Tobacco's Growing Global Road

Article excerpt

Campaigns for nonsmokers' rights and against smoking have had much success in the US and in parts of Europe. But elsewhere, they still have a long way to go.

US tobacco companies aren't helping much. They generate more than $62 billion in annual revenues, and more of that is being made in foreign markets where antismoking efforts are generally weak.

Philip Morris' international sales, for instance, went up a whopping 18 percent to $39.54 billion last year. This week it said it would pay out $5.2 billion to purchase Sampoerna, the third- largest cigarette producer in Indonesia.

Why Indonesia? It's a country of 220 million people where up to 70 percent of males smoke (the cigarettes tend to be kreteks, a blend of tobacco and cloves.)

The purchase represents another example of a disturbing trend. Philip Morris and other big tobacco companies have sought to penetrate world tobacco markets since the 1980s - with either outright purchases of companies such as Sampoerna or state-owned tobacco enterprises being privatized (e.g., Russia), or through joint ventures.

The world's big tobacco companies have a physical presence in some 96 countries. And tobacco manufacturers are seriously lobbying China, whose smokers represent a third of the world's estimated 1. …