The World Health Organization (WHO), on the occasion of World No Tobacco Day, has urged governments to stop subsidizing tobacco cultivation and support other more sustainable crops, with which “could feed millions of people” .
In this sense, the Director General of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has pointed out that “tobacco is responsible for 8 million deaths a year, and yet governments around the world spend millions to support tobacco crops” .
“By choosing to grow food over tobacco, we prioritize health, preserve ecosystems and strengthen food security for all,” added Tedros.
According to the WHO, more than 300 million people worldwide face severe food insecurity. Meanwhile, more than three million hectares of land in more than 120 countries are used to grow “deadly tobacco”, even “in countries where people are starving.”
A new WHO report, ‘Grow Food Not Tobacco’, highlights the harms of growing tobacco and the benefits of switching to more sustainable food crops for farmers, communities, economies, the environment and the world in general.
The report also denounces the tobacco industry for “trapping” farmers in a vicious cycle of debt, propagating tobacco cultivation by exaggerating its economic benefits, and lobbying through agricultural front groups.
The cultivation of tobacco causes diseases to the farmers themselves and it is estimated that more than a million children work on tobacco farms, losing the opportunity to receive an education, the WHO has assured.
“Tobacco is not only a massive threat to food insecurity, but to health in general, including the health of tobacco growers. Farmers are exposed to chemical pesticides, tobacco smoke, and as much nicotine as there is in 50 cigarettes , leading to diseases such as chronic lung conditions and nicotine poisoning,” said Ruediger Krech, WHO Director of Health Promotion.
In this sense, the WHO indicates that tobacco cultivation is “a global problem”, which until now has focused on Asia and South America, but that the latest data shows that tobacco companies are expanding to Africa. Since 2005, there has been an increase of almost 20 percent in tobacco-growing land across Africa.