Welcome to the teachers section of "smoke’s no joke". We aim to arm you with all the information you need to tackle smoking issues in school.

Worldwide impacts

Tobacco consumption has fallen considerably in developed nations over the past twenty years. Smoking in developed countries now accounts for around 29% of world tobacco consumption compared to 34% in 1998.

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By contrast, throughout developing nations, tobacco consumption increased from 66% to 71% over the same period.

The World Health Organisation estimates that 5.4 million people worldwide died from tobacco-related illness in 2006, but estimates that by 2030 this figure will rise to over 8 million.

Large multinational tobacco companies, based in Britain and America are largely responsible for the spread of smoking to developing nations.

The tobacco companies are hugely powerful organisations. Although the governments of developing nations are aware of the exploitative terms of trade, they have little option but to accept the situation rather than lose income they desperately need.

The power that the tobacco industry has over these governments means that there is little regulation in place to raise awareness of the dangers posed by smoking, or to restrict the sale and consumption of tobacco products. Advertising is not banned in these countries and offers a desirable western lifestyle through smoking.


During the 1980's for example, the US Government threatened trade sanctions against several Asian countries unless they agreed to lift their trade restrictions on US tobacco. Tobacco consumption rose dramatically in all of the countries concerned and in South Korea, consumption rose from 68,000 tonnes in 1982 to 101,000 tonnes in 1999. China has long been seen as a potentially lucrative market and the tobacco industry has pumped billions of dollars into developing this market and promoting smoking, especially to women. Smoking was relatively unheard of in China up until the 1930's. By the 1990's it had risen to 1,650 billion consumers and now accounts for 1 in 3 of all cigarettes smoked worldwide.

The production of tobacco contributes to sustained poverty in many countries.

The tobacco companies pay very low prices to contracted local farmers for their crops yet charge inflated prices for raw materials such as seed and pesticides.

  • Egypt - 10% of low-income household expenditure is spent on tobacco.
  • India - the homeless population spend more money on tobacco than on food.
  • China - smokers in the Minhang district spend 60% of their personal income on tobacco.
  • Bangladesh - a pack of 20 premium brand cigarettes costs the equivalent of 6 kilogrammes of rice. The nation could feed its 10.5 million malnourished if the expenditure on tobacco was re-directed to food.
  • Philippines - 20% of total household income is spent on tobacco.


The industry is controlled by a few trans-national tobacco giants, many of them more powerful than the governments of the countries concerned and certainly no match for individual farmers to negotiate better trade terms and working conditions.

The 'Framework Convention on Tobacco Control' came into effect in 2005. It is the first ever global health treaty and allows countries to enact comprehensive tobacco control legislation and take on the mighty tobacco industry.

For more information please refer to the Environmental Effects section

Smoke's No Joke debate

For more information please refer to the 'Guide to running a classroom debate'
Classroom debate resources

The tobacco industry – aid at any price?

Debate motion:

'This house believes that developing nations should not accept aid funding from the tobacco industry.'


  • Four global manufacturers dominate the tobacco market outside China (most of China's cigarettes are produced by a state owned monopoly). Two of the tobacco giants are UK companies, namely British American Tobacco (2nd largest) and Imperial Tobacco (4th largest). The other two companies are Phillip Morris (largest manufacturer) and Japan Tobacco (3rd largest).
  • Together, each year, these companies make more money than the combined revenues of more than 20 developing nations.

Proposing arguments

  • Tobacco companies use 'development finance' as a back door to promote smoking to populations who previously had little awareness of tobacco products and who live on subsistence incomes at best.
  • In many developing nations, a higher proportion of personal disposable income is spent on tobacco products than on food. A packet of premium cigarettes will buy a dozen eggs in Panama, a kilogramme of fish in Ghana and six kilogrammes of rice in Bangladesh.
  • By the year 2030, a projected 8 million people living in developing countries will be killed by tobacco consumption every year.Countries who accept help knowingly open their doors to the longer term suffering that their dependence on tobacco products will bring.

Opposing arguments

  • The tobacco industry treads a fine line between corporate expansion and corporate responsibility. It could still expand its market share in developing countries without giving this aid.
  • The new hospitals, schools, housing projects and community health centers, provided by philanthropic funding from the tobacco industry are desperately needed.
  • For the countries that accept 'help' there is no other alternative, they can't go somewhere else for aid and turn the tobacco companies away.
  • Don't blame the spread of smoking on developing nations; the developed world should have dealt with this industry years ago. The spread of smoking to developing nations is inevitable. The tobacco industry is constantly looking to expand its market share and as a product of the developed world, it's in our economic interests to turn a blind eye to these practices.

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