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Follow the money: How the billions of dollars that flow from smokers in poor nations to companies in rich nations greatly exceed funding for global tobacco control and what might be done about it
  1. Cynthia Callard
  1. Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Cynthia Callard, Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, 1226 A Wellington Street, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1Y 3A1; ccallard{at}


The business of selling cigarettes is increasingly concentrated in the hands of five tobacco companies that collectively control almost 90% of the world's cigarette market, four of which are publicly traded corporations. The economic activities of these cigarette manufacturers can be monitored through their reports to shareholders and other public documents. Reports for 2008 show that the revenues of these five companies exceeded $300 billion, of which more than $160 billion was provided to governments as taxes, and that corporate earnings of the four publicly traded companies were over $25 billion, of which $14 billion was retained after corporate income taxes were paid. By contrast, funding for domestic and international tobacco control is not reliably reported. Estimated funding for global tobacco control in 2008, at $240 million, is significantly lower than resources provided to address other high-mortality global health challenges. Tobacco control has not yet benefited from the innovative finance mechanisms that are in place for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. The Framework Convention On Tobacco Control (FCTC) process could be used to redirect some of the earnings from transnational tobacco sales to fund FCTC implementation or other global health efforts.

  • Tobacco industry
  • Framework Convention On Tobacco Control
  • economics
  • public policy
  • taxation and price

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  • Funding Health Canada.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.