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Cigarette Wars

About the Show

Cigarette Wars Preview
The battle for the future of an industry $60 billion strong. CNBC¿s Brian Shactman goes inside the global struggle over tobacco.

In this CNBC original documentary, Correspondent Brian A. Shactman reports on an industry that continues to thrive despite all we know about the dangers of smoking. 50 million Americans, and nearly a billion people overseas, still light up every day. And as cigarette taxes continue to skyrocket in the United States, driving the price up to as much as $14 per pack, a crime wave is booming , with black market profiteers cheating the U.S. government out of $5 billion in cigarette tax dollars each year.

We follow American tobacco farmers as they endure one of the worst growing seasons in four decades, facing record drought and increased pressure from the anti-tobacco movement. Increasingly marginalized, these growers refuse to give up or give in, trading their overalls for suits and traveling overseas to sell American tobacco in emerging markets. Their efforts, and those of the tobacco industry, to sell their product in places like China, India, and Eastern Europe, have prompted accusations that they are exporting a public health crisis.

Web Extras

  • Tobacco is not just a commodity. It is a culture. It is a way of life, as well as a multi-billion dollar business. And it is the most controversial crop on the planet. In many parts of the country, it is the most lucrative crop per acre. Even with huge increases in prices for wheat, corn and soybeans, which average about $300 per acre, nothing makes more money than $1,500-per-acre tobacco.

  • Humphrey Bogart smoking in a cafe in a scene from "The Barefoot Contessa."

    Cigarette companies are not allowed to market directly to the youth of America. The companies are also banned from advertising on television, radio and in newspapers. Somehow, though, four million underage Americans smoke, begging the question: what influences their decision to smoke?

  • There's no better example of the law of unintended consequences than cigarette taxes in the United States.  Each state sets its own rate, and the disparity is huge. Missouri's state cigarette tax is 17 cents. It's $4.35 in New York. What's the unintended consequence? Crime.

  • US Tobacco Growers Scramble to Find New Markets Wednesday, 2 Mar 2011 | 11:08 AM ET

    In 1964, the U.S. Surgeon General publicly declared the health hazards of smoking. Since then, smoking rates have been basically cut in half. In 2011, there are approximately 50 million smokers in the United States.

  • An estimated 50 million people in the United States alone light up a cigar or cigarette every day. While the vast majority smoke standard-quality products — which certainly don't come cheap — some take their smoking rituals to another level, paying a hefty price for the luxury and relaxation that smoking can provide.Some companies create promotional products or gimmicks, like the famed $100,000 Lucky Strikes sold in 2007. The cigarettes came in eight carat white gold packages displaying a large

    While the vast majority smokers buy standard-quality products, some take their smoking rituals to another level, paying a hefty price for the luxury and relaxation that smoking can provide.

  • CNBC Quiz: The History of Tobacco Thursday, 24 Feb 2011 | 11:21 AM ET
    Cigarette in ashtray

    Most people know that tobacco is America's original cash crop, that smoking is stigmatized in modern American society and that tobacco farmers are a dying breed. But did you know that there's a thriving black market for cigarettes? And that 50 million Americans a day light up?

  • Each year the U.S. is cheated out of $5 billion dollars in cigarette taxes. Agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are on the front lines battling the profitable cigarette smuggling operations.

  • Bloomberg: Public Health Over Farmers' Health     Monday, 28 Feb 2011 | 12:03 AM ET

    Brian Shactman interviews New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has little sympathy for the American tobacco grower.

  • From Farmer to Salesman     Monday, 28 Feb 2011 | 12:02 AM ET

    Brian Furnish is an eighth generation farmer. He and his family have been raising Kentucky tobacco since the early 1800s. Furnish trades in his overalls for a suit and travels the globe, selling his tobacco to emerging markets.

  • Tobacco Farmers Under Pressure     Monday, 28 Feb 2011 | 12:01 AM ET

    Kentucky farmer Todd Clark has been raising tobacco for over two decades. What was once the largest cash crop in America is now feeling the heat from politicians and health organizations as growers are forced to adapt to the changing markets.

  • Smokers' Last Rights in New York City     Monday, 28 Feb 2011 | 12:00 AM ET

    Circa Tabac is a cigarette lounge in New York catering to a wide variety of smokers. Owners Lee Ringelheim and Brian Michels discuss how they're cornering the "freedom trade" market.

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  • Shactman joined CNBC in 2007 as a general assignment reporter and fill-in anchor for CNBC's business day programming.

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