Campaigners raise alarm on tobacco business trend

Tuesday September 19 2017


By By Syriacus Buguzi @buguzi

Anti-tobacco campaigners said on Tuesday September 19 that tobacco farming and trade has continued to flourish at the expense of people’s health in Tanzania.
They note that this is different from other East African countries where the production and sale of the crop is declining.
The Executive Director of Tanzania Tobacco Control Forum (TTCF), Ms Lutgard Kagaruki, said that tobacco companies whose businesses have failed in Kenya and Uganda have now resolved to open offices in Tanzania to promote tobacco farming.
She called on leaders in East Africa, Africa and globally; to spearhead the war against tobacco, assist farmers to transit to alternative crops and, find viable and sustainable markets for their produce.   
In a statement availed to newsrooms, Ms Kagaruki said the TTCF was concerned about the new trend of the business because tobacco companies are now opening up investments in  areas where farmers are unaware of the hazards linked to tobacco consumption and farming.

Read:Ummy Mwalimu calls on community engagement in ending tobacco related deaths

Ms Kagaruki said: “It is disappointing that farmers who tried to adopt alternative crops and registered improvement in their socio-economic status, their [new] crop products have suddenly lost   market.”
She blamed the loss of market for alternative crops on tobacco companies which have been pushing for tobacco growing over other crops.
 “While efforts are deliberately made to revert them [the farmers] to tobacco farming. It is highly likely that this sudden loss of market for alternative crops is instigated by the tobacco industry,’’ she said.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) introduced the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), with the aim of protecting current and future generations from the devastating health, economic, social and environmental consequences of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke.
Tanzania ratified the FCTC in April 2007 and  it was expected to fully implement it, however, reports show the country has  continued to lag behind the other countries within East Africa, Africa and globally, in the implementation of the Convention.

Read: Campaigners push for tougher anti-tobacco law in Tanzania

According to Ms Kagaruki, Tanzania Mainland is the only East African country without an effective Tobacco Control Law; Zanzibar has a good law and it recently launched its FCTC compliant Regulations.
Referring to countries where tougher anti-tobacco laws have been passed, she said: “Some tobacco companies have been sued in court for intentionally selling deadly products (tobacco products); products that are also manipulated to increase addiction/dependence.”
“Others have been sued and continue to be investigated for fraud and bribery to some East African decision makers to stall or weaken Tobacco Control Laws,’’ she said but noted, “Disappointingly, these same Companies have comfortably opened offices in Tanzania.”
To-date, 180 countries, including Tanzania, have ratified the WHO FCTC, representing about 90 per cent of the global population, data from the WHO show.
Anti-tobacco campaigners, including the WHO are working towards ensuring that tobacco disappears from the global agenda by 2030.
“Countries that have implemented the FCTC effectively, have registered lower smoking rates, together with decreasing tobacco related diseases including cancers, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and lung disease which are the major non-communicable diseases (NCDs),’’ said the TTCF in a statement.
“Realising this, tobacco farming and trade has declined drastically in developed countries forcing international tobacco companies to flock to developing countries to sustain their business,’’ Ms Kagaruki points out further in statement.
For example, Malawi, a leading tobacco producer in Sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest GDP, with three quarters of its green land turning into a desert due to massive wood-fuel required for tobacco curing, she explained.
Similarly, Tabora Region, a major tobacco producer in Tanzania, lost forest worth more than Sh20 billion due to tobacco curing between 2010 and 2011. In addition, while the average per capita income for Tanzania is Sh362,000, the rate for Tabora is Sh297,000, she added.

Read: INTEGRITY FIRST : How tobacco politics impacts on human development in Tanzania

A survey carried out at Ocean Road Cancer Institute (ORCI) and Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH) in 2009 showed that treatment of tobacco-related cancers cost the country more than TZS 89 billion per year.
Another study done at MNH in 2014 indicated that treatment of tobacco-related cardiovascular disease cost the nation more than TZS 400 billion per year.