RN: the New Opium war


Jan Slakov

Date: Fri, 1 Jan 1999 23:41:50 -0200
From: •••@••.••• (R. Magellan)
Subject: (ing) A nova Guerra do Ópio

Jan's attempt at a translation of César Roberto Magellan's Portuguese

The article below compares the US diplomatic offensive aimed at increasing
cigarette comsumption in Asia to the Opium War, which afflicted colonial
China in the last century.

In promoting its tobacco companies, the US violates the restrictions which
are now enforced withinn its own borders to fight tobacco addiction. In the
so-called "Third World" tobacco addiction is increasing, while in the "First
World" it has been decreasing.

As well as pointing out the political corruption of the industry, the
article states that smoking harms society in ways that go beyond the harm
inflicted on the individual him or herself.  "The net economic costs of
tobacco are profoundly negative- costs of treatment, mortality and
disability exceed estimates of the economic benefits to producers and
consumers by at least 200 billion US dollars annually, with one third of
this loss being incurred by developing countries." 

all the best, Jan (inspired by César Roberto)


                   "The global perspective: a new opium war"

 Dr Judith M. Mackay, Director, Asian Consultancy on Tobacco Control Hong

>From San Francisco's Forum On Global Tobacco Control Policies,  May 19, 1997 

     1. Why we need to address tobacco control from a global perspective 

     Reducing tobacco use in the USA - a country with only 4% of the
world's smokers - will not solve the global tobacco epidemic. As cigarette
consumption in the US has fallen from 624 billion in 1982 to 472 billion in
1996,[1] output has increased and US tobacco exports have risen from 85 to
250 billions over the same period.[1] American (and British) tobacco
companies are now flooding the globe with tobacco products. 

     US embassies and consulates around the world one-sidedly support
tobacco, not health, interests. The situation is akin to the opium wars of
150 years ago, when British business and government colluded to sell
another dangerous and addictive product to China. Quotes from lawyers for
opium interests sound remarkably familiar to quotes from tobacco interests
today:[2] 'Smoking is perfectly innocuous. It is on a par with tea
drinking. The alleged effects of opium have been vastly exaggerated. The use 
of opium is not a curse but a comfort to the hard-working Chinese.' The 
lawyer also attempted to 'expose the mischievous fallacies disseminated by
the Society for the Suppression of the Opium Trade.' 

Yet the USA could take a leading and exemplar role in reducing the
epidemic, and export health expertise and experience. The tobacco epidemic
is not being reduced. It is both increasing and it is being transferred from 
the rich to the poor countries. 

     The current 1.1 billion smokers in the world will increase to around
1.64 billion by 2025, partly because the world's population will have risen
from the current 6 billion to 8.5 billion, people will live longer,[3] and
more women will be smoking. 

     On current smoking patterns, by 2025 the annual number of deaths will
have risen from 3 million to 10 million, of which seven million will be in
developing countries, which can ill afford this burden, either in health or
economic terms. 

     The net economic costs of tobacco are profoundly negative- costs of
treatment, mortality and disability exceed estimates of the economic
benefits to producers and consumers by at least 200 billion US dollars
annually, with one third of this loss being incurred by developing

     Tobacco is a major threat to sustainable and equitable global

     2. How the tobacco industry has impacted on the international community 
through politics, economics, and trade policy 

     Transnational tobacco company tactics include promotion, political and
commercial pressures with the weakening of national monopolies. 

          a) Promotion and Sales 

     Developing countries are being bombarded with sophisticated, western
tobacco marketing and promotion, including direct and indirect advertising,
sponsorship, product placement in films, "Marlboro" and "Salem" clothing
shops, travel agencies, funding of political events, and targeting of
women, currently few of whom smoke in developing countries. 

          b) Political and Commercial Pressures 

     Orchestrated and sophisticated political and media lobbying by the
transnational tobacco companies is now common throughout developing
regions. The TTCs strenuously oppose attempts by developing countries to 
introduce their own national public health laws. 

