Big Tobacco Is Using Trade Laws to Keep Poor Countries From Cracking Down on Smoking

The World
How It Works
Dec. 13 2013 4:52 PM

Big Tobacco Is Using Trade Laws to Keep Poor Countries From Cracking Down on Smoking

102270002
An Egyptian man lights a cigarette in Cairo on June 10, 2010.

Photo by Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images

Sabrina Tavernise of the New York Times reports today on efforts by tobacco companies to use trade regulations to prevent developing countries from adopting anti-smoking laws. At least four African countries—Namibia, Gabon, Togo, and Uganda—have received warnings from the tobacco companies that their laws violate trade agreements Philip Morris has attempted to sue the governments of Uruguay and Australia.

It makes sense that these companies are concerned about new smoking rules in poor countries. As American smoking rates have plummeted, these countries have emerged as the largest potential growth markets. Tobacco consumption more than doubled in the developing world from 1970 to 2000, according to Tavernise’s article. China and India have been driving most of the growth in recent years, but as Time reported a few years ago, Africa is the next frontier:

In Ghana, the male smoking rate (which in most places in the world is higher than the female rate) is only 8%; in the Democratic Republic of Congo, it's 14%; in Nigeria, it's 12%. Compare that with 31% in India, 56% in Malaysia and a whopping 61% in China.
Advertisement

Smoking rates tend to rise along with economic development. As the World Lung Foundation’s Tobacco Atlas put it last year, “In 2009, the media employed person in Kenya had to work almost an hour to buy a pack of the cheapest cigarettes, while the cheapest cigarettes cost just over 11 minutes of labor for the median worker in Japan.” As Kenya develops, that number will go down. And not surprisingly, the government there has put extremely tough smoking laws in place.

In the 19th century, Britain sent warships to when the Chinese government tried to block the import of opium from British traders. For now, Big Tobacco just sends lawyers.  

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Culturebox

The Ebola Story

How our minds build narratives out of disaster.

The Budget Disaster That Completely Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

The Shooting Tragedies That Forged Canada’s Gun Politics

A Highly Unscientific Ranking of Crazy-Old German Beers

Education

Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.

Culturebox

The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Would You Trust Walmart to Provide Your Health Care? (You Should.)

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
  Business
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
  Life
Gentleman Scholar
Oct. 22 2014 5:54 PM May I Offer to Sharpen My Friends’ Knives? Or would that be rude?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 4:27 PM Three Ways Your Text Messages Change After You Get Married
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
  Arts
Culturebox
Oct. 22 2014 11:54 PM The Actual World “Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 2:42 PM Orcas, Via Drone, for the First Time Ever
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.