Western Pacific Region

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The Western Pacific region includes 37 countries and territories and hosts nearly 1.9 billion people. 1  The countries are Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, Cook Islands, Fiji, Japan, Kiribati, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia (Micronesia), Mongolia, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Republic of Korea (Korea), Samoa, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Viet Nam.21 China, the largest country in the region, hosting 73% of its total population (1.39 billion), is home to approximately 20% of the world’s population.34

Eleven countries (Nauru, Tuvalu, Marshall Islands, Palau, Micronesia (Federated States of), Singapore, Tonga, Kiribati, Samoa, Vanuatu and Fiji) in the WPR are among the 50 smallest countries in the world. 5

Smoking in WPR

According to the WHO tobacco trends report, the prevalence of tobacco use reported in WPR in 2020 was 25.7% and it was the second highest prevalence following the South East Asian region (SEAR).6

In 2020, the average prevalence of tobacco use among males and females reported were 47.9% and 3.6% respectively. Compared to other regions, male’s prevalence rate is the highest of a region, and the female prevalence rate was the lowest. 6

The global highest prevalence of smoking among people aged >15years reported in 2020 in the WPR and it was 23.3% (384 million people). The average smoking prevalence among males and females reported in 2020 were 44% (361 million) and 2.6% (23 million) respectively.6

According to the WHO estimates, the tobacco smoking prevalence across different countries in the region varies from 14.1% in Australia to 52% in Kiribati. The highest tobacco smoking prevalence among males was recorded in Kiribati (68.6%) and the lowest was recorded in Australia and New Zealand (16.1%). Among the female population, the highest and lowest prevalence of smoking was recorded in Nauru (46%) in Malaysia (1%) respectively.6

With regards to the number of smokers aged >15years in the region, China records the highest with 306.2 million, which accounts for nearly 80% of total smokers in the WPR (386.5 million).6

Tobacco Production in WPR

China is the largest tobacco producer in the WPR as well as in the world, with a production of 2.61 million metric tons in 2019.7It accounts for nearly 40% of world’s tobacco production in 2019.8

According to the Taxation office of the Australian Government, a license is required to grow and/ or manufacture tobacco in Australia; and there have been no license holders since 2006. 9

Brunei Darussalam, Cook Islands, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Mongolia, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Samoa, Singapore, and Tuvalu do not grow tobacco. 10In Solomon Islands and in Vanuatu, tobacco is growing small scale for personal use and sales. 10

Table 1:  Summary of farming and production of tobacco in the WPR 1112

Country* Production of tobacco (tons in 2018)** Area Harvested in hectare (year of data available)** Cigarette production (sticks in billions and year)
Australia 2,260 814 (2014) 2.92 (export-2019)/12.29 (import-2019)
Cambodia 13,860 8,404 (2014) N/A
China 2,242,180 >100,000 (2000) 0.236 (2019)
Fiji 499.3 (2014) 600 (2014)  0.243 (2020)
Japan 17,000 8,600 (2014) 82 (2018)
Kiribati N/A N/A 0.012 (2014)
Lao PDR 54,010 6,250 (2014) 3.22 (2020)
Malaysia 101.75 (Sun cured-2020) 2,213 (2017) 0.21 (2019)
Mongolia N/G N/G 2.9 (2019)
New Zealand N/G N/G 5.18 (2016)
Palau N/G N/G 25,426 kg (imports in 2019)
Philippines 50,380 36,082 (2014) 75.76 (2018)
Republic of Korea 26,180 3,308 (2019) 0.117 (2019)
Solomon Islands 121.2 (2014) 127 (2014) 0.011 (2017)
Tonga N/A N/A 36,970.4 kg (imports in 2018)
Vanuatu N/A N/A 0.012 (imports in 2019)
Vietnam 31,440 23,215 (2014) 0.337 (2018)


*Information not available for Nauru and Papua New Guinea. Tobacco production, cultivation and cigarette manufacturing is not reported in Brunei Darussalam, Cook Islands, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Niue, Samoa, Singapore and Tuvalu.

