of Global Public Health entitled, “The Emergence of Asian Tobacco Companies: Implications for Global Health Governance.”
Their aim in analysing companies in Japan, South Korea, China, Taiwan and Thailand was to document how these companies are shifting from a domestic focus to become aspiring transnational companies.
“Several of these companies have already started to export their brands to rapidly growing markets in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa,” says Lee.
“Their success will mean a further increase to the already six million deaths caused by tobacco use each year.”
These new research findings suggest that globalization of the tobacco industry may be entering a new phase.
Rather than supporting the expansion of these companies as sources of profit, Asian governments need to recognize that far greater economic, environmental and social costs are being caused by this deadly industry.
The authors conclude that collective action by all countries, focused on the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, is needed more than ever.
Lee sat down with SFU News to go over the five case studies that were examined in the special issue, and answered three questions about the findings:
What are the key factors behind the global business strategies of the five Asian tobacco companies?
Trade liberalization and tobacco industry lobbying pressured Asian countries to open their markets to transnational tobacco companies (TTCs) from the late 1980s. British American Tobacco, Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds and other companies introduced new brands, marketing methods and undermined tobacco control measures to gain a major share of the market in Asia.
The loss of domestic market share also prompted Asian tobacco companies, in turn, to look abroad to grow their own foreign markets. Their global business strategies have borrowed many of the practices used by existing transnational tobacco companies.
Which global business strategies have Asian companies pursued?
Government supported consolidation, restructuring and rationalizing of domestic operations. This included shutting down facilities deemed inefficient, merging smaller concerns into larger ones and upgrading production capacity.
The companies also increased manufacturing, specifically for export to foreign markets, and engaged in new product development to create brands that have global appeal.
Moreover, there has been product innovation, including specially designed filters, flavourings, super slim cigarettes and electronic cigarettes, as well as foreign direct investment in the form of joint ventures, overseas manufacturing and leaf growing operations.
How globalized are Asian tobacco companies to date?
Japan Tobacco International was the first Asian tobacco company to successfully globalize, beginning in the late 1990s, supported by the Japanese government as part owners. Today, Japan Tobacco International is the third largest transnational tobacco company in the world.
Korea Tobacco & Ginseng is well positioned to become the world’s next transnational tobacco company given its active and successful pursuit of foreign markets since privatisation in 2001. The company is achieving rapid growth in eastern Europe, the Middle East and South Asia countries.
The China National Tobacco Company is by far the world’s largest tobacco company but to date has been largely domestically focused. Consolidation has been followed by a strong commitment by the state owned monopoly to “go global” over the next decade through exports, overseas manufacturing and leaf production.
Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corporation and Thailand Tobacco Monopoly have both expressed ambitions to globalize, but remain domestically focused and are more likely to become regional players in the foreseeable future.
People might have to stop powering their e-cigarettes to the highest level as scientists have found out that its vapors can cause cancer. There are significant levels of cancer-causing benzene in the vapors of those e-cigarettes in the highest power, stated Portland State University scientists.
The result of the study was published on March 8 in the online journal “PLOS ONE”. The chemistry professor James F. Pankow led the research team, reported EurekAlert. The level of benzene they found from the high powered e-cigarettes was thousand times higher than in the surrounding air. It also depends greatly on the device itself. If it is not at its highest level, the benzene levels are not that high.
When the e-cigarette fluid additive chemicals benzoic acid or benzaldehyde is present it added so much to the benzene levels. However, of course, the level of this is nothing compared to the level of a conventional smoke from a cigarette. Benzene is one component of gasoline. It is very bad for people.
It has been linked to a number of illnesses that are very grave and can cause death. Diseases like leukemia and bone marrow failure are few of the examples of diseases a person can acquire with benzene. Benzene is usually found in the urban areas where industrial emissions are very rampant plus fuel tank leaks. This chemical has been deemed as the largest single cancer-risk air component in the U.S.
Meanwhile, according to Science Daily, the smoke that conventional cigarettes release is affecting the natural healing process of lungs. The blocking then leads to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD. Cough, bronchitis and breathing difficulties are the major signs of COPD. The findings were published in “American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine”. It was from the researchers at the Helmholtz Zentrum München, a partner in the German Center for Lung Research (DZL), and their international colleagues.
An individual with COPD does not heal its own lungs anymore. Researchers are now trying to find out why.
Tobacco use poses an unparalleled health and economic burden worldwide. A new study found that the diseases caused by smoking account for US$ 422 billion in health care expenditures annually, representing almost 6% of global spending on health. Smoking causes close to 6 million deaths per year – more than the deaths from HIV/AIDs, TB and Malaria combined. And the total economic cost of smoking after including productivity losses from death and disability amounts to more than US$ 1.4 trillion per year- equivalent in magnitude to 1.8% of the world’s annual GDP.
Globally, the public health and economic burden of tobacco is increasingly carried by low and middle income countries rather than high income ones. Within low and middle countries, the burden falls hardest onto the poor and vulnerable populations who can least afford the care. While tobacco use has been declining in most high income countries, it has been stable or rising in many low and middle income countries. Currently, over 80% of global deaths from cancer, diabetes, heart and lung disease occur in low and middle income countries, and this disparity is likely to grow based on current tobacco use patterns. Additionally, coping with tobacco related disease takes attention and resources away from other urgent health priorities, limiting capacity to respond to epidemic diseases, build sustainable health systems, and provide people with basic health services. A community that reduces its tobacco use is a healthier and more prosperous one.
