In it World No Tobacco Daythe World Health Organization (WHO) urges governments to stop subsidizing tobacco crops and instead support more sustainable crops that can feed millions of people.
“Tobacco is responsible for eight million deaths a year, and yet governments around the world spend millions to support its cultivation“said the director general of the Organization.
“By choosing to grow food over tobacco, we prioritize health, preserve ecosystems and strengthen food security for all,” added Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Illnesses, debts and school dropout
More than 300 million people around the world face severe food insecurity. Meanwhile, more than three million hectares of land in more than 120 countries they are used to grow deadly tobacco, even in countries where people are starving.
The Organization’s new report, Grow food, not tobaccohighlights the ills of their cultivation and the benefits of switching to more sustainable food plantations, both for communities, economies and the environment, as well as for farmers.
In this sense, the report denounces the tobacco industry for trapping farmers “in a vicious circle of indebtednesspropagate tobacco cultivation by exaggerating its economic benefits, and lobbying through agricultural front groups.”
In addition, the document states that growing tobacco causes disease to the farmers themselves and that it is estimated that more than a million children work on tobacco farmsso they lose the opportunity to receive an education.
“Tobacco is not only a massive threat to food insecurity, but to overall health, including that of tobacco growers. Farmers are exposed to chemical pesticides, tobacco smoke, and as much nicotine as is contained in 50 cigarettes, which causes diseases such as chronic lung conditions and nicotine poisoning“, has the director of Health Promotion of the UN agency.
Avoid expansion to Africa
According to the Organization’s experts, this crop is a global problem. “So far it has been focused on Asia and South America, but the latest data shows that tobacco companies are expanding into Africa. Since 2005, there has been an increase of almost 20% of arable land across the continent.”
The World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Program support the initiative Tobacco Free Farmsthat will help more than 5,000 farmers in Kenya and Zambia to grow food instead of tobacco.
In addition, World No Tobacco Day honors each year those who make a difference in the control of this product. This year one of the laureates, Sprina Robi Chacha, a farmer from Kenya, is recognized not only for having changed the crop tobacco for protein-rich beans, but also for having trained hundreds of other farmers on how to do it to create a healthier community.
Award Winners in Latin America
This year, the Organization has awarded health professionals, researchers, officials, public agencies, and civil society organizations from Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Panama, and Uruguay for their contributions to tobacco control.
The Dr. Reina Roa, from Panama, received the Special Recognition Award for his 20 years of work dedicated to eradicating smoking. He played a key role in the ratification of the Framework Convention for Tobacco Control by Panama. In addition, it contributed to reducing the prevalence rate of tobacco use among people over 15 years of age in the nation to 5.1% in 2020, the lowest in the region.
ACT Promoção da Saúde and the Center for Tobacco and Health Studies of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation of Brazil received a joint award for having contributed significantly to the achievements of the tobacco control in Brazil and to understanding the socio-environmental impact of tobacco cultivation and production.
Blanca Llorente Carreño and Luz Reynales Shigematsu, from Colombia and Mexico, rrespectively, received a joint award in recognition of their long-term contributions to the tobacco control research and advocacy in their countries and throughout the region.
Mexican organizations Salud Justa Mx, Polithink, Coalición México Salud-Hable, Códice SC (Communication, Dialogue and Awareness SC) and Refleacciona responsibly AC received a joint award for their tireless efforts and perseverance over more than a decade advocating for implementation of effective control measures of tobacco in line with the FCTC in your country.
He Research Center for the Tobacco Epidemic of Uruguay and the Uruguayan Society of Tabacology were recognized with a joint award to protect the application of plain packaging of tobacco products in your country by 2022.
In all, 182 Parties to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control have committed to “promote alternatives economically viable for the workers and growers of this product.” A crucial way that countries can fulfill this obligation is ending subsidies to its cultivation and supporting healthier ones.
The WHO recalls that by choosing to grow food instead, we prioritize health, preserve ecosystems and increase food security.