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WHO set to decide on tobacco ingredients ban

THE World Health Organisation (WHO) will next week meet to decide on proposed tobacco blending ingredients ban, a development that could negatively affect Zimbabwe’s economic recovery and lives of an estimated 850 000 people.

Through its Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), WHO wants to force tobacco growing countries to reduce production as part of its anti-smoking campaign.
Zimbabwe is now among top five tobacco producers in the world.
The golden leaf is the best paying crop in Zimbabwe with a total of 123,4 million kgs sold at the just ended tobacco selling season after mop up sales. This year’s production is 110% more than last year’s production of 56 million kgs.
In Zimbabwe, about 350 000 people are directly earning a living from tobacco, while an estimated 500 000 more benefit from downstream industries.
WHO and FCTC say countries’ such as Zimbabwe should look for alternative crops to replace tobacco if the proposals are passed.
Tobacco growing countries and those advocating for the ban will meet in Uruguay from November 15 -20 where the FCTC could come into force.
Zimbabwe Tobacco Association president Kevin Cook told businessdigest yesterday that as an association they were against the decision to ban tobacco saying the move affects farmers and the country’s economic revival.
“We are part of the delegation that went on a fact finding mission to advise government on what course to take to ensure that this does not pass,” he said.
“We have put together a DVD to present to WHO explaining to them that there are no alternatives as we are an agro-based country with tobacco being one of the major crops and the best paying. We hope they will consider our presentation and requests,” he said.
The FCTC seeks to ban ingredients used to blend certain varieties of tobacco such as Virginia and burley, a move that will affect Zimbabwe’s tobacco farmers, the industry and the economy.  About 80% of the world’s traded tobacco production was said to be represented at this year’s International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA) Annual General Meeting last week, where farmers discussed the devastating impact the new guidelines for the FCTC could bring if adopted in Uruguay next week.
According to ITGA, which represents 30 million tobacco farmers these measures will have disastrous social and economic consequences without making any difference to peoples’ health. Article 9 of the FCTC aims to regulate the contents of tobacco products, that is the testing and measuring of tobacco contents and emissions.
Article 10 of the FCTC aims at regulating tobacco product disclosures, disclosure of contents and emissions of tobacco products. A working group, led by Canada, Norway and the European Union, developed detailed guidelines on Articles 9 and 10 for countries to follow when implementing national legislation. The latest version of the draft guidelines recommends a ban on use of ingredients in tobacco products.
Articles 17 and 18 of the FCTC address economically sustainable alternatives to tobacco growing.
Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) has taken a position to fight the FCTC. Tobacco is a source of livelihood to millions in poor