Tobacco kills more than 8 million people a year. While multinationals like Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco are often criticized for profiting from a deadly and addictive product, they're only part of the problem. More than half of the world's cigarettes are produced by companies either wholly or partly owned by national governments.
Indeed 18 governments control 10 percent or more of a tobacco company, and 11 are majority owners. China’s government operates the world’s largest cigarette-maker, while Japan’s government owns one-third of the No. 4. Governments in Thailand, Iran, Malawi, Cuba, Egypt, Malawi, and Lebanon are among those that directly profit when a citizen lights up.
Given that cigarettes will kill as many as half of those who smoke them, this leaves governments conflicted. With one arm, government health ministries push people to quit. With another, government tobacco companies push them to buy more smokes.
In this report, The Examination and reporting partners from Germany's Der Spiegel and Singapore’s Initium investigate how such conflicts of interest shape the tobacco policies of some of the mostly deeply-invested governments.