Gender issues at the core of tobacco control

It is an often overlooked fact that prior to consumers, tobacco workers become the earliest victims of the hazardous industry.

Tobacco growing requires specially high levels of pesticides and fertilizers. In low and middle income countries (LMICs), tobacco farmers, who are mainly women, are subjected to the risks of exposure to tobacco products given the poor working conditions. They farm and handle tobacco which is far from complying with safety measures. In LMICs, farmers usually apply pesticide and growth inhibitors with handheld or backpack sprayers without necessary protective equipment. Unprotected tobacco harvesters are also prone to green tobacco sickness which is caused by nicotine dermal absorption and is exclusively related to tobacco growing. They get affected, suffer and many of them die.

It is difficult for families to escape this situation. Tobacco farming families are indebted to with the tobacco industry and merely survive in the marginalized section of society.

Ms. Preeti Sudan is the first woman President of the Conference of the Parties to the WHO FCTC and she took the International Women’s Day as an opportunity to address the gender issues in tobacco control:

“Today, we are celebrating the International Women’ Day. It is a unique opportunity for me as the President of the Conference of the Parties to WHO FCTC, to call upon Parties to put every effort to break the vicious cycle of poverty that locks the tobacco workers, who are mainly women, in this hazardous industry.
Together, as Parties to the WHO FCTC, we have committed to promote economically viable alternatives for tobacco workers and growers. Such strategies will eventually support female workers for a better future.
Let us address all gender issues while implementing comprehensive tobacco control laws in each of our countries with an objective to protect the health of women.”

- Ms Preeti Sudan, President of the COP

Mahboobjan shows damage to her hands caused by continuous beedi rolling
Davinder Kumar / Plan International