Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Merchants of Death Won't Die

I'm not sure whether you common rabble are allowed to read this (I have a cookie on my computer that gets me in whether it's subscription only or not) but anyway, Jonathan Gornall in the BMJ updates on the status of the tobacco industry. While smoking prevalence is down considerably in the wealthy countries over the past few decades, the industry is finding new customers elsewhere. In 2012, 2.47 trillion cigarettes were smoked in China. And the U.S. is still a profitable market, with 287 billion smoked that year. That's not to mention cigars and smokeless tobacco.

The industry counterattacks fiercely whenever governments propose tobacco control measures, such as plain packaging or tax increases. They use both lawsuits and political cronyism. Gornall reports that since 2010, 38 British member of parliament have been guests of Japan Tobacco International, one of the big 4 companies that dominate the global market, at pop concerts, cricket games, Wimbledon tennis, and other events. Eighteen members of the House of Lords are members of a cigar club through which they are regularly entertained by the Tobacco Manufacturers Association.

One wonders whether equivalent corruption is going on in the U.S. But in any event, there isn't any other legal product which, when used as directed, kills half of its consumers. There will never be any shortage of psychopaths to serve as executives of the tobacco companies, but they are murderers. Let us be clear.

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