The global market

Trends affecting our industry

Today’s total tobacco and nicotine market comprises a growing user pool of over one billion individual adult consumers.

While the decline in combustible cigarette consumption is expected to continue, it is predicted to be, at least partially, offset by the increasing consumption of PRRPs, in particular vapour, tobacco heating and modern oral products.

Global potentially reduced-risk products (PRRP) market

The global tobacco and nicotine market is increasingly diversifying beyond traditional combustible tobacco with the growth of vapour and tobacco heating products (THP), as well as the oral tobacco and nicotine market.

The latest global figures (2017) suggest that the THP and vapour market is worth an estimated US$18 billion, while the oral tobacco and nicotine market is worth an estimated US$12.5 billion. Vapour products have developed quickly across the world, with particularly strong growth in the US, France and the UK. While the overall prevalence of THPs is less than that of vapour, these products have emerged strongly in Japan and South Korea. While traditional oral products show steady incremental growth, the modern oral category is quickly establishing itself and is expected to show accelerated volume expansion.

PRRP regulation

The THP and vapour market is relatively nascent, and regulation is in its early stages. Globally, there is a mix of attitudes between regulators who aim to encourage THP and vapour as products that are potentially lower risk for smokers and those who view them with greater scepticism – including some countries where they are banned. Although many jurisdictions have yet to implement clear regulations concerning PRRPs, an increasing number of governments are passing laws that allow and encourage the growth of these categories. As the science continues to move in the direction of confirming the potential of these products to offer lower risk, more permissive regulations are expected to follow.

The UK is an example of what can happen with the support of regulators and public health bodies. Driven by influential reports from Public Health England and the Royal College of Physicians on the reduced risk of vapour products, the UK Government has implemented a supportive regulatory regime which is a contributing factor to category growth in the country.

Global combustible market

The most recent estimates for the global tobacco market (2017) indicate it is worth approximately US$785 billion (excluding China). More than US$700 billion of this comes from the sale of conventional cigarettes, with over 5,400 billion cigarettes consumed per year. While combustible cigarettes remains the largest category, their volumes have seen a gradual fall over many years driven by increased regulation and changing societal attitudes. Although this is a trend which is predicted to continue, the growth of new categories of potentially reduced-risk tobacco and nicotine products is expected to, at least partially, offset this decline in combustible tobacco products. 

Illicit tobacco

A contributing factor to the decline of legal tobacco volumes is the rise in the consumption of illicit products. Cigarettes are a reliable source of tax revenue for governments worldwide, and price differentials between markets, regulatory changes and broader macroeconomic pressures have driven the establishment of a significant illicit cigarette trade. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 1 in every 10 cigarettes and tobacco products consumed globally is illicit, with the market supported by various players, ranging from individuals to organised criminal networks involved in arms and human trafficking.

It is generally accepted that there is a direct correlation between steep and ad hoc increases in taxes and an increase in illicit sales, with the current sanctions doing little to deter criminals for whom profits from the illegal sale of tobacco remain an appealing prospect. For example, following successive excise increases, the Australasia region has seen legal volumes decline substantially. However, in markets where effective action has reduced the prevalence of illegal tobacco, legal volumes have been restored.

Combustible regulation

Tobacco is one of the world’s most-regulated and most-taxed industries. Manufacturers are required to comply with a swath of regulations that vary considerably across markets. Legislation and subsequent regulation is focused mainly on the introduction of plain packaging, product specific regulation, graphic health warnings on packs, tougher restrictions on smoking in enclosed public places and bans on shops displaying tobacco products at the point of sale. In more recent years, governments have begun considering and adopting regulations aimed at menthol flavourings, as well as environmental concerns resulting from the litter associated with cigarette consumption.


Legal and regulatory court proceedings continue in a number of forms against the tobacco industry, with the most common being third-party reimbursement cases, class actions and individual lawsuits. Special factors that led to product liability litigation in the US and Canada are not typically replicated in other countries, which is why large volume and high-value litigation has not generally spread to other parts of the globe. The industry has a proven track record of defending its rights and managing risks such as these.

  • All data sources on this page are from Euromonitor International unless otherwise stated.