The World Health Organisation (WHO) says it is committed to assist tobacco farmers in tobacco growing countries to switch to alternative crops.
The WHO disclosed this in a statement issued to newsmen by its Regional Director for Africa Dr. Matshidiso Moeti to mark the 2022 “World No Tobacco Day”
Dr. Moeti said the environmental impacts of tobacco farming include massive use of water, which is a scarce resource across most of the continent, along with large-scale deforestation and contamination of our air and water systems.
He said land used to grow tobacco could also be used much more efficiently, especially in countries grappling with food insecurity.
To help counter the threat, he said, the WHO has joined hands with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Kenyan government to create the Tobacco-Free Farms project.
The project which he said was launched in March, supports farms to switch from tobacco to alternative food crops, that will help feed communities, rather than harm their health.
According to him, tobacco-related illness in the African Region accounts for 3.5% of annual total health expenditure.
He said while tobacco leaf production is decreasing globally, it is increasing in the WHO African Region, which now produces about 12% of all tobacco leaf internationally.
Dr. Moeti said nearly 90% of tobacco growing in the Region is concentrated in the East and Southern sub-regions, including Zimbabwe (26%), Zambia (16.4%), Tanzania (14.4%), Malawi (13.3%), and Mozambique (13%).
He therefore encouraged countries to accelerate implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control which provides the necessary guidance to advance the creation of smoke-free environments, to create programmes to support tobacco users to quit, and support for the application of excise tax and other financial countermeasures.
The world marks World No Tobacco Day on 31 May every year, to raise awareness of the negative health, social, economic and environmental impacts of tobacco production and use.
This year’s theme, “Tobacco: Threat to our environment”, aims to highlight the environmental impact of the entire tobacco cycle, from cultivation, production and distribution, to the toxic waste it generates.