As some of the largest companies in the world trumpeting their arrival in the hot market of the border of Asia, the tobacco industry has a different strategy: it slips into Myanmar without fanfare.
Poor country nation of 60 million people emerged from half-century of isolation and brutal military rule two years ago. With the majority of international sanctions against the country lifted or suspended, the foreign business of Coca-Cola and Unilever in Suzuki Motors hurried to get in.
So too has Big Tobacco but without the ribbon cuttings or grandly worded press announcements.
British American Tobacco, the second-largest cigarette manufacturer in the world to pass a select audience of government officials in a small ceremony last month, where he designed the $ 50 million investment over five years to produce, market and sell their brands in Myanmar. This plant will be built on the outskirts of Yangon, will create about 400 jobs.
Japan Tobacco, globally, quietly signed nearly a year ago with a local partner Kyaw Win tycoon. A spokesman for the company said Royhei Sugata plant was built, but declined to discuss details of the scale of the project or brand location of the plant.
The largest producer of tobacco in China is also creating a multi-million joint venture.
“They seem to think, furtively entering the market, they can avoid public scrutiny,” said Tin Maung, a retired Army Major and top anti-smoking campaign of Myanmar.
In a country where the roads in many places almost unnavigable and constant power outages, nominally civilian government hopes that foreign investment will create new jobs and help speed up development. But other priorities such as health care, environmental protection and social welfare are sometimes swept aside.
Nang Naing Naing Shane, who heads the Department of National Program for Tobacco Control Health, said the strong opposition of the Ministry of Health in Bath, JT and the other was overcome by Myanmar Investment Commission. Director of the Commission to quit under a cloud of suspicion about the transplant, but tobacco investment approvals have not been canceled.
For International Tobacco companies are facing decline in smoking in their former strongholds, Myanmar is an enticing prospect.
Awareness about the health risks low; tobacco control weakly enforced and the anti-smoking lobby effectively one man act.
Over the past six decades, the 89-year-old Tin Maung has written hundreds of articles in journals and national newspapers, went to workshops inside and outside the country, and visited schools to warn young people about the dangers of smoking - the financing of all his efforts on his own.
Like many young people in Myanmar, he was only 10 when he took his first puff, so he knows how easy it can be done in. It was not until two decades later when he took a Digest reader and read an article outlining the dangers of smoking, he stopped.
Most of the population smoke, but only some of them reach the filter cigarettes.
According to a 2007 World Health Organization survey, 50% of all men smoke or chew tobacco. Among women and adolescents is 10% and 15%, respectively.
BAT Chief Executive Nicandro Durante, said at the company’s website that BAT, going back 10 years after it was forced to leave because of the controversial references to the military offensive was “sincerely glad” to be back. It was also “committed to playing an active role in the economic and social progress of the country,” he wrote.
The tradition of smoking cigars as a “cigar” - from fine-cut tobacco leaves, stalks and wood chips, Tamarin and other flavors - starts young in Myanmar, the boy often helped his father glow.
While many people know smoking is bad for health, few fully understand how badly.