Objectives: To quantify the contribution the tobacco industry has made to foreign direct investment (FDI) in the former Soviet Union (FSU) as an indicator of its political and economic leverage; to explore the impact this has had on production capacity and tobacco control in the region. Design: Data on industry investment and its impact on cigarette production capacity were collated from industry journals, reports, and websites. Data on total FDI were obtained from the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development. Results: By the end of 2000, transnational tobacco companies (TTCs) had invested over US$2.7 billion in 10 countries of the FSU. Tobacco money as a proportion of FDI varies from 1% to over 30% in Uzbekistan. Cigarette production capacity in the factories receiving investments tripled from 146 to 416 billion cigarettes per annum and the TTCs' market share has increased from nothing to between 50-100% in the markets in which they invested. Findings suggest that the effectiveness of national tobacco control measures corresponds broadly to the nature of the political and economic transition in each country and the size of industry investment, which is determined in part by the political context. Thus more effective measures tend to be seen in democratic states with smaller or no industry investments while the least effective measures are seen in highly centralised, one party states with high levels of industry investment or those with limited governmental capacity. Conclusions: The entry of the TTCs at a time of major political and economic change left the FSU particularly vulnerable to industry influence. This influence was enhanced by the industry's significant contribution to FDI, their ability to take over existing state monopolies in all but the largest countries, and the lack of democratic opposition.