**N/A = Information Not available

Who dominates the market?

The tobacco products that destroy so many people’s lives are the result of the activities of a number of companies around the world. The Tobacco Supply Chain Database enables tobacco control researchers and advocates to understand what the supply chain is, where it is located and who is involved. For more information, access the database here.

British American Tobacco (BAT) dominated the Australian and Malaysian markets with 47.6% and 68% of the market shares respectively. 1314Philip Morris International dominates the cigarette market in Philippines (70.5%)and Singapore (47%) 1516

The state owned tobacco monopoly in China (China National Tobacco Corporation (CNTC)) and in Japan(Japan Tobacco International (JTI)) lead the cigarettes market in the respective counties.1718In Lao, 72.3% of the tobacco market is owned by the Lao Tobacco Limited (LTL) since 2001, with placed joint venture with the government.19

Local companies dominate in certain other countries, too, in the WPR: The Mongol Tobacco company (40%) in Mongolia, The Korea Tomorrow & Global Corporation (KT&G) (63.1% ) in  Korea,  and the Vietnam National Tobacco Corporation (VINATABA) (60.5% )in Viet Nam.202122

Table 2: Countries with the most sold cigarette brand owned by an international/ multinational company.232414202125262728293031

Country* Most sold cigarette brand Brand owner**
Australia John Player Special (JPS) Imperial Brands
Brunei Darussalam Djarum Super PT Djarum Company
Cambodia Ara British American Tobacco
China Marlboro PMI
Japan Mevius Japan Tobacco International
Malaysia Dunhill British American Tobacco
Mongolia West Red Imperial Brands
New Zealand Pal Mall RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company
Palau Marlboro Philip Morris International
Philippines Fortune International Fortune Tobacco Company
Republic of Korea Esse KT &G
Singapore Marlboro Philip Morris International
Tonga Palataisi Locally manufactured, manufacturer name not availalbe
Vietnam Jet Vinataba

*Only countries in which data is available are mentioned in the table.

Presence of Transnational Tobacco Companies (TTCs)

Table 3 summarises the presence of ‘big tobacco’, the transnational tobacco companies (TTCs), in WPR. These companies are present in the region by way of having either manufacturing facilities, full/partial ownership in local entities or distribution rights. Philip Morris International (PMI), British American Tobacco (BAT), Imperial Brands and Japan Tobacco International (JTI) are present in the WPR. BAT is present in fifteen countries in the region, followed by PMI in twelve, Imperial brands in eleven and JTI in nine (Table 3). The presences of all four ‘big’ TTCs are seen in eight countries in the region, namely, Cambodia, China, Japan, Malaysia, Mongolia, Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam. Though tobacco cultivation and cigarettes manufacturing is absent in Mongolia and Singapore, the presence of all four TTCs in these countries is notable.

Table 3: Presence of ‘big’ transnational tobacco companies in WPR 3233343522

Country PMI BAT Imperial JTI
Australia Yes Yes Yes
Cambodia Yes Yes Yes Yes
China Yes Yes Yes Yes
Fiji Yes
Japan Yes Yes Yes Yes
Lao PDR Yes Yes Yes
Malaysia Yes Yes Yes Yes
Mongolia Yes Yes Yes Yes
New Zealand Yes Yes Yes
Papua New Guinea Yes
Philippines Yes Yes Yes Yes
Republic of Korea Yes Yes Yes
Samoa Yes
Singapore Yes Yes Yes Yes
Vietnam Yes Yes Yes Yes

*Presence of transnationals are not formally reported in Brunei Darussalam, Cook Islands, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Fed. Sts), Nauru, Niue, Palau, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

Links to government

Tobacco industry recruits retired higher ranking government officials aiming to facilitate the lobbying process. There are examples in WPR of senior government officials taking up leadership positions in tobacco companies, highlighting the ‘revolving door´phenomenon. As of 2021, Yasutake Tango, who served as the Director General of Financial Bureau, Ministry of Finance, Deputy Vice Minister and Special Advisor to the Cabinet in Japan, is the Chairman of JTI. 36Similar incidents were reported from Malaysia and Vietnam.37

In Malaysia, the new Chairman of BAT Malaysia appointed in January 2017 was the former Secretary General of the Ministry of Home Affairs. He is active in service to sports as the Trustee and Chairman of the Football Association of Malaysia.38

*Please see our page on TPD: Revolving Door Cases for more information on similar cases in the world.

