Story highlights

  • The tobacco industry has annual revenues of nearly $500bn
  • Six trillion cigarettes are sold worldwide every year
  • The 'big six' control 80% of the global market
  • China is the world's largest tobacco market 
  • One-third of all cigarettes are smoked in China
  • Electronic cigarette market is now worth $7.5bn
  • Tobacco kills six million people per year

Last week, retailers across the world did not sell cigarettes and tobacco products for one day. 

"World No Tobacco Day" was marked internationally on May 31 in order to highlight health risks associated with tobacco use and to advocate policies to reduce tobacco consumption. Tobacco kills an estimated six million people per year.

The tobacco industry has annual revenues of nearly $500bn. The number of cigarettes manufactured and sold has risen to six trillion every year worldwide - nearly double of what it was four decades ago.

Tobacco stocks outperformed the market in 2015 and have in fact done so for the past decade.

But even if you are not buying cigarettes, you may still be buying into them. 

In May 2016, one of the biggest insurers, Axa, said it could not continue being a health insurer and supporting tobacco. It committed to stubbing out its investments in tobacco stocks and bonds and even called the tobacco industry a sunset industry. But is the industry really on its way out?

We examine how big tobacco players have shifted focus to the developing world to stay profitable; and how your pension money may well be tied up in the industry. 

As there are also calls on pension funds to follow Axa's lead, Counting the Cost talks to Jonathan Hoare, director of Policy & Investor Networks, Shareaction, about Big Tobacco and the politics behind it.

Al Jazeera's Step Vaessen gives an insight into the tobacco industry's focus on developing countries like Indonesia and its impact on the people. With 65 million smokers, Indonesia is a big market - one in five children start to smoke before the age of 10. 

Also on this episode of Counting the Cost:

ISIL and oil: Even as the Iraqi army fights back, the armed group, also known as ISIS, is still strong and well-funded. An update on how ISIL controls the oil fields, how it sells the oil and why it is still finding customers for its contraband crude.

Greece on life support: The country is bankrupt, so how much more austerity is in store for Europe's most depressed economy?

Made in Taiwan: About 90 percent of the world's computers and one-third of mobile phones are from Taiwan. It's famous for its technology industry, but it may need to adapt if it wants to remain a high-tech hub.

Source: Al Jazeera