WNTD: WHO advocates shift from Tobacco farming to growing food crops

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The World Health Organisation WHO has appealed to tobacco-growing countries in the Africa Region to enact legislation and enabling market conditions for tobacco farmers to shift to growing food crops that would provide them and their families with a better life and to enhance the protection of the environment and the health of their people. In a message from the WHO African Regional Director, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti on the commemoration of the WORLD NO TOBACCO DAY, the global health body said tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health challenges the world has ever faced.

Moeti noted that tobacco is killing more than eight million people around the world every year. The theme for the 2023 WORLD NO TOBACCO DAY is “Grow Food, Not Tobacco”. “The tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health challenges the world has ever faced, killing more than eight million people around the world every year. While the number of people using tobacco products is decreasing in other parts of the world, it is rising in the Africa Region. “For example, the number of tobacco users in the WHO African Region increased from an estimated 64 million adult users in 2000 to 73 million in 2018.   This is partly due to the increased production of tobacco products as well as aggressive marketing by the tobacco industry.

“Today, 31 May 2023, the World Health Organization, joins the rest of the international community to commemorate World No Tobacco Day. This day provides us the opportunity to highlight the dangers associated with tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke. It is also an occasion to renew our advocacy for effective policies to halt the tobacco epidemic and its impact on individuals, societies, and nations. “This year’s theme is “Grow Food, Not Tobacco”.  This theme aims to raise awareness about alternative crop production and marketing opportunities for tobacco farmers and encourage them to grow sustainable, nutritious crops. “The theme also seeks to expose the tobacco industry’s efforts to interfere with attempts to substitute tobacco growing with sustainable crops, thereby worsening the global food crisis.  It calls on all of us to explore how food and agricultural policies make adequate nutritious food and healthy diets available while reducing tobacco production.

“Tobacco growing and production exacerbates nutrition and food insecurity. Tobacco farming destroys the ecosystems, depletes soils of fertility, contaminates water bodies and pollutes the environment.  Any profits to be gained from tobacco as a cash crop may not offset the damage done to sustainable food production in low- and middle-income countries. “Nearly 828 million people are facing hunger globally. Of these, 278 million (20%) are in Africa. In addition, 57.9% of people in Africa suffer from moderate to severe food insecurity.  This jeopardizes the region’s attainment of SDG 2 which aims to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture. 

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