The Tobacco Industry in Decline

The Tobacco Industry in Decline

“The Tobacco Industry in Decline” Article and infographics submitted by Aidan Baragry

The tobacco industry and cigarette smoking may continue to rise in less developed countries, but according to research in Europe and the US, the tobacco industry seems to be burning out.

The information below walks us through the history of the tobacco industry and some of the factors that may be influencing its decline, including the increased use of electronic cigarettes or personal vaporizers.

tobacco industry

The History of the Tobacco Industry and Cigarettes

  • Mayan Indians of Mexico carved drawings illustrate tobacco use as early as 600-900 AD.
  • Tobacco was introduced in France in 1556; Portugal in 1558; Spain in 1559and England in 1565.
  • Settlers of the Jamestown, VA colony were the first to grow tobacco as a cash crop in 1612.
  • By 1800, on average tobacco users smoked 40 cigarettes per year.
  • In 1865 the first commercial cigarettes were made in North Carolina by Washington Duke.
  • Smoking became more widespread after 1881 thanks for James Bonsack’s cigarette making machine.
  • The American Tobacco Company was the first tobacco company in the U.S., created by James Buck Duke and his father, Washington.
  • In 1902 the Phillip Morris Company established the Marlboro cigarette brand.
  • During World Wars I and II, free cigarettes were given to soldiers every day.
  • By 1944 cigarette production reached 300 billion.
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tobacco industry

The Start of the Decline in the Tobacco Industry

Negative medical evidence against cigarettes and a spread of this research by the media started the decline in the tobacco industry.

In the 1930s German researchers found a link between cancer and smoking.

In 1938, Dr. Raymond Pearl suggested that cigarette smokers do not live as long as non-smokers.

In 1944, the American Cancer Society started warning of possible negative health effects of smoking.

In 1952, Reader’s Digest published “Cancer by the Carton,” an article that emphasized the dangers of smoking.

As more negative articles appeared in the media, the rate of smokers started to decline for the first time in 20 years.

In 1954, the Tobacco Industry Research Council was formed by the major tobacco companies to combat health concerns.

The cigarette companies embarked on mass marketing filtered and low tar cigarette options to promote “healthier” cigarette smoking.

This effort saw an increase again in smoking rates.

Then in 1964, a report was issued by the Surgeon General’s Advisory Committee stating that smokers were 9-10 times more likely to develop lung cancer than non-smokers due to specific carcinogens in tobacco cigarettes.

tobacco industry

The United States Federal Government and the European Union Step In

The long arm of the law, both in the States and abroad, pushed for legislation over the next few decades, which eventually lead to a decrease in tobacco cigarette sales and usage.

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1965: The United States enacted legislation to ensure the Surgeon General’s Warning label appeared on every pack of cigarettes.

1971: All broadcast advertising of cigarettes was banned in the US.

1991: The European Union (EU) banned all tobacco advertising and sponsorship on television.

tobacco industry
1998: 46 states in the US sued the “big four” tobacco companies citing health problems resulting in overuse of public health systems.

Over the next 25 years, tobacco companies settled over $200 billion in compensation.

2000: In February, Philip Morris was ordered to pay $51.5 million to a cancer patient with inoperable lung cancer.


2003: The EU prevented tobacco companies from marketing cigarettes as “mild” or “light.” Now 30% of the front and 40% of the back of a pack of cigarettes must state blunt health warnings such as “Smoking Kills.”

2005: The EU advertising ban was extended to include media advertising over the Internet, radio and sports events.


2004: Ireland was the first country in the world to enact a smoke-free workplace law.

Today, plain packaged cigarettes are mandatory in Australia, with Ireland soon following suit.

2015: A court in Canada ruled that three tobacco companies should pay CAN$15.6 billion to one million smokers who claimed they were never warned about the health risks.

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Falling Numbers of Smokers in the Tobacco Industry

  • The number of adult tobacco users in the US has gone down from 42.4% in 1966 to under 17% today.
  • The Altria Group estimates that adult usage will continue to decline by 2% to 3% per year.
  • In the UK, usage has declined from 56% in 1974 to under 20% today.
  • The European Commission stated that smoking is down 2% across the EU since 2012, with Sweden having the lowest rate at 11%.
  • The biggest decline was seen in 15 to 24 year olds, dropping from 29% to 24%.
  • 73% of EU workers said they’ve been rarely exposed to second-hand smoke since 2012.


The Increased Use of Personal Vaporizers to Quit Smoking

Today there are over 500 brands of e-cigarettes worldwide with overall sales of over $7 billion, £4.6 billion and €6.29 billion.

67% of Europeans now use electronic cigarettes to quit smoking. E-cigarette usage has increased by 1% since 2012 in Europe, while 21% of US smokers use e-cigarettes; 70% of US smokers use them to quit smoking.


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