This paper builds on tobacco document research by analysing contemporary materials to explore how the global tobacco market has changed, how transnational tobacco companies (TTCs) are responding and the implications for tobacco control. The methods involved analysis of a variety of materials, including tobacco company annual reports, investor relations materials, financial analyst reports, market research reports and data. Once China, where TTCs have little market share, is excluded, global cigarette volumes are already declining. Nevertheless, industry profits continue to increase. This pattern is explained by the pricing power of TTCs—their ability to increase prices faster than volumes fall, a consequence of market failure. Pricing power is now fundamental to the long term future of TTCs. Consequently, and in light of growing regulations, the business model of the TTCs is changing. Product innovation is now a key marketing technique used to drive consumers to buy more expensive (ie, profitable) premium cigarettes. Contrary to established wisdom, high tobacco excise rates, particularly where increases in excise are gradual, can benefit TTCs by enabling price (profit) increases to be disguised. Large intermittent tax increases likely have a greater public health benefit. TTC investments in smokeless tobacco appear designed to eliminate competition between smokeless tobacco and cigarettes, thereby increasing the pricing power of TTCs while enabling them to harness the rhetoric of harm reduction. Monitoring TTCs can inform effective policy development. The value maximising approach of TTCs suggests that a ban on product innovation and more informed tobacco excise policies are needed.