These themes are the focus of a new monograph by the National Cancer Institute of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, in collaboration with the World Health Organization: The Economics of Tobacco and Tobacco Control. The monograph finds that tobacco control measures are highly cost-effective and do not harm economies. Though progress is being made in controlling the global tobacco epidemic, existing measures have not yet been used to their full potential. Applying evidence-based interventions, such as significant tobacco tax and price increases, comprehensive smoke-free policies, and bans on all tobacco product advertising, promotion, and sponsorship would reduce the demand for tobacco products and significantly reduce the prevalence of tobacco use and the resulting death, disease, and economic costs.
Frank Chaloupka, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the lead scientific editor for the monograph concludes, “the evidence is clear – effective tobacco control interventions make sense from an economic as well as a public health standpoint.”
The monograph also highlights the economic opportunities to be found in controlling tobacco. In addition to paying significant dividends for health, tobacco taxes have the potential for domestic resource mobilization. A recent study has shown that if all countries were to raise their cigarette excise taxes by the equivalent of US$ 0.80 per pack, an additional US$ 141 billion in excise revenue from cigarettes would be generated globally. In developing countries, this increase in revenue could help create the fiscal space needed to help achieve their development priorities. Examples from countries such as Egypt, Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam demonstrate how these revenues can be channeled into health initiatives, thereby alleviating some of the funding needs for the health sector. The so-called ‘sin tax’ reforms of the Philippines, for example, provided additional tobacco tax revenues to help finance a significant scale-up of subsidized health insurance for poor families.
The Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development recognizes that “price and tax measures on tobacco can be an effective and important means to reduce tobacco consumption and healthcare costs, and represent a revenue stream for financing for development in many countries”. The implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is one of the targets under Sustainable Development Goal Three: to promote healthy lives and wellbeing for all people at all ages. These processes under the 2030 Agenda, along with the commitments made at the UN High Level Meetings on Noncommunicable Diseases in 2011 and 2014, provide a governance framework for action on tobacco control in relation to development.
In order for the targets of the 2030 Agenda to be met, consideration of tobacco economics needs to be integrated into broader policy, and tackled with a whole of government approach that recognizes the cross-sectoral impact of tobacco. The economics of tobacco control affects our daily lives, our communities and our economies.
Tobacco control makes good sense not only from economic and public health viewpoints but from a sustainable development perspective as well.
The Economics of Tobacco and Tobacco Control provides the first comprehensive review of the economics of global tobacco control efforts since the 2003 adoption and 2005 entry into the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control
Over time, people who smoke e-cigarettes seem to pile up fewer toxins in their bodies than people who smoke traditional cancer sticks.
Vaping devotees, you have been vindicated: In the first long-term study comparing e-cigarettes with regular old cigarettes, researchers found that e-cigs aren’t quite as bad for you as the tobacco they replace. In fact, transitioning to vaping may end up being a good way to help people quit smoking altogether.
The study, funded by Cancer Research U.K., found that people who switched from tobacco to e-cigarettes for at least six months “had much lower levels of toxic and cancer-causing substances in their body than people who continued to use conventional cigarettes.” The conclusion: e-cigarettes are less toxic than tobacco.
The study followed 181 participants over a six-month period. The participants were split into five groups: “combustible” cigarettes users, e-cigarette users, users of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) like patches or gum, and people who smoke combustible cigarettes while also using either e-cigarettes or other NRT products.
Most studies up until now, as noted in the report, have examined the toxins in the actual vapor of the e-cigarette and compared that to the toxins in tobacco. But because the actual absorption levels of substances from e-cigarettes are not known, this may not be an accurate way to determine actual toxicity. Also, different vaping devices may deliver differing amounts of chemicals to the body.
This study instead examined the levels of toxins and carcinogens in the body over time, and found that they are lower in users of e-cigs than in regular smokers, and comparable to those found in people using other NRTs.
This is a big deal. While taking up vaping from scratch is still a bad idea, regular smokers who switch to e-cigarettes could do themselves considerably less harm than if they keep smoking tobacco. Ideally, e-cigarettes would be, like nicotine patches, used as an aid to eventually wean yourself off nicotine altogether, but even if you switch permanently to vaping, you’ll be healthier.
Vaping is still a young phenomenon—e-cigarettes were only patented in 2003—and the research is still scant. Even this study only looks at 181 individuals, and is funded by an organization that has a vested interest in reducing cancer. But really, it seems that pretty much anything is better for you than smoking. Apart from sitting down, that is.
Electronic cigarette (e-cigarettes) vaping may pose just as much or even higher risk as smoking tobacco for worsening a stroke, according to a preliminary study in mice presented at the American Heart Association’s International Stroke Conference 2017.
Mice exposed to e-cigarette vapor for 10 days or 30 days had worse stroke outcome and neurological deficits, than those exposed to tobacco smoke.
E-cigarette exposure decreased glucose uptake in the brain. Glucose fuels brain activity.
Both e-Cig and tobacco smoke exposure for 30 days decreased Thrombomodulin (anti-coagulant) levels.
From a brain health perspective, researchers said, electronic-cigarette vaping is not safer than tobacco smoking, and may pose a similar, if not higher risk for stroke severity.
Use of e-cigarettes is a growing health concern in both smoking and nonsmoking populations. Researchers said rigorous studies are needed to investigate the effects of the nicotine exposure via e-cigarettes on brain and stroke outcome.
Ali Ehsan Sifat, Graduate Student/Research Assistant, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Amarillo, Texas.