There are state owned tobacco enterprises in the region such as the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration (STMA) in China who owns China National Tobacco Corporation (CNTC), and Vietnam National Tobacco Corporation (Vinataba) in Vietnam. The government of Japan holds 33% of the shares of Japan Tobacco Group and the government of Lao PDR maintains a joint venture with Imperial brands (Lao Tobacco Limited). 36 37

 Participation of Industry on Policy/Decision Making Processes

The Tobacco Regulation Act 2003 in Philippines allowed a seat for an industry representative in the Inter-Agency Committee -Tobacco (IAC-T), established to implement the act. Representatives of the tobacco industry including Philippine Tobacco Institute (PTI), a retailers’ association and a farmers’ group were invited as resource persons for the Committee to discuss increasing tobacco taxes in 2018to the House of Representatives.36National Kenaf and Tobacco Board (LKTN) and Border Security Agency (AKSEM) in Malaysia, which are responsible for licensing tobacco retailers and enforcement activities on illicit trade respectively, are represented by the JTI.37 Active interference from the industry in developing national policies and tobacco control measures were reported from China, Japan, Lao PDR and Vietnam.3637

Lobbying government officials

A report published by the Health Justice Philippines illustrated the role of industry in influencing the policy formation for Electronic Nicotine Delivery System (ENDS). The Joint Committees of Health and Trade at the House of Representatives proposed nine bills related to ENDS. Six out of nine bills proposed were oriented to adopting ENDS; and the other three showed the involvement of PMI.36 In Vietnam, the Ministry of Science and Technology promoted ENDS as a safer alternative following a meeting with PMI.37

 Getting benefits/image promotion via CSR activities

Sponsorships from tobacco industry are allowed for poverty alleviation and disaster relief projects in Vietnam. Sponsorships by the Vietnam National Tobacco Corporation (Vinataba) in the fields of medical purposes, women empowerment, labour welfare, and scholarships are reported. Sponsorships in similar fields were reported from China and Republic of Korea, funded by the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration (STMA) and KT&G respectively. 37

Many incidents of donations and CSR activities have been reported during COVID 19 pandemic. LT group, a company involved in tobacco and alcohol industry, and Japan Tobacco International (JTI) donated face masks to two hospitals in Philippines.39 40 Collapsible hospital beds were donated to Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) in Philippines by Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corp Inc, a joint venture between Philip Morris Philippines Manufacturing Inc. (PMPMI) and Fortune Tobacco Corporation (FTC).41 Japan Tobacco International (JTI) Malaysia donated money to supply food for low income families.42 Vietnam National Tobacco Corporation (VINATABA) in Viet Nam donated money, protective cloths and disinfection chambers to Bach Mai hospital.43

 Good practices related FCTC Article 5.3

Civil Service Commission and Department of Health in Philippines issued a Joint Memorandum Circular in 2010, which provides a code of conduct consisting with the guidelines of the WHO FCTC Article 5.3, for all government officials. Some government departments enacted institute specific code of conducts or regulations complaint with the Circular.44 Similarly, Lao PDR introduced a Code of Conduct for the employees of the Ministry of Health in 2018.36

The Government of Australia prohibited the acceptance of donations from the tobacco industry. New South Wales Electoral Commission, Australian Labour Party and Liberal Party banned the donations from the tobacco industry as well.44

In 2008, The Government of Australia started to maintain a Register of Lobbyists and a code of conduct for lobbying to make sure the transparency of dealings between the government representatives and the tobacco industry.44 Since 2011, the Ministry of Health in New Zealand maintained an online register with all the details of the meetings conducted with the industry which is made accessible to the public.44

