Despite the passage of smoking laws, anti-smoking campaigns and an increased overall awareness of the danger of smoking, the tobacco industry is still making strong profits.
Stanford's Robert Proctor recently released his 750 study Golden Holocaust: Origins of the Cigarette Catastrophe and the Case for Abolition. Publishing the book personally cost Proctor $50,000 in legal fees to defend himself against the industry, which subpoenaed his email and unpublished manuscript (via Stanford Report).
So, what was the tobacco industry trying so hard to hide?
Besides some horrid health-related facts ("If everyone stopped smoking today, there would still be millions of deaths a year for decades to come."), Proctors' book accounts for how tobacco makers have repeatedly lied to Congress and the public.
Proctor says six trillion cigarettes are smoked every year. "That's "enough to make a continuous chain from Earth to the sun and back, with enough left over for a couple of round trips to Mars."
But isn't smoking on the decline? Not so fast. According to Proctor, "we don't count the people who don't count. It's not the educated or the rich who smoke anymore, it's the poor." In addition, the rising popularity of hookahs are "just as addictive, and just as deadly."
Another myth: "The tobacco industry has turned over a new leaf." False, says Proctor. Cigarettes are made more deadly today than they were 60 years ago, and tobacco companies still target children, just not in ways so obvious as cartoon Joe Camel.
Most people begin smoking at the age of 12 or 13, or even younger in some parts of the world, says Proctor. "And how many people know that cigarettes contain radioactive isotopes, or cyanide, or free-basing agents like ammonia, added to juice up the potency of nicotine?"
Perhaps most interesting is Proctor's note that global tobacco use would be declining were it not for China, where 40% of the world's cigarettes are made and smoked.
But that, he believes, will change soon once China's government realizes the fringe costs -- paying for diseases caused by smoking and loss of productivity -- outweigh the benefits of tobacco taxes.
Despite the rush of negativity toward the tobacco industry the cigarette companies trading on the U.S. stock exchanges have posted positive performance this year -- all above 10%.
We list the seven cigarette companies below. Do you think these names have the momentum to continue on an upward trend?
(Click here to access free, interactive tools to analyze these ideas.)
1. British American Tobacco
2. Star Scientific
4. Altria Group
5. Philip Morris International
6. Reynolds American
7. Vector Group
Interactive Chart: Press Play to compare changes in analyst ratings over the last two years for the stocks mentioned above. Analyst ratings sourced from Zacks Investment Research.
Kapitall's Rebecca Lipman does not own any of the shares mentioned above. Data sourced from Finviz.