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close this bookFact sheet No 118: The Tobacco Epidemic: A Global Public Health Emergency Tobacco Use - May 1996 (WHO, 1996, 6 p.)
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View the documentThe Tobacco Epidemic: A Global Public Health Emergency Tobacco Use
View the documentSmoking Prevalence
View the documentHealth Effects
View the documentTobacco Production and Trade
View the documentEconomics of Tobacco
View the documentTobacco Control Measures

Tobacco Production and Trade

· Most of the global tobacco manufacturing industry is controlled by a small number of state monopolies and multinational corporations. The largest of these is the state monopoly in China, which in 1993 sold 1.7x 1012 cigarettes, which represented 31% of the global market. In 1993, the seven largest multinational tobacco corporations accounted for nearly 40% global cigarette sales.

· China is the world's dominant producer of unmanufactured tobacco, producing as much as the next 7 largest producers combined. While tobacco is grown in over 100 countries, the 25 leading producers account for over 90% of global tobacco production.

· Worldwide, around 5.5x 1012 cigarettes were manufactured in 1994, with just four countries, China, the US, Japan and Germany accounting for over half of global production.

· Some countries which are major importers of cigarettes, such as Japan, France, and the Russian Federation are also major consumers of these products. Other major importing countries, such as Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Singapore, and Germany are major regional distribution centres that re-export a large percentage of the cigarettes they import.

· Countries that import large amounts of unmanufactured tobacco are usually major tobacco manufacturing centres. Most of them, such as the United States, Germany, the Russian Federation and Japan are also major consumers of manufactured tobacco.

· The United States is a major cigarette production centre and the world's leading exporter of manufactured cigarettes.

· For a number of years, the United States was the world's leading exporter of unmanufactured tobacco. However, by 1994, it had been surpassed by Brazil and Zimbabwe, the two leading sources of internationally traded unmanufactured tobacco as of the mid 1990s.

· Just five countries, Brazil, Zimbabwe, the United States, Turkey and Italy account for over half of all global exports of unmanufactured tobacco.

· Tobacco is also economically important in Brazil, the world's largest tobacco leaf exporter.

· In theory, world cigarette exports should equal imports, minus a small amount for transit time. In the early 1990s, exports exceeded imports by an estimated 282 000 million cigarettes, representing 5% of global cigarette production and 30% of cigarettes in international trade. Although the exact amount is difficult to quantify, a large percentage of this discrepancy is undoubtedly due to smuggling.