Japan Tobacco International (JTI) was founded in 1999 as a wholy owned subsidiary of Japan Tobacco Inc. (JT).
After having been founded in 1898 as state enterprise, Japan Tobacco has been keeping its tobacco monopoly in Japan until 1985. Since the privatization in 1984, the company also manufactures pharmaceutical and food products, thus having diversified its market profile. The biggest shareholder of Japan Tobacco has remained the Japanese state, who owns one third of the company shares.
Having a market share of about 8,4%, JTI is the world’s fifth largest tobacco corporation. Thomas A. McCoy (President and CEO) explains the relevance of JTI to its parent company quite clearly: „The core mission of JTI is to be the profit growth engine of the JT Group.“
To secure the leaf supply for JT and its subsidiaries, JT established in 2009 its subsidiary Global Leaf Procurement Group by acquiring the British Tribac Leaf Ltd. and two Brazilian tobacco leaf merchants (Kannenberg and KBH&C). Tribac based in Oxfordshire mostly purchases its tobacco from Malawi, Zambia, China, and India. Additionally, JTI Leaf Services was founded as a joint venture with two US American leaf merchants (Hail & Cotton Inc. and JEB International).
Pharmaceuticals to maximize profits and as marketing strategy
Japan Tobacco markets and produces pharmaceuticals against lung cancer and heart diseases – the kind of diseases that are caused and promoted by smoking and thus by Japan Tobacco’s own products. In 1999, the corporation acquired exclusive rights to commercialize lung cancer vaccines from the US company Corixa.
“Giving a tobacco company exclusive rights to lung cancer vaccines is like putting Dracula in charge of a blood bank,” said Dr Helen Wallace of GeneWatch.
This move raised fears, the purported lung cancer vaccine – until today there is no proven vaccine against this disease – would suggest to smokers that their tobacco use is no longer life threatening. In fact, lung cancer is just one of more than 50 diseases that can be triggered by tobacco use.
Illegal cigarette trade
JTI has also been found to be involved in smuggling activities. For example in May 2011, the company delivered over 4 million offically imported cigarettes, but also duty unpaid supplies to Syria. After the Islamic revolution in Iran, international cigarette companies contributed to open up the Iranian market to Western corporations by illegal cigarette trade. The WHO report on this issue also names Japan Tobacco International.
Cooperation with the International Labour Organization (ILO)
The ILO, a special agency of the UN, receives money from the tobacco industry. Since 2011, the ILO cooperates with JTI in programmes against child labour in tobacco growing communities for which the tobacco company paid 10.1 million US dollars in total. It is an established strategy of the tobacco industry to capitalize on CSR programmes touted with the reputation of an international agency. JTI uses it mainly to boost its public relations and to divert attention from the fact that tobacco industry profits massively from child labour.
Gallaher Group, Global Leaf Procurement Group
Winston, Camel, Natural American Spirit, Mild Seven, Benson & Hedges, Silk cut, Sobranie, Glamour, LD
54.4 billion Euro (2015)
4.5 billion Euro (2015)
503.1 billion cigarettes (2015)
Japan Tobacco: Mitsuomi Koizumi (compensation 2015: 1.1 mio. Euro)
Growing and Manufacturing
Tobacco leaf originating from Malawi, Zambia, China, and India