 Roadmap to tobacco control

All countries in WPR are parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) treaty.10

Three countries (Fiji, Mongolia and Samoa) are Parties and another two countries (China and Republic of Korea) are Signatories to the  Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products. This protocol is an international treaty negotiated by Parties to the FCTC with the objective of eliminating all forms of illicit trade in tobacco products through cooperation of countries.45

As of 2020, all countries in WPR have national level tobacco control laws in place.10 WHO introduced MPOWER measures comprising the essential six elements (Monitor use and control measures, Protect from tobacco smoke, Offer help to quit, Warn against negative consequences, Enforce ban on advertisements and promotions and Raise tax) to implement FCTC effectively at country level. 46 However, the 2019 WHO report on the tobacco epidemic shows that WPR has a considerable gap in achieving complete implementation of policies as per the FCTC directive thus maintaining compliance. Policy areas such as Monitoring tobacco use, Comprehensive cessation services and implementation of Graphical Health warning are well developed in most countries in the region. The compliance scores for each policy area suggest the existing gap between definition and enforcement of the control policies. For example, none of the countries have reached “fully compliant” (i.e. score of 10) in terms of comprehensive smoke-free legislation as per the FCTC directive. Some countries in the region have reached the score of 10 as fully compliant in terms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorships. 46

The following table shows a summary of implementation of MPOWER strategies in each country in the WPR (Table 4).A level above zero is considered as implementation.

Table 4: Summary of implementation of MPOWER policies in the WPR 46



Prevalence data Smoking ban in public places National quit line Cessation services % of GHWL National Tobacco Control program Advertising ban % of Tax on cigarettes
Australia Yes Yes Yes Yes 83% Yes Yes 37.5%
Brunei Darussalam Yes Yes Yes 75% Yes Yes 0.936 $ per stick
Cambodia Yes Yes Yes 55% Yes Yes 25.1%
China Yes Yes Yes 35% Yes Yes 55.7%
Cook Islands Yes Yes Yes 50% Yes 70.3%
Fiji Yes Yes Yes 60% Yes Yes 42.1%
Japan Yes Yes Yes 30% Yes Yes 63.1%
Kiribati Yes Yes Yes 30% Yes 30.5%
Lao PDR Yes Yes 75% Yes 66.2%
Malaysia Yes Yes Yes 55% Yes 78.6%
Marshall Islands Yes Yes NS Yes 54.1%
Micronesia Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes 48.6%
Mongolia Yes Yes Yes 65% Yes 47.4%
Nauru Yes Yes Yes 30% Yes 48.3%
New Zealand Yes Yes Yes Yes 88% Yes Yes 82.2%
Niue Yes Yes 90% Yes 87.7%
Palau Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes 73%
Papua New Guinea Yes Yes 50% Yes 54.2%
Philippines Yes Yes Yes 50% Yes Yes 71.3%
Republic of Korea Yes Yes Yes Yes 50% Yes Yes 73.8%
Samoa Yes Yes Yes 60% Yes Yes 49.5%
Singapore Yes Yes Yes Yes 50% Yes Yes 67.1%
Solomon Islands Yes Yes Yes 50% Yes 34.1%
Tonga Yes Yes Yes Yes 50% Yes Yes 62.4%
Tuvalu Yes Yes Yes 30% Yes 29.5%
Vanuatu Yes Yes 90% Yes 58.6%
Vietnam Yes Yes Yes Yes 50% Yes Yes 36.7%

Lao People’s Democratic Republic is the only country in WPR that has completely banned the tobacco related CSR activities. Department of Education in Philippines issued a Department Order (No. 48 s. 2016) prohibiting tobacco industry sponsorships including CSR activities for both public and private schools.44

All countries in WPR, except Japan, Kiribati, Marshall Island, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Tonga and Tuvalu, have implemented Graphic Health Warning Labels (GHWL) on cigarette packs.47

