Intended for healthcare professionals


State versus private ownership of tobacco companies

BMJ 2019; 365 doi: (Published 20 June 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;365:l4056

Linked feature

Smoking cessation: state owned tobacco companies in China and Japan are at odds with their countries’ commitments

  1. Joanna E Cohen, Bloomberg professor of disease prevention1,
  2. Kelley Lee, tier 1 Canada research chair2
  1. 1Institute for Global Tobacco Control, Department of Health, Behavior and Society, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD, USA
  2. 2Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada
  1. Correspondence to: J E Cohen: jcohen{at}

Strict regulation that prioritises public health is essential either way

Murphy and Crossley’s feature article highlights the economic, political, and cultural challenges that China and Japan face in reducing the immense toll of disease and death caused by tobacco (doi:10.1136/bmj.l2328).1 They argue that one of the biggest challenges is that the China National Tobacco Corporation (CNTC) is a fully state owned entity, while the Japanese Finance Ministry retains a minimum one third stake in Japan Tobacco. This results in a clear trade-off between economic and public health interests on the part of the state.

Although these governments benefit immensely from the vast sales and tax revenues pouring in from the sale of cigarettes, they must eventually contend with the even greater economic and social costs when substantial proportions of their citizens get sick and die prematurely from this state sanctioned addiction. Shifting the balance between these two divergent sets of interests towards public health …

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