     American tobacco companies have persuaded the US government to
threaten unilateral retaliatory trade sanctions against countries (to date,
Japan, the Republic of Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, China) unless they open up 
to the sales and promotion of US tobacco products, even in countries with 
established national laws forbidding tobacco advertising. Lobbying on behalf 
of tobacco by the US embassies continues. 

          b) Weakening of national monopolies 

     Opening up of markets, joint ventures, and a complex of licensing
agreements have weakened national monopolies. The opening up of markets is
not only leading to a sharp increase in market share of foreign cigarettes, 
but is also leading to market expansion, especially increased smoking among 
youth. One analysis showed that market share of US cigarettes in four 
countries affected by
trade threats -- Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and Thailand -- increased 
dramatically after the countries accepted US tobacco products. The study 
also found per capita cigarette consumption to be almost 10% higher than it 
would have been if markets had stayed shut to American cigarettes.[4] 

          3. How local actions can have far-reaching effects 

     Many developing countries have little expertise in countering the
transnational tobacco companies, or in dealing with the new,
non-communicable disease epidemic. The USA has an opportunity to play a
global role in the tobacco epidemic. Countries like Laos and Bangladesh
have little hope of implementing comprehensive tobacco control policies if
the USA does not grasp the political nettle of tobacco control. Any
settlement agreement whereby the US tobacco companies offer compensation
only to people within the USA, ignoring smokers of US tobacco products
elsewhere, would be ethically unacceptable to the rest of the world. 
Addressing global responsibility is complex, but it is an issue that must be 

     While it is the responsibility of each nation to implement their own
tobacco control measures, governmental and non-governmental organisations
in the USA have a very special responsibility: 

     The exemplar role - showing that 'It can be done.' The message from the 
USA is that smoking rates can be reduced and that litigation can have a
major impact. 

     Examples from Forum resolutions: 

          "...to move progressively towards the adoption of comprehensive 
tobacco control policies..." 

     * It is particularly important that the USA bans all tobacco 
advertising, and raising the current very low price of cigarettes (tax is
only 23% of cost). 

     The political role - showing the importance of government involvement. 

     Examples from Forum resolutions: 

          Resolution B. Guidelines for international tobacco trade matters
which ensure that human health is protected and that countries have the
right to regulate the transnational tobacco companies. 

          Resolution E. Require the transnational tobacco companies to
adhere to the same standards both domestically and internationally.

          Resolution F. Campaign reform that limits political contributions 
by individual, agencies, companies, and organizations. 

     The supportive and sharing role - supporting tobacco control measures 
in developing countries and sharing experience, expertise and funds.
Examples from Forum resolutions: 

          - The San Francisco Tobacco Free Coalition will actively work
with local, State, National, and International policy makers to adopt and
promote this Global Tobacco Control Policy Framework; 

          Resolution C. Actively support international boycotts of products
produced by the transnational tobacco companies or their subsidiaries. 

          Resolution D. Social justice criteria for Sister City 
relationships which includes adopting all or part of the Global Tobacco 
Control Policy Framework. 

     There are already many such examples of the sharing and supportive
role, involving government and non-governmental organizations.

     REFERENCES 1 Temple DK, Chew LL, Wong W, Johnson N, Dikkers A, Pinon 
BV, Shimizu M. United States Equity Research: Tobacco. International
Tobacco - A Global Business for Global Brands. Salomon Brothers 1996

     2 Samuel Couling. Encyclopaedia Sinica. Shanghai; Hong 
Kong-Singapore-Yokohama: Kelly and Walsh, Ltd., 1917. Reprinted
Oxford, New York, Melbourne: Hong Kong Oxford University Press;1983:405-410. 

     3 United Nations. World Population Prospects 1990. Department of 
International Economic and Social Affairs. Population Studies No 120.
United Nations, New York, 1991. 

     4. Chaloupka FJ, Laixuthai A. US trade policy and cigarette smoking in 
Asia. National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper 5,543. June 1996.