As smoking is becoming increasingly a minority habit in the Western world, the multinational tobacco companies have begun to look for new markets. They have found them in developing countries and with the young, for whom the appeal of the cigarette is growing, as a result of advertising and the resulting association in people's minds of smoking with modernity and sophistication, and addiction through augmented levels of nicotine in cigarettes.
Many Third World nations have welcomed the new 'prosperity' that tobacco agriculture has brought and have provided economic initiatives to attract these companies. The industry has thus enjoyed special privileges and freedom in many parts of Africa and the Far East. By contrast with North America and Europe, in many developing nations the tobacco manufacturers are free to advertise cigarettes with no legal restrictions, 'voluntary' promotion codes, or other government measures.
So while there has been a steady decline in 'tar' and nicotine levels in the Western world, the Third World has become a dumping ground for cigarettes with high tar and nicotine contents not permissible elsewhere. The 20-year lag between the first use of the cigarette and the definite evidence of disease means that the people of the developing world will soon display symptoms of smoking-related diseases.
Internal papers legally seized from Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation, USA support the accusation that tobacco producers knowingly kept nicotine levels high in their cigarettes to ensure addiction.
The total lobbying expenditures of the United States biggest cigarette makers reached almost $60 million in 1998. This was the cost of defeating a federal settlement that would have cost the companies $500 billion.
The tobacco industry has been waging a sophisticated, secret campaign for years to undermine efforts by the World Health Organization to combat smoking around the globe, the agency charges in a scathing report released in August 2000. The detailed, 240-page report accuses the tobacco industry of working to pit other United Nations-affiliated agencies against the WHO, of trying to "discredit" the WHO and cut its budgets, and of hiring supposedly independent experts who grossly distorted the results of scientific research into the effects of smoking. It also charges that tobacco companies secretly placed their own "consultants" at the Geneva-based agency to monitor its anti-smoking activities, and even secretly monitored some meetings and obtained confidential documents.