When we start to list the bloodiest industries worldwide, the armaments industry will come first and the drug industry second. Indeed in the 20th Century, the arms industry caused the loss of millions of lives. With the advancement of new technologies, weapons become more and more lethal with every passing day. The trillions of dollars worth of investments made in this sector return as lost lives and devastated cities.
As for the drug industry, from manufacturers, to distributors, from street dealers to end-users, it brings death at every stage. Drug cartels have ceased to be local powers, and on some occasions, even took control of entire countries. In South American countries, tens of thousands of people die in drug wars every year. This number is many times more than those who lose their lives in terrorist attacks.
These two industries are closely followed by a dark and insidious industry as number three: The tobacco and cigarette industry. Despite its luminous advertisements, colorful boxes and so-called “cool” image, this sector is no less deadly then the weapon and drug industries.
Since the 17th Century, tobacco has been one of the greatest sources of income for the colonialist and imperialist countries, and as a result of this, millions of people, from tobacco manufacturers to smokers, have lost their lives. Tobacco was first introduced to the Europe of the era and the Ottoman Empire by British merchants. In the 17th, 18th, 19th, and even in the 20th Centuries, particularly the USA and many British colonial countries labored hard to meet the world's tobacco demand. Egypt, Australia, Jamaica, Nigeria, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Songea, Rhodesia and Borneo as well as Iran, which was at the time within the British sphere of influence, all turned into vast tobacco plantations. The tobacco manufactured in the colonies was purchased cheap and sold to the world for extravagant prices. During this dark period, from the Caribbean to the Far East Asia, a great majority of the world's population became a part of this cycle as either tobacco manufacturers or consumers.
The American tobacco industry was also supported by the slave trade. British merchants bought slaves from the local kings in Africa in exchange for weapons. These slaves were then transported to the Americas, where they were traded for raw materials such as tobacco and sugar.
Financed by slave trafficking, the “Atlantic Trade" remained under a British monopoly for 200 years. While 10 million Africans were transported to the new continent as slaves, another 10 million lost their lives during this period. During the height of the slave trade, warehouses were constructed on the West African shores, where slaves were piled in while waiting for ships to arrive. In this period, Africans of all religions, all nations and tribes were enslaved by the millions. The famous British Navy of the era was financed through the Atlantic slave trade.
The effects of the tobacco trade have lasted from that time until today. The entire world is under the influence of tobacco as a deadly industry. In 2014, smokers spent 750 billion dollars for 5.6 trillion cigarettes. This figure is higher than the combined gross national product of 170 countries and corresponds to the 19th largest economy in the world.
Today, about 1.2 billion people are tobacco addicts. This number is estimated to reach 1.65 billion by 2025. 80% of these people belong to middle and low income classes. While 1,800 cigarettes are smoked per capita each year in Japan, this number is 1,000 in the USA. Each year, six million people die from tobacco- related diseases. If the nations of the world do not take any collective action, approximately one billion people will die from the effects of tobacco consumption over the course of the 21st Century.
The main factor that initiates millions to smoking is marketing methods and window dressing. In fact, this cycle of deception began in the 16th Century with merchants presenting tobacco as a medicine. Along with the advertising world of the 20th Century, cigarette smoking was made into a lifestyle. Through professional marketing techniques, people were initiated to this harmful habit at a very young age, and this mistake continues still. Today, two third of the smokers are introduced to this substance before they were 18. Legal prohibitions and advertising restrictions imposed until today, the warning messages put on cigarette boxes regarding its deadliness, did not deter the widespread use of this poison.
In 1954, the USA cigarette manufacturers launched a major advocacy advertisement campaign published by more than 400 newspapers throughout the US. The statement, titled "A Frank Statement to Cigarette Smokers", reached about 45 million Americans. The statement rejected claims that cigarette causes cancer and gave assurances stating that cigarette smoking was safe. Today, it has become evident that this statement blatantly contradicts scientific facts, facts which were known as early as the late 1920's. Eventually, it was understood that the companies that signed the statement were well aware of the harm caused by their products even then.
In our day, science has definitively proven the deadly consequences of cigarette smoking. Firstly, cigarette smoking is the primary cause of lung cancer. Studies show that one out of every four people that die from cancer develops this disease because of cigarette smoking. In addition to various forms of cancer, cigarette use also causes heart and lung diseases. The number of those who die from tobacco-related diseases in the USA is higher than the total number of those who die from AIDS, drugs, alcohol, suicides, homicides and car accidents; even passive smoking takes more than 50,000 lives worldwide. When we consider the fact that 45,000 people died in terrorist attacks in 2015, we see that passive smoking is deadlier than terrorism.
Tobacco and cigarette are also the most wasteful items in the world. Millions of hectares of land are being wasted. If the manufacturers around the world produced food instead of tobacco, 30 million people living below the hunger threshold could easily be provided with nourishment. Such an enormous potential is being used for poisoning people instead of feeding them. Today, 124 countries around the world are tobacco manufacturers and the majority of them are under the global wealth average. The tobacco industry is exploiting the poverty of these countries. In fact, the tobacco manufacturers too are victims of this system.
Tobacco is a downright poison. It has been poisoning people for 500 years. It destroys the societies’ capacity to cope, rendering them susceptible to exploitation, abuse and being ruled. Only a handful of oligarchs make profit from this bloody industry. 1.5 billion people endanger their lives for this substance. It is impossible for countries to single-handedly struggle against this poison dictate. What is needed is an alliance among politicians, statesmen, opinion leaders, clergymen, community leaders, non-governmental organizations and every person with a clear mind and conscience. Tobacco takes 20,000 new lives with each passing day. This is a struggle that cannot be delayed even for an hour.
Adnan Oktar's piece in American Herald Tribune & Riyadh Vision: