Tobacco consumption more than doubled in the developing world from 1970 to 2000,according to the United Nations. Much of the increase was in China, but there has also been substantial growth in Africa, where smoking rates have traditionally been low. More than three-quarters of the world’s smokers now live in the developing world.
In most of the poorer countries that I’ve visited, a pack of cigarettes costs about a dollar. Marlboro, the world’s premium brand, might go for twice that. Many brands that we haven’t heard from in quite a few years, such as Pall Mall or Old Gold are still sold, though the tobacco in them maybe not be of American origin.
More than five million people die annually of smoking-related causes, more than from AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined, according to the World Health Organization.
In developed countries, smoking has been in steady decline for years, so manufacturers have targeted the developing world. Nicaragua and Paraguay, with a minimum wage of ten dollars a day (and even those jobs are hard to find) can hardly afford a dollar a day addiction. But, prodded by advertising and placement in movies, the percentage of smokers is growing rapidly. The preventable deaths will occur down the line.