The big business of tobacco is global in nature, and each part of the tobacco business, from growing the leaf to manufacturing products, contributes to the multi-billion dollar tobacco industry. Six companies lead the world’s tobacco business, but there are at least 40 smaller businesses or state-owned monopolies that manufacture cigarettes.
Each year, the tobacco industry produces six trillion cigarettes, enough to create a continuous chain from Earth to Mars and back, multiple times. Nearly 500 tobacco factories have been documented worldwide, with the location of another 200 suspected but unconfirmed.
China grows more tobacco, manufactures more cigarettes, and also consumes more tobacco than any other country in the world. China National Tobacco Corporation (CNTC) posted revenues of US$95.2 billion and profits of US$19 billion in 2011. The Chinese government profits financially from the manufacture and sale of tobacco, as well as from tobacco taxes collected by the government. CNTC contributes 7–10% of the country’s total annual revenue through tobacco tax and profits. The complicated relationship between the Chinese tobacco industry and tobacco control is best characterized by a 2012 report which stated, “China’s top political leadership and the national tobacco bureaucracy are among the most crucial stakeholders in the country’s tobacco development and control”.
In spite of decades’ worth of scientific and medical evidence about the dangers of smoking, one billion people continue to smoke worldwide. The decline in smoking rates in high-income countries is more than offset by increased tobacco use in middle- and low-income countries. Tobacco companies know they must find replacement smokers, and focus much of their effort in these low- and middle-income markets, which have the potential for economic and demographic growth, and thus increased profits.