23 September 2016
As the seventh session of the WHO FCTC Conference of Parties (COP7) draws near, the tobacco industry is ramping up its opposition to the meeting. Its front group, the International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA), continues to mislead the public by spewing untruths about the COP.
According to the ITGA, COP decisions are being made “only by health officials and activists.” This is simply not true. Government delegations have included officials from non-health departments such as Ministries of Agriculture, Industry and Trade (Table 1) as official records to the COPs show.
The ITGA and the tobacco industry typically inflate data on tobacco growers, claiming millions are dependent on the crop. However in the ASEAN region tobacco growers do not add up to millions as claimed (Table 2). In Indonesia for example, ITGA’s member the Indonesia Tobacco Farmers Association (APTI) claims there are 4.2 million tobacco farmers. In reality there are only 564,000 tobacco growers.
Real problems facing tobacco growers are actually industry related:
- Low prices for tobacco leaves – leaf prices are determined by the tobacco industry
- Occupational risks related to tobacco growing such as green tobacco sickness, harms from chemical pesticide and fertilisers
- Family members including children involved in tobacco growing because of low prices of leaves
Tobacco growers will not face sudden unemployment because annual tobacco consumption usually decreases only by fractions of percentage points. This allows time for growers to diversify into other activities gradually. However the tobacco industry incorrectly states the FCTC will reduce demand which would suddenly extinguish the economic benefits that tobacco growing and put farmers out of their jobs. See here for more information on the COP7 report on Article 17 on alternate livelihood to tobacco growers.
The tobacco industry uses the “unemployment” bogeyman as a scare tactic to mobilise farmers to protest against the FCTC and the COP proceedings. Last week, 20-21 Sep, the ITGA gathered hundreds of tobacco growers from various countries, including India, the Philippines, Indonesia, South Africa, Portugal and Zimbabwe in Delhi to discuss the issue.
The COP proceedings are clear that the tobacco industry, including front groups such as the ITGA, are excluded from the COP proceedings. The ITGA knows the rules but it is pushing its sponsors’ agenda to infiltrate the process.