15 Things You Didn’t Know About the Tobacco Industry

Welcome to Industry Wednesday, where every week, we delve into a different industry. Today, we’re shining a spotlight on the often controversial world of the tobacco industry. From its pervasive presence in movies and high-fashion photoshoots to the shocking environmental consequences of tobacco farming, there’s a lot more to this industry than meets the eye. In this article, we’ll uncover 15 fascinating facts you probably didn’t know about the tobacco industry.

Tobacco Thrives Anywhere

Did you know that tobacco can be grown almost anywhere on Earth? In fact, any warm and moist environment is sufficient for these plants to thrive. This widespread adaptability has led to the production of a staggering 800 million pounds of tobacco in the United States alone. In states like North Carolina, Georgia, and Kentucky, farmers are responsible for a whopping 80 percent of this colossal production. If you’re curious about gardening, you can even find online tutorials for growing your own tobacco.

Marlboro – A Century of Dominance

Since 1924, Marlboro has reigned as the world’s number-one cigarette brand. Recognizable even to non-smokers, Marlboro has consistently maintained its position as a global icon in the industry, producing 282 billion cigarettes in 2016 outside the US and China. However, its success is shrouded in secrets, with Philip Morris using ammonia to create an especially addictive type of cigarette.

Tobacco’s Environmental Toll

Tobacco production wreaks havoc on the environment. Not only do tobacco farms displace forests to make way for agriculture, but the plants themselves deplete soil nutrients and require substantial pesticide and fertilizer use. Cigarette butt disposal, a common habit, significantly contributes to pollution, with 3 billion cigarettes produced daily.

Smoking and Health Risks

Every puff introduces 7,000 chemicals and 69 carcinogens into your lungs. This dangerous concoction is responsible for one in eight cancer cases. Even secondhand smoke can lead to lung cancer, with a staggering 33,000 non-smokers dying of heart disease annually due to smoke exposure. Smoking-related diseases also include tuberculosis, contributing to a grim health landscape.

Philip Morris International’s Dominance

Philip Morris International, with a market capital of $176.2 billion, reigns as the richest tobacco producer. The company’s empire extends beyond Marlboro to include Virginia Slims, Parliament, and many others. It rakes in around $7.8 billion in annual profits, with the European Union being a significant contributor to its revenue.

Glamorizing Smoking Through Advertising

Advertising played a pivotal role in normalizing smoking. Brands crafted an image of rebellion, confidence, independence, and freedom. Iconic campaigns like Marlboro Man and Joe Camel targeted young audiences, perpetuating the glamorization of smoking, despite efforts to curb these tactics.

Orangutan Smoking Controversy

An orangutan named Odin was filmed smoking at an Indonesian zoo, sparking outrage. This viral video drew attention to animal rights issues in Bandung Zoo, which had faced previous criticism for its treatment of animals.

Nicotine’s Addictive Power

Nicotine, as addictive as heroin or cocaine, keeps smokers hooked. The addictive potential of nicotine is often underestimated, with even one cigarette a day leading to increased consumption over time. Quitting becomes challenging as individuals develop tolerance to nicotine’s effects.

Mad Men’s Cigarette Influence

The TV series Mad Men portrays a world where smoking was the norm. This show delves into the lives of advertising professionals during an era when smoking was a cultural staple. It even explores the grim reality of lung cancer, providing a stark contrast to the glamorous image of smoking in the media.

The Economic Costs of Smoking

Smoking-related costs in the US reach an astonishing $300 billion annually. This includes $170 billion for healthcare expenses and $156 billion in lost workplace productivity. Despite the economic profits for tobacco companies, the negative impact on society is profound.

The IQOS Controversy

IQOS, the new product from Philip Morris, raises controversy. Designed to be less harmful by heating tobacco, studies suggest that it might be even worse than traditional cigarettes. Allegations of fake trials have cast a shadow over its introduction into the market.

Rising Cigarette Prices in France

In France, a pack of cigarettes costs around 8 euros, with plans to increase it to 10 euros. This reflects the government’s efforts to curb smoking due to its adverse health effects, even if it faces resistance from some smokers.

Employment Discrimination Against Smokers

In New Zealand, some job ads specify non-smokers or non-smokers as preferred candidates. This practice, while controversial, is not against the law. Some companies have even banned smoking for employees, citing the potential harm to their image.

Norway’s Snus Tradition

Norwegians prefer snus, a form of snuff, over traditional cigarettes. This unique product is sold mainly in Norway and Sweden, where users place small portions under their upper lip, offering a different nicotine experience.

The Shocking Composition of Cigarettes

Cigarettes contain more than just tobacco; they include chemicals like urea, also found in urine. These additives, along with nicotine, tar, carbon monoxide, and arsenic, contribute to the toxic and carcinogenic nature of cigarettes.


The tobacco industry remains a topic of controversy and intrigue, and these 15 facts offer a deeper understanding of its global impact, addictive nature, and environmental consequences. As the world grapples with the complex issues surrounding smoking, it’s essential to stay informed about the industry’s hidden secrets and undeniable challenges. Whether you’re a smoker or not, this industry affects us all in various ways, making it a subject worthy of our attention.