Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Bitter Leaves

"With a long history of denying the health risks of smoking and second-hand smoke, obscuring the truth about tobacco and deceiving smokers, the tobacco industry has evolved into an inordinately lucrative business,” the afterword to the book 'Bitter Leaves' reads.

“Smoking tobacco is the most well-known cause of lung cancer and other diseases such as heart disease, stroke and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). The supply side of the tobacco industry is also the cause of a slew of other reparations including extreme poverty, dependency and diseases of tobacco farmers; child labour; deforestation. The tobacco industry has a strong hand of control throughout the tobacco cycle from seed to sale, but the devastation it causes is ultimately borne by governments, tobacco workers, users and their families, creating a seemingly endless cycle of poverty, destruction and death.”

Each year, nearly 6 trillion cigarettes are smoked around the globe.

The global economic cost of smoking is $1.85bn – equivalent in magnitude to 1.8% of the world’s annual gross domestic product.

In Italy, 7% of the funds spent on the healthcare system are used for treatments linked to smoking.

According to the UN’s International Labour Organization, about 1.3 million children work in tobacco fields, with the number increasing in certain countries like India and Zimbabwe. 

A recent study estimates more than 1.7 million children work in India’s bidi rolling industry.

 In the US, teenagers are permitted to work on tobacco farms, and in the summer they can work up to seven days a week, twelve to thirteen hours per day, earning about $8 per hour. Handling tobacco leaves causes the trans-dermic absorption of high doses of nicotine, equivalent to smoking up to 36 cigarettes. The resulting poisoning is called green tobacco sickness. Children, with their smaller body mass, have lower intoxication thresholds.

More than 30% of Indonesian children start smoking before the age of 10, often propelled by lax tobacco control policies, aggressive marketing strategies and low cigarette costs. Indonesia has the highest rate of underage smokers in the world.

More than 165 million people smoke in Indonesia, accounting for more than one third of the population.

With the production of 235bn cigarettes per year, Honghe Tobacco Company, part of the Honyun Honghe Group, represents the world’s fourth-largest producer – after Philip Morris International, BAT and Japan Tobacco – in terms of production volume and annual revenue.  In the Yuxi factory, more than 135bn cigarettes are produced per year, covering 12% of China’s total production. 

China is the largest producer of cigarettes in the world and sells about 2.5 trillion a year. State-owned China National Tobacco Corporation (CNTC) controls 97% of the Chinese cigarette market.

 In the US, the tobacco crop is worth $1.5bn yearly, yet more than half of the tobacco content of cigarettes made in the United States comes from foreign countries. If a pack of cigarettes costs $5, farmers get about 5c.

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