Top 10 Sinister Moves Made By Tobacco Companies to Sell Cigarettes


Tobacco companies get a bad rap, presumably because they make profits by giving people all sorts of cancer. This article probably isn’t going to help their case, since we’re talking about nothing but the horrible depths they’ve sunk to keep cancer profitable, but it sure is interesting.

10. Free Cigarettes For Soldiers

Smoking and the military have such a close relationship, the subject has its own Wikipedia page. Soldiers love themselves some tobacco-based produce. But have you ever wondered why? Well, it may have something to do with the fact that tobacco companies long ago realized that the military represented a huge potential market, full of highly-stressed individuals with many hours of downtime.

Realizing this, some tobacco companies lobbied to have cigarettes made a standard part of a soldier’s rations, which said tobacco companies gladly provided for free. Though this may seem nice on the surface, the move was an incredibly shrewd one since, although they did give away a lot of their stock for free, they ensured that soldiers would be hooked and buying their brand, long after they left the military.

9. Suppressing The World Health Organization

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The World Health Organization is kind of a big deal when it comes to matters of world health. Obviously. The WHO is incredibly powerful and respected, and able to affect change on an almost-global scale.

And tobacco companies couldn’t care less about any of that jazz. In secret documents leaked to the WHO, it was revealed that several massive tobacco companies have been undermining the efforts of the WHO for years. The range and scope of the tactics used is pretty staggering, but in a nutshell, tobacco companies threw money at things that threatened their profits until they went away. The things they wanted to go away, by the by, were the people trying to cure cancer, which makes them the exact opposite of Bill Gates.

8. Trying To Take Down China

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It’s a pretty safe assumption that China will eventually run the world; sorry, Beyonce. However, standing up to the ever-present Chinese menace is a lone hero: big tobacco companies. As reported by Reuters, tobacco companies in China have deliberately resisted raising their prices, and even infiltrated anti-smoking groups, to ensure that Chinese citizens remain hooked and in turn get all of the cancer.

If that’s not evil enough for you, they’ve also refused to put health warning on their packs. Then again, if people don’t realize that the things that taste like kissing an old person’s couch are bad for you, they probably don’t know how to read anyway. Thanks for giving us a fighting chance, tobacco!

7. Paying Scientists To Play Down The Link Between Smoking And Alzheimer’s

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The list of diseases and physical maladies that smoking helps cause is so long, the physical exertion of writing them all down would give us early-onset arthritis, and who wants that? Suffice to say, it’s real real long.

However, one disease that has constantly emerged in the papers is Alzheimer’s. And yet, every now and again, a paper would emerge that suggested that smoking was somehow beneficial to people suffering from the condition. When someone actually investigated this claim, they found that every single person or scientist that had made such a claim had undisclosed links to the tobacco industry. Because of course they did.

6. Making Smoking Fashionable

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Smoking is cool and everyone knows it, because there’s nothing cooler than having erectile dysfunction and smelly eyebrows. Back in the heyday of smoking, Lucky Strike Cigarettes noticed that sales of their brand were lagging. So they hired one Edward Bernays to help them. Bernays noticed that Lucky Strike’s packaging was an incredibly garish green color. Realizing that people are largely idiots, he concluded that the ugly color was the reason people weren’t smoking Luckies. When Lucky Strike refused to change their packaging, Bernays decided that he’d simply make green fashionable.

Which he did, by throwing a green-themed ball. When all the biggest movers and shakers of the day were pictured wearing green, sales of Lucky Strike brand cigarettes shot up, simply because green was now awesome, because pretty people were dressed in green one night. Again, people are idiots.

5. Trying To Defraud The Government Of A Billion Dollars

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Though smoking arguably causes the government untold billions in healthcare costs, it also makes it a fair chunk of change in taxes, which pay for things like roads, hospitals and policemen. Then again, it also probably pays for the things that cure all the people dying of cancer because of smoking, but we should probably digress before our heads begin to hurt.

Over in Canada, a former tobacco executive, Stan Smith, was caught red-handed conspiring to smuggle millions of cigarettes, the estimated tax on which would have been in excess of a billion dollars. Don’t worry though, because Mr Smith definitely got his just deserts, by which we mean he sold out all of his co-workers, and got off scot-free. Justice!

4. Targeting Children, Then Denying It

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The argument about whether tobacco companies target children has always been hotly contested, by which we mean tobacco companies have been shady as hell about it, while hiding behind a constant shield of highly-paid lawyers.

For example, it was constantly argued that Joe Camel (a spokescamel for Camel Cigarettes) was aimed at children. Though Camel Cigarettes naturally denied the claim, critics countered with the fact that Mr. Camel was equally as recognizable to children as Mickey Mouse, and that he rode a skateboard. Camel responded by telling the critics to shut the hell up. Because that’s how you win an argument.

