Once raw tobacco leaf has been grown by a farmer and sold to a manufacturer, it must be processed into a desirable consumer product. To maximize profits, tobacco manufacturers want to make products that are as attractive and addictive as possible. The product standards governing this process of transformation aim to control tobacco products’ characteristics and which kinds of tobacco products can be sold to consumers.

When these standards are written with public health in mind, tobacco products can be mandated to be less attractive and less addictive to users. Such strategies include bans on characterizing flavors, limits on nicotine content, and prohibitions against additives that quicken nicotine’s absorption into the body. Additional policies include freezing the tobacco market by preventing the introduction of new brands, restricting a brand to a single presentation to prevent implicit suggestions of reduced harm in variants, and requiring the disclosure of ingredients to regulatory agencies and consumers.

Banning the addition of menthol, the most widely used flavor in tobacco products, has considerable potential to curb smoking. Research suggests that menthol in cigarettes may facilitate initiation and hinder quitting. Fortunately, laws banning the sale of menthol in tobacco products have passed in Brazil, Turkey, Ethiopia, the European Union, and five Canadian provinces.

While manufacturing standards that limit the appeal and addictiveness of products hold the promise of shrinking the tobacco market in the long run, there can be unintended consequences if such regulations do not carefully consider the broader tobacco product marketplace. For example, the market position of existing varieties of cigarettes became solidified when they were exempted from pre-market scrutiny under the United States’ law extending the Food and Drug Administration’s jurisdiction to cover tobacco products. Cigarette manufacturers were permitted to keep selling a deadly consumer product with only some restrictions, while barriers to the introduction of new potentially less harmful products were codified.

Meanwhile, the global tobacco industry has recently consolidated through privatization, acquisitions and mergers—now only 5 firms control 80% of the global cigarette market. These firms have automated and consolidated their own factories, steadily driving down the number of employees. Hence, now more than ever, when tobacco companies say that tobacco control policies threaten manufacturing jobs, we must remember that they are only in the business of maximizing their profits for shareholders, not protecting the well-being of their workers.






Photo Credit: Free Trade Zone Factories “Jebel Ali Port 2” by Imre Solt under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license, without modification.

Wikimedia: Jebel Ali Free Trade Zone in UAE
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2016 年,英美烟草公司宣布将要关闭在马来西亚必打灵查亚市的工厂,以整合制造区域,并谴责卷烟的消费税过高。马来西亚顶住了来自烟草行业的压力,并未修改法律条款以保住卷烟厂。


Photo Credit: BAT Factory, Petaling Jaya ©Malay Mail. Reprinted with permission.

The Star, 2016: The BAT Petaling Jaya cigarette factory





Photo Credit: FDA Sign and Bldg 21 US Food and Drug Administration, public domain.

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2015 年,全球 6 大烟草制造商的利润超过 620 亿美元,卷烟导致640多万人死亡,也就是说,每例死亡的利润为 9730 美元。


Patricio V. Marquez, China’s 2015 tobacco tax adjustment: a step in the right direction

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