This day provides an opportunity to highlight the dangers associated with tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke. It is also the place to reiterate WHO’s commitment to effective policies to stem the tobacco epidemic and its impact on individuals, societies and nations.
The theme for this year’s edition, “Growing Food, Not Tobacco”, aims to raise awareness among tobacco growers of the various possibilities for producing and marketing alternative crops and to encourage them to opt for alternative crops. sustainable and nutritious.
This theme also aims to expose the processes put in place by the tobacco industry to hinder initiatives to substitute tobacco cultivation with sustainable crops, thus contributing to exacerbating the global food crisis.
The WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, in her message said that this theme engages all actors to reflect on how food and agricultural policies improve the availability of nutritious foods and healthy diets, while reducing tobacco production.
She pointed out that the tobacco epidemic is one of the greatest public health challenges of all time, leading to more than eight million deaths worldwide each year.
» While the number of users of tobacco products is decreasing in other regions of the world, it continues to increase in the African Region. For example, the number of tobacco users in the WHO African Region has increased from around 64 million adult users in 2000 to 73 million in 2018 . This increase is partly due to increased production of tobacco products and aggressive marketing by the tobacco industry,” she revealed.
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti also asserted that tobacco cultivation and production aggravates food and nutrition insecurity. “Tobacco cultivation destroys ecosystems, impoverishes soils, defiles waters and pollutes the environment. Profits from the tobacco trade as a cash crop cannot compensate for the damage done to sustainable food production in low- and middle-income countries,” she explained, adding that “the intensification of tobacco cultivation tobacco in the African Region is a serious threat to our food and nutrition security. Available data reveals that while the area under tobacco cultivation decreased by 15.7% globally, it increased by 3.4% in Africa between 2012 and 2018. During this period, although tobacco leaf production fell by 13.9% globally, it increased by 10.6% in Africa. In recent years, tobacco cultivation has increased in Africa due to the existence of a more favorable regulatory framework for the activities of the tobacco industry and the increase in the demand for tobacco”.
She also urged governments to support tobacco growers in the transition to alternative crops, by eliminating subsidies granted to tobacco cultivation and devoting the funds thus saved to programs of alternative crops, the end being improve food security and nutrition.
In conclusion, the WHO Regional Director for Africa appeals to tobacco producing countries in the African Region to accelerate the implementation of Articles 17 and 18 of the WHO Framework Convention on tobacco control and urges them to enact laws, develop and implement appropriate policies and strategies, and create favorable conditions for the conversion of tobacco growers to food crops, so that they can ensure, for themselves and for their families, better living conditions, without harming the environment and the health of populations.
WHO is working with Member States and other partners to help farmers switch from growing tobacco to other crops. An initiative in Kenya over the past two years has enabled more than 2,000 tobacco farmers to switch to alternative crops.