Is Your Country a Prime Target?
BECAUSE it buys cheaper tobacco in Brazil and Zimbabwe, the United States has a tobacco surplus. So where could the tobacco barons sell it? To countries in Africa and Asia. Thus, the magazine Asiaweek reports: “Asian countries now consume about 50 percent of America’s overseas tobacco sales, replacing Britain and West Germany as leading markets.”
And what a rich prize dangles in front of the tobacco salesmen! A market with a potential population of nearly two billion people within the next 20 years. The present population of China and India alone is staggering—a combined total of about 1.8 billion! And as World Health stated: “While tobacco markets are decreasing in the west at the rate of one per cent per annum, smoking is increasing in developing countries at an average of two per cent per annum.” And remember that the diminishing market has a much smaller population than the potential market that beckons in the East. The U.S. tobacco industry expects that sales in Asia will increase by 18 percent by the year 2000. But there is at least one barrier. Tariffs.
Double Standards in Spreading Disease and Death
How can the American tobacco companies get other countries to accept their surplus cigarettes? Paradoxically, they have an ally that, while warning its own public against the dangers of smoking, actively promotes the sale of deadly tobacco in other countries. Who is it? The U.S. government!
Asiaweek explains: “The tobacco-export juggernaut has moved with the weight of the U.S. government behind it. . . . The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative . . . has gone all out to batter down trade barriers and push for access to the Asian media for American companies—even though cigarette ads have long been banned from the airwaves in the U.S.” World Health magazine reports: “The [U.S.] tobacco companies wield considerable political influence. Trade sanctions or the threat of such sanctions have been made against Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and Korea unless they open their markets to the sale and advertising of American tobacco products.”
Even worse, the tobacco companies not only sell their products in Asia but also boost their sales with high-pressure advertising. Some countries, such as Taiwan and South Korea, under pressure, even dropped their ban on tobacco advertising! Now China is also high on the U.S. cigarette manufacturers’ hit list. Little wonder that one tobacco company executive is quoted as saying: “You know what we want? We want Asia.” But how do some view these American high-pressure tactics?
According to a New York Times correspondent, one Korean businessman railed “against American immorality for pushing American cigarettes on the Korean people.” And he has a valid point. While America wages a war against imports of cocaine and heroin that are basic to some other economies, it wants to off-load its own poisonous plant on other nations. Since America claims to have high ethical standards, is it consistent for it to foist on other nations, many in dire economic straits, its surplus of hazardous tobacco products?
Some Fight Back
Some African nations, such as Gambia, Mozambique, and Senegal, have banned cigarette advertising. Nigeria’s health minister stated last year that the Nigerian government was “going to ban all newspaper, radio, television and billboard advertising. We are going to ban smoking in all public places and transport.” Awake! was informed (January 1989) by a Nigerian information officer that this issue is still under debate.
China is a nation with 240 million smokers. By the year 2025, medical authorities expect to lose two million people each year as a result of smoking-related diseases. China has an enormous problem, as the magazine China Reconstructs admits: “Despite the Chinese government’s ban on cigarette advertising, frequent newspaper and magazine reports warning of the harmful effects of smoking, and the ever-increasing price of cigarettes, the number of smokers in China continues to rise.” And what is one of the results? “Cancer, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases are now the chief killers in China.”
In some parts of China, it is considered a sign of hospitality to offer cigarettes when welcoming guests. But what a price the Chinese are paying! China Reconstructs reports: “Medical experts have warned that the incidence of lung cancer is increasing on a massive scale.” As one Chinese expert stated: “We are already paying too high a price.”
There is, however, another danger in the power of tobacco advertisers—their subtle influence over the media.
[Picture on page 10]
Antismoking ad in Hong Kong