Private Enterprise Versus State Monopoly

Tobacco (nicotiana) is a plant of the nightshade family (genus Nicotiana) and is native to the Americas; it was a major commodity of commerce in colonial times. Cigar tobaccos were key exports from the Spanish and Portuguese colonies of the Caribbean and South America, while tobaccos for snuff, pipe, and chew were the economic mainstays of the English colonies in Virginia, Maryland, and the Carolinas. Whereas most of Europe (and the rest of the world) established state-run monopolies for tobacco distribution, private enterprise was the vehicle of tobacco commerce in Great Britain (and eventually in the United States). The state monopolies provided both a popular product for the populace and revenue for the national treasury—but private enterprise, which always paid excise tax in Great Britain, was more resourceful in expanding the market. This phenomenon was exploited in the twentieth century and was especially apparent in the 1990s, with the remaining state monopolies becoming privatized and adopting the marketing techniques of the by-now enormous transnational tobacco companies, often actually merging with them.

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