THE MAJOR IMPACT OF TOBACCO IS ON HEALTH, NOT ON SMALL TOBACCO GROWERS
In response to concerns voiced by
tobacco growers that tobacco control policies will hurt the livelihood of farmers, it
should be reiterated that the negative impact of tobacco control on employment has been
greatly overstated. In fact, statements that tobacco controls will mean massive job losses
are usually based on studies funded by the tobacco industry.
According to The World Bank report "Curbing the Epidemic.
Governments and the Economics of Tobacco Control", a reduction in consumption of
tobacco would not necessarily translate into fewer jobs. It points out that tobacco
production is a small part of the economies of most countries. For most countries there
would be no net loss of jobs if global consumption fell. The report suggests that there
may even be net gains because the money spent on tobacco would then be spent on other
goods and services.
Even for those heavily dependant countries such as Malawi or Zimbabwe,
global demand would not go down so drastically as to affect them in this generation. As
the absolute number of smokers increases this will ensure a big enough market to keep the
current generation of tobacco farmers in business. Any slow down in demand will happen so
gradually that it will allow for an equally slow process of adjustment for those most
directly affected. Supply reduction is largely ineffective, and the report argues against
price supports and subsidies, given they make little sense in a framework of sound
agricultural and trade policies.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners recognize the
importance of meeting the needs of the poorest farmers. International agencies have
already begun to look into the matter of support for those farmers. The World Bank, FAO,
WHO and other members of the United Nations family, meeting at the 2nd UN Task Force on Tobacco Control at FAO
headquarters in Rome, announced that a new review of the long-term implications of
successful demand strategies for farmers had begun under the leadership of the FAO. It
would complete its work within a year. It would consult widely and transparently about the
methods and implication prior to releasing its final report.
In the words of Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director General of WHO, the
biggest cost of tobacco lies in its health impact. Currently, four million people die
every year due to tobacco. This is expected to rise to 10 million by 2030, with most of
the deaths occurring in developing countries. As the rich increasingly abandon smoking;
the health burdens are highest in the poor. Health, and not economic arguments, are the
reason for controlling tobacco. Economic arguments are usually raised by the tobacco
industry as an obstacle to tobacco control policies.
For further information from WHO, journalists can
contact Gregory Hartl, WHO Spokesperson, WHO, Geneva, tel
(+41 22) 791 4458, fax (+41 22) 791 4858. E-mail: email@example.com.
All WHO Press Releases, Fact Sheets and Features can
be obtained on Internet on the WHO home page http://www.who.int