Cigarette Wars

About the Show

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

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    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?

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    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.

  • 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.

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    By:|CNBC, cigarette wars, tobacco

    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?

Tobacco Company Statements

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