Intended for healthcare professionals


The tobacco industry in developing countries

BMJ 2006; 332 doi: (Published 09 February 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:313
  1. Ernesto Sebrié, postdoctoral fellow (,
  2. Stanton A Glantz, professor of medicine (
  1. Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, Cardiovascular Research Institute, Department of Medicine, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94143-1390, USA

    Has forestalled legislation on tobacco control

    The multinational cigarette companies act as a vector that spreads disease and death throughout the world. This is largely because the tobacco industry uses its wealth to influence politicians to create a favourable environment to promote smoking. The industry does so by minimising restrictions on advertising and promotion and by preventing effective public policies for tobacco control such as high taxes,1 strong graphic warning labels on packets,2 w1 w2 smoke-free workplaces and public places,3 aggressive counter-marketing media campaigns,4 w3-w5 and advertising bans.1 Unlike mosquitoes, another vector of worldwide disease, the tobacco companies quickly transfer the information and strategies they learn in one part of the world to others.w6-w8

    Responding to this global threat, as of January 2006, 121 countries had ratified the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the first global public health treaty. The details of how this treaty will be implemented are just beginning to emerge. Two papers in this issue, about Uzbekistan in 1994 (p 355) and Mexico in 2004 (p 353), illustrate the tobacco industry's increasingly sophisticated strategies to prevent meaningful tobacco control and turn the FCTC to its advantage.5 6

    The paper from Uzbekistan illustrates a blunt exercise of economic and political power.5 In 1994 British American Tobacco (BAT) sought to purchase and expand Uzbekistan's inefficient, government …

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