Big Tobacco’s Shady Strategies: Profits, Deception, and the Future of Smoking

The smoking rates in the UK have been on a steady decline for decades, but surprisingly, cigarette companies are raking in more profits than ever before. In this article, we will delve into the hidden truths behind the soaring profits of big tobacco. From engineered image overhauls to price-shifting strategies and targeting new markets, we’ll uncover the tactics they employ to keep their businesses afloat.

The Image Overhaul

Public opinion against smoking has pushed cigarette companies to engineer an image overhaul. They claim to be moving away from traditional cigarettes and towards healthier alternatives like vapes. But are they really? The financial reports suggest otherwise. Traditional cigarettes still bring in the majority of their profits.

Printing Money: The Addictive Nature

Traditional cigarettes are like a cash cow for cigarette companies. They are cheap to produce but can be sold at exorbitant prices due to addiction. In fact, in 2015, the top six tobacco manufacturers earned more profits than several global giants combined. This financial success is deeply tied to addiction, making it challenging for the industry to truly embrace a smoke-free future.

The Challenge of Tax Increases

Tax increases on tobacco products pose a significant problem for manufacturers. Increasing the cost of cigarettes has proven to be the most effective way to reduce smoking rates. However, manufacturers have their own counter-strategy called price-shifting. This tactic allows them to maintain profits by raising prices on premium cigarettes while lowering prices on cheaper ones.

The Need for New Customers

With the knowledge that many of their existing customers will either quit or pass away due to smoking-related illnesses, cigarette companies are faced with a daunting challenge: finding new customers. Advertising and marketing restrictions make this difficult in developed countries. However, they have found fertile ground in social media, where they can target billions of young people with minimal regulation.

Influence of Social Media

Social media has become a haven for cigarette companies to make smoking look cool again. They employ influencers who subtly promote smoking through contracts and strategies that make it appear normal and trendy. While these tactics work in the short term, they cannot sustain the industry in the long run.

Expanding to Developing Markets

To maintain their profits, big tobacco is turning to developing countries in Asia, Africa, and Southeast Asia. They employ tactics that are now illegal in many developed countries, such as advertising to children and making smoking seem glamorous and Western.

Government Resistance and Hope

Despite big tobacco’s efforts, organizations like the World Health Organization are pushing governments to impose restrictions and prevent a smoking epidemic in these developing markets. While there is a risk, there is also hope that the damage can be mitigated.


Big tobacco’s profits are built on a foundation of addiction, deception, and the pursuit of new markets. While they continue to make money, the industry faces significant challenges due to increasing awareness of the dangers of smoking. As consumers, it’s essential to stay informed and be aware of the tactics employed by these companies. Smoking is not only a personal choice but also a matter of public health.

If you are a smoker or an ex-smoker, we’d like to hear about your relationship with cigarettes and whether learning about big tobacco has changed your perspective on smoking. Please share your thoughts in the comments below.