Australia and New Zealand have completed the implementation of plain packaging while Singapore has it under consideration.48

In November 2017, Viet Nam became the first country in Asia to adopt a policy to stop cooperating with the PMI-funded Foundation for a Smoke-Free World (FSFW). 38

Some countries in the region have either banned or regulated electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS).Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Lao DPR and Singapore are the countries which have banned all types of e-cigarette sales in WPR. Australia and Japan have banned the sale of e-cigarettes with nicotine. 49

McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer, a non government institute in Australia, hosts the WHO FCTC Secretariat’s Knowledge Hub on Legal Challenges.This is a one the seven and the first WHO FCTC Secretariat’s Knowledge Hubs established in the world. The aim of establishing Knowledge Hubs is to assist the Parties to implement the articles of FCTC. 50

As part of WHO FCTC ratification, all countries in WPR have established a FCTC focal point for tobacco control and a National Coordination Mechanism (NCM) except for Fiji, Marshall Islands, Mongolia, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. FCTC focal points in general are responsible for facilitating the establishment of NCM for FCTC implementation and serve as coordinating hubs for national and international stake holders.5110

Industry interference

Tobacco industry (TI) has been ambitious about the Western Pacific region as the region hosts 1.9 billion of the world’s population, and the largest tobacco producer in the world.17 Therefore the TI has been using multiple tactics to penetrate and expand the markets in the region.

The following are a selection of themes and examples of tobacco industry interference in the region:

Delaying enforcement of tobacco control laws through litigation

Australian Parliament passed world’s first Plain Packaging legislation on 21 November 2011 to be enforced from 1 December 2012. All four big tobacco companies, British American Tobacco, Philip Morris, Imperial Tobacco, and Japan Tobacco International, brought legal challenges against this legislation. Philip Morris Asia initiated legal proceedings under the Arbitration Rules of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law 2010, claiming the legislation on plain packaging did not comply with The Australia – Hong Kong Bilateral Investment Treaty. This legislation was also challenged at the World Trade Organization (WTO) by a few countries. Additional legal action was filed at the Australian High Court against the legislation by PMI, BAT, Imperial Tobacco and JTI arguing the new legislation is an acquisition of property by the government.

*For more information on plain packaging and campaigning by tobacco industry against plain packaging laws in Australia, see our pages Plain Packaging, Australia: Challenging Legislation and Plain Packaging in Australia.

Interfering the development and implementation of tobacco control measures

In Japan, when implementing GHWL on cigarette packs, the proposal was dismissed by a committee under the Ministry of Finance which was reported as industry friendly. There was no GHWL displayed in China till 2015 owing to the influence of State Tobacco Monopoly Administration.36 PMI and BAT continue their Heated Tobacco Products (HTP) sale without prescribed GHWL amidst the unresolved classification on HTPs in Malaysia. 37

With industry interference, China was unable to implement the national-level smoke-free policy. Japan remains with text-only GHWL on the package of tobacco products. Korea is unable to enforce the policies to prohibit the advertising including point of sale advertising and sponsorships. 37

The government of Lao PDR made a joint agreement with Imperial Brands, which allows industry preferred tax rates depending on the production. This agreement caused to extinguish about USD 144 million to the government in tax revenues for the period of year 2002-2017.36  Cambodia waived off the tax on tobacco leaves exported to Vietnam. 36

Aggressive expansion of multinational companies in the region

TTCs are aggressively seeking to expand their markets in this region through acquisitions and mergers. TTCs have also capitalised on countries with weaker economies to enforce unreasonable conditions to favour them when making investments. When Imperial Tobacco acquired Lao Tobacco Limited in 2001, they negotiated a 25-year agreement with the government to charge only a 15% tax on cigarettes. It is estimated as of 2014, Laos have lost more than US$ 79 million in 13 years and will lose more than US$ 72 million in the next 12 years due to this agreement.52

