As cigarette sales continue to decline in developed countries, cigarette manufacturers are beginning to focus more on developing countries. Currently only 21% of cigarettes in the world are sold in developed countries, while developing countries make up 71% of the sales.
Developed countries have made a lot of progress over the last twenty years in reducing the amount of smoker, but many developing countries seem to be going in the opposite direction. The smoking rates are only expected to rise in developing countries.
The large multi-national tobacco companies mostly located in Britain and the United States are largely responsible for this increase. When a large tobacco company enters a new country, they usually develop a sophisticated marketing strategy, that is often not legal in developed countries. This often forces the domestic brands of the country to step up their marketing, which leads to a large increase in tobacco consumption and major impact on human health.
The Far East has been heavily targeted by manufacturers over the years and is expected to be responsible for 80% of the increased demand in developing countries. Currently China is home to one third of all smokers in the world.
Essentially developing countries are going through the same cycle that the West went through decades ago with tobacco. Similar to what happened in these countries there needs to be more knowledge spread about the health effects of tobacco.
The societal view is still quite accepting of smoking, just like it was decades ago in the West. While it is a well known fact in developed countries that smoking is linked to numerous health risks, many citizens in developing countries are not as aware. In China only 68% of smokers are aware that smoking causes lung cancer compared to over 90% in Western countries. There is a perception in many developing countries that smoking is often related to masculine identity. That being said smoking among women is significantly lower in many developing counties such as China, where only 1 on 25 women smoke. While this may sound like a positive stat it may not last, as manufacturers have began to directly target women. It is believed that few women currently smoke based on the particular culture and gender attitudes of the region. However, manufacturers are hoping to change that view. They have realized that many Chinese women are developing more feministic views. Therefore, they want women to feel as though smoking makes them empowered . They are designing cigarettes just for women and even distributing free samples to them in areas. This is very similar to tobacco companies targeting women in developed countries during the 1960 and 70s with the introduction of Virginia Slims, a cigarette marketed just for women. I feel that governments in these countries need to act quickly before rates among women start to rise.
Essentially developing countries are going through the same cycle that the West went through decades ago with tobacco. Similar to what happened in these countries there needs to be more knowledge spread about the health effects of tobacco. Governments need to step in by putting greater restriction and spread more information about the health effects of tobacco. It is not that surprising that China has the highest rate of smokers, as the country also has some of the most lenient laws. While they have recently banned smoking in many public places, such as government offices, schools, and hospitals. However, many still smoke in these buildings without any consequences. There also seems to be little support to help smokers quite. Smoking cessation is very low as most smokers only quite due to a chronic illness. Most often it is because they are unaware of the true risks and therefore have little motivation to stop. There is no reason why developing countries need to repeat the same cycle that the West did. We now have far better information on tobacco and it is just a matter of effectively informing citizens.
By Jeff Dallard
By Jeff Dallard