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What is the Tobacco Industry?

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  • Written By: A.E. Simmons
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 17 September 2016
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The tobacco industry is an industry that manufactures and sells tobacco-based products. Any person or company that grows, supplies, ships, advertises, or distributes tobacco or tobacco-based products is directly involved in the tobacco industry. Tobacco became a major commodity during the 1500s, when the Spanish introduced the crop to Western Europeans; in the 1600s, when colonists arrived in present day America, tobacco became a major export. For years, the tobacco industry has been one of the planet's leading agricultural industries. Tobacco grows in warm, moist environments, so it can be grown globally.

The tobacco industry is a controversial one, because tobacco is highly addictive and connections have been made between tobacco use and death. Those who are active in the tobacco industry defend tobacco production as an essential part of the global economy. Others work to show the harmful effects of tobacco use.

The World Health Organization has concluded that half of all those who use tobacco will die of tobacco-related causes. They also argue that tobacco can cause lingering health problems that result in higher healthcare costs. There is a strong link between tobacco and cancer, and many believe smoking is a contributing factor to the development of lung cancer and oral cancer. Smokeless tobacco isn't immune from the fight.

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Controversy over the tobacco industry mounted in the late 1900s and early 2000s, so the World Health Organization started a Global Treaty on Tobacco Control. The treaty restricting nearly every aspect of tobacco production and sales has been signed by more than 100 countries around the world. China, India, Brazil, and the United States lead in the production of unprocessed tobacco, and restrictions on tobacco may alter the total sales and production for these countries. The sales are altered by high taxation in many of the countries that signed the treaty. Meanwhile, many of the leading tobacco companies have been in and out of litigation and lawsuits.

There is a significant amount of controversy surrounding tobacco, so it has become a political issue globally. The United States and Canada are among those countries that have been engaged in political discord over how tobacco is used and produced. Although tobacco is not as widely advertised in the early 21st century, the entertainment industry was used often in the 20th century to promote tobacco. Hollywood stars and other celebrities were frequently shown smoking in movies. After anti-smoking groups became a major force against tobacco, many actors and filmmakers began making it a point either not to use tobacco or not to be seen using it.

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