Expansion plans have brought rival companies together on some occasions. South Korea’s leading tobacco company KT&G established a strategic alliance with Philip Morris International in January, 2020 to expand the market worldwide for its heat-not-burn cigarette brand ‘lil’. This partnership have potentially secured a global distribution network for KT&G which had remained domestic predominantly.53

 Pressuring governments to open their markets in the name of free trade

Tobacco companies have been able to capitalise on free trade agreements in the region to open the markets. During the 1980s, the US Cigarette Export Association, consisting of Philip Morris International, R.J. Reynolds and Brown and Williamson, petitioned against South Korean and Japan governments under the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) for not opening their markets to foreign cigarette manufacturers. As a result of the GATT ruling, Japan and Republic of Korea had to open its market to US cigarettes in 1990s.54

 Interference on tobacco control measures through front groups and business councils

The International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA) is a well-known global front group of the tobacco industry. Members in the region include the China Tobacco Society in China, Korean Tobacco Growers Organization in Korea, Phil Tobacco Growers Association in Philippines and Vietnam National Tobacco Corporation (VINATABA) in Viet Nam 55 5657 ITGA is alleged for smearing WHO and FCTC reports on tobacco control, providing false information about farmers and conflicting statistics, and creating fears among farmers, for example in Philippines and Vietnam. 58

Most countries in WPR have American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) country chapters, namely, Australia, Cambodia, China (China, Hong Kong, Shanghai, South China and Macau), Fiji, Japan (Japan, Okinawa), Malaysia, Mongolia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam.59Senior managers from tobacco industries have served in AmCham leadership positions and both AmCham and US Chamber of Commerce have become platforms for tobacco industry representatives to associate with senior government officials. In 2009, Chris Nelson served as the chairman of PMI Philippines and later he served as the Director of AmCham Board and Trustee of the
AmCham foundation in Philippines.60 Similarly,  the Board of Governors of the AmCham was represented by the higher positions of tobacco companies in China, Malaysia and Singapore.60

AmCham contributes to promotion of the image of tobacco industry via CSR activities, Graduate Trainee Programs and different events.6037

US-ASEAN Business Council, which includes a board member from PMI, held a dinner reception collaborating with the US Chamber of Commerce during the 74thUN General Assembly in New York in 2019. 37

* For more detail on the activities and movements of front groups in the region and across the globe, see our pages on Front Groups, Think Tanks and the US Chamber of Commerce.

Funding research institutes and think tanks on advocacy for tobacco industry

The tobacco industry’s usage of research and policy forums to promote its own agenda is a well-known strategy used to influence policymaking. From 2012 to 2015, Philip Morris International (PMI) funded US and UK-based think tanks International Tax and Investment Center (ITIC) and Oxford Economics Ltd, to conduct studies on the illicit trade in the ASEAN region.61

There are instances where industry-funded think tanks directly interfered in tobacco control. In Australia, industry funded think tanks, consultancies and independent experts campaigned against implementation of plain packaging and undermined Australian government efforts, even after the implementation. Read more on this at Australia: Funding Think Tanks and Hiring Independent Experts. In Malaysia, when the Ministry of Health announced plans for plain packaging in 2016, Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS), a Malaysian think tank, opposed it. IDEAS received funds from JTI and PMI in 2015 and 2016. Since 2015,IDEAS has been actively opposing tobacco control measures, especially plain packaging and tax increase.62

The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World (FSFW) is a Phillip Morris International-funded organisation. In 2019, when Hong Kong government was considering a ban on next generation tobacco products, both FSFW and PMI submitted their arguments against it.

In WPR, FSFW have funded institutes in China and New Zealand,  to conduct tobacco smoking related research since 2018.63

There are also examples of TTCs funding organisations to advocate on new generation tobacco products in the region. Factasia.org, a non-governmental organization based in Hong Kong, funded by Philip Morris International and Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association (TVECA),is an example.64

* Read more about the Foundation and the projects it funds on our pages Foundation for a Smoke-Free World and Foundation for a Smoke-Free World Grantees.