3. Convincing Women To Smoke, For Feminism

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Back in the early days of smoking, the market was almost entirely limited to men. However, this wasn’t an ideal situation for tobacco companies, as their potential consumer base was effectively cut in half. They needed a hero, they needed a cowboy. They needed Edward Bernays. Again.

Bernays quickly got on the case, by leaking a story to the press that, during a parade, some women would be lighting “torches of freedom,” to pave the way for female equality. What he didn’t tell them was that said women were stooges, paid by a tobacco company to smoke in public. When the images of said women hit the papers, millions of women were exposed to the message that, in order for them to be equal to men, they had to smoke. So they did, because advertising totally works, if you’re willing to sell your soul to Satan.

2. Supporting Human Rights Abuse

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With all the damage and death that smoking causes, how they’re made is oftentimes ignored. However, one human rights group decided to look into how British American Tobacco’s cigarettes were made, and found that they directly profited the brutal military dictatorship in Burma.

BAT countered the claims, by stating that their factory represented valuable jobs to the Burmese people, to which human rights groups responded by saying that BAT were only paying said workers 17 pence (25 cents) a day, or a third of what other comparable jobs in the area were paying. BAT quickly bowed out, and withdrew from the country.

1. Refusing To Inform People About How Dangerous Smoking Is

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Nowadays, it’s virtually a universally-accepted fact that smoking is bad for your health. However, saying your product kills people isn’t a savvy business move, which is why a number of tobacco companies simply downplayed the hell out of, or outright lied about, exactly how dangerous their products were.

For example, they massively downplayed the dangers of “low-tar” cigarettes, advertising them as less dangerous than their full-tar (read: manly) cigarettes. Turns out, this was a complete and utter lie; saying low-tar cigarettes are less dangerous than full-tar ones, is like saying a shotgun blast to the chest is less harmful than one to the face.

When the government demanded that such companies issue full and frank public apologies at their own expense, Big Tobacco fought the decision so hard, that the first time you probably heard about it was right now, when we mentioned it in this article.

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  1. Kaleb Major on

    This list reminds me of network news channels as in it plays on just parts of the story.
    Lucky Strike did change the color to white.
    Of course the tobacco companies started marketing to China and women… wouldn’t you tap a huge market like China and women if you wanted to sell your product?
    Defrauding the government? Really now. Anytime something is taxed high like tobacco is then of course there is going to be a black market on it. I am sure organized crime loves this.
    Human rights abuses: Apple, Nike and most everything we get from China. Come on now.
    Concerning the WHO report on cigarettes. I dare any of you anti-tobacco idiots to find in the original report that says second hand smoke is dangerous to non-smokers. Go ahead. If it was true than anybody born 1940 to 1970 would have cancer because 80-85% of the population smoked cigs then and they all smoked inside houses, theaters, restaurants,cars with their children,k airplanes etc. I sick and tired of you people now go and enjoy a soda.

      • Martin Fierro on

        look up the information and if it is wrong than dispute it with facts you have found. Stop using emotions to argue. Facts always speak for themselves. P.S. I am a non smoker, never smoked, never will.
        @Kaleb good on you

        • Im s smoker since I was 16 and you dont feel shit at first , then you’re blood flow slows down and you get tired a lot more often from things that non smokers dont.Also have to say , on the Stan Smith part of the article was used a photo in which there is a Romanian border control car full of cigarettes and the guy is from Canada , kinda smells of bull…Bottom line , dont start smoking cigarettes because they are addictive for the stress free sensation and no downside in the short run..but in the long run it cripples you more and more , dieing from it is very exageratted ! In my home town almost everyone smokes , none that I’ve heard died from it , but there are a few old time smokers in the hospital from back when there were no filters..just my 2 cents , I dont work for a tabacco company , but am currently a smoker ..23 y/o Nice article btw !

  2. And the cigar shaped ones. I loved them both and ended up smoking for 40 years.

  3. I don’t know if they still do this, but what about the bubble gum sold to look like cigarettes? Again aiming at children.

  4. Repack Rider on

    I served in the Army during the sixties, and I took up smoking. It wasn’t free, but it was cheap, 20 cents a pack. Whatever you were doing, the sergeant was likely to give you five, smoke ’em if you got ’em.

    Times have changed in the military.

  5. didn’t Dick Cheney teach us that shotgun blasts to the face are less lethal than ones to the chest?

  6. My dad used to bring home a lot of C-Ration packages with a 4 pack of Marlboro inside. I don’t know how he missed them, but us kids loved them. They also had gum and some really terrible cheese and crackers

  7. How about the most sinister of them all, creating cigarettes in the first place.

  8. Very well written, informative and funny list Karl!!! Keep up the great work.