“Grow food, not tobacco” is the theme of World No Tobacco Day 2023, encouraging governments around the world to end tobacco growing subsidies and instead support farmers to switch to more sustainable crops that help improve food security and nutrition.
“Tobacco is responsible for 8 million deaths a year, yet governments across the world spend millions supporting tobacco farms,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general said in a statement. “By choosing to grow food instead of tobacco, we prioritize health, preserve ecosystems, and strengthen food security for all.”
According to the FAO, more than 768 million people were undernourished worldwide in 2021, up from 618 million in 2019. The Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated the global food crisis, which was then made even worse by the war in Ukraine, which temporarily cut off two of the world’s largest grain producers from the world market.
“Tobacco is not only a massive threat to food insecurity, but health overall, including the health of tobacco farmers,” Dr. Ruediger Krech, director of health promotion at WHO said. “Farmers are exposed to chemical pesticides, tobacco smoke and as much nicotine as found in 50 cigarettes – leading to illnesses like chronic lung conditions and nicotine poisoning,” Krech said.
According to FAO estimates, China is by far the largest producer of unmanufactured tobacco in the world, growing 2.1 million tons in 2021, ahead of India and Brazil with roughly 0.75 million tons each. Indonesia, one of countries with the highest smoking prevalence, is also a major producer of tobacco, alongside the U.S. and Pakistan.
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