Sponsorships and Involvement in Sports

The government of Japan allows JTI to sponsor volleyball, chess, and golf teams and tournaments and getting media coverage as Japan has not banned the tobacco sponsorships.37

*For more information on tobacco industry involvement in sponsoring sports events, see our Motorsport Sponsorship and Gudang Garam and sports endorsement.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities

Corporate Social Responsibility(CSR) is a strategy used by the tobacco industry to build their reputation in the eye of the public, to gain sympathies from the governments and as a platform to interact with public officials.

Industry involves government officials during these CSR activities in order to get their endorsements and help for tobacco companies to gain acceptance in the community. Government officials from the Ministry of Industry and Trade have joined to distribute gifts to flood victims sponsored by Vietnam National Tobacco Corporation (Vintaba); and local authorities joined to distribute gifts to poor households at the inauguration ceremony of a bridge constructed sponsored by BAT. In Malaysia, the Minister of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism, whose ministry has a new responsibility to regulate electronic cigarettes, officiated at a Philip Morris-sponsored “Back to School” programme organised by the Salam Foundation, a regular recipient of PMI’s CSR grants.38

CSR activities in Japan is oriented towards public education promoting “good manners” in smoking, such as smoking in designated ‘smoking spaces’, aiming to maintain a facade of reconciliation with non-smokers. Japan Tobacco International has established 943 locations as ‘smoking spaces’ with the partnership of 212 Municipalities in Japan. Similarly, in China, guidance was issued by Chinese National Bureau to develop “Beautiful China” with ‘civilised smoking environment’, which operates at national and sub national levels.36

In 2017, Shanghai Tobacco Company donated RMB 10 million (USD 1.5 million) to the Shanghai Charity Foundation for education. Charity Award for outstanding corporate social responsibility in China was awarded to Shanghai Tobacco Company by China Charity Foundation.36

Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corporation (PMFTC) conducts CSR activities through its CSR arm called “Embrace” in Philippines. 37

*Read more about the CSR strategies by tobacco industries on our page CSR Strategy.

Illicit trade of Cigarettes (Tobacco Smuggling)

Studies based on industry documents have revealed that TTCs have allowed Tobacco Smuggling as a marketing strategy in several Asian countries with examples in China and Vietnam.65 One such study reveals, when China opened its tobacco market for international brands in 1979, BAT initially established its brands such as State Express 555 through smuggling. And BAT has tried to establish a legal presence only when risks for contraband sales were amplified.65 Another study reveals that one of the strategies adopted by BAT was to set up the contraband trade to gain access to tobacco market in Vietnam when the Vietnamese government banned importing of cigarettes in 1990. 65

* Refer to our pages Tobacco Smuggling and BAT Involvement in Tobacco Smuggling for more information.

 Lobbying for less regulation of next generation products

With increasing controlling laws on traditional smoking products, tobacco industry has focused on developing Next Generation Products (NGPs). Some common NGPs are electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) which also referred to as e-cigarettes and Heated Tobacco Products.

Around the globe and in Asia the industry is lobbying governments for leniency in regulation, which would allow the companies to promote these products or be treated less restrictively than combustible tobacco products. One study shows that in Philippines in 2018, from the nine bills proposing ENDS regulation in Congress, six were oriented to adopting industry positions in relation to ENDS. Three bills, two in the House of Representatives and one in the Senate, showed the involvement of PMI. The Philippines E-Cigarette Industry Association (PECIA) and Vapers Philippines were vocal during the meetings, arguing that regulation should be assigned to the Department of Trade and Industry, promoting the harm reduction argument, and claiming that e-cigarettes are an effective smoking cessation tool.66

* Read more about new tobacco industry products and strategies here on Next Generation Products and Harm Reduction


Tobacco tactics resources

*Japan Tobacco International

* US-ASEAN Business Council

*China National Tobacco Corporation

*South East Asian region

* Tobacco Smuggling

* CSR Strategy

* Foundation for a Smoke-Free World Grantees



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