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Tobacco Industry Monitor

Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance

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Tobacco troublemakers in ASEAN

The ASEAN region has become the tobacco industry’s target as an important market for tobacco products. The region has a large population of over 600 million people,[1] about 40% of whom are smokers[2]. While global tobacco consumption has been increasing between 1980 and 2016,[3] in the ASEAN region it has ballooned to more than 100 million smokers due to a combination of population growth and increasing smoking rates. The establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) has attracted the large Transnational Tobacco Companies (TTCs) to increase their investment in the region. TTCs take full advantage of the regional AEC which provides an advantage to gain more profit from low and middle-income countries in South East Asia. In recent years, acquisitions by TTCs and forming joint ventures with local companies has increased their presence in every country in ASEAN region such as in Indonesia that TTCs formed the joint ventures with local tobacco industries in order to benefit from the lucrative tobacco business and earn greater profits.

State-owned tobacco enterprises currently market only conventional tobacco products.

Transnational tobacco companies are currently marketing electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) and heated tobacco products (HTP) as ‘new generation products’.  Although these products are not harmless, they are promoted as a less harmful alternative compared to traditional cigarettes.


[1] Worldometers.info. (2018). Population of South-Eastern Asia (2018) – Worldometers. [online] Available at: http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/south-eastern-asia-population/ [Accessed 1 Apr. 2018].
[2] Drope J, Schluger N, Cahn Z, Drope J, Hamill S, Islami F, Liber A, Nargis N, Stoklosa M. 2018. The Tobacco Atlas. Atlanta: American Cancer Society and Vital Strategies, p 20.
[3] Ibid, p 21