Monday 29th & Tuesday 30th September, 8.30pm ABC
Cigarettes are the most lethal consumer product on the planet. Every year, over five million customers of the tobacco industry die. Around the world, governments have responded to the carnage by pushing up prices, banning advertising, and banning smoking in pubs, restaurants and work places. Yet despite this, the industry continues to thrive.
In 2012, tobacco pulled in three quarters of a trillion dollars in retail sales. The manufacturers turned that into a 50 billion dollar profit.
In this special edition of Four Corners, running over two nights, award-winning reporter Peter Taylor investigates the state of the industry. He talks to the head of British American Tobacco, who delivers a clear admission that smoking is harmful to health, along with this pledge:
“I think we are different because we are at the forefront of driving that tobacco harm reduction future and I understand that we are indeed the problem. That is no reason for us not to be part of the solution."
At the same time, Taylor investigates the reasons why thousands of young people around the world are still taking up the habit and reveals the tactics used by the tobacco companies to deliver big profits.
In making this program, Taylor was given access to the factories, research laboratories and the executives of British American Tobacco.
In the first episode, he takes a look at the industry’s fight against increasing regulation, from the banning of smoking in public places, to plain packaging and legislation demanding cigarette packets show pictures depicting the horrific impact of smoking on people.
He details why the tobacco industry fought a pitched battle against plain packaging in Australia. He also shows how one former political operative in Australia became part of the debate in Britain.
In the second episode, the story shifts to the developing world and the role the electronic, or e-cigarette, will have on the health of smokers and the industry itself. Even as the tobacco industry admits it has killed in the past, it now claims e-cigarettes and other new technologies can allow people the chance to use nicotine safely.
Others are more than sceptical:
“When British American Tobacco stand up and say as of say two, three, five years from now we’re going to stop selling cigarettes because we’re a socially responsible company, I’ll believe them.”
THE SEDUCTION OF SMOKING, reported by Peter Taylor and presented by Kerry O’Brien, goes to air on Monday 29th and Tuesday 30thSeptember at 8.30pm on ABC. It can also be seen on ABC News 24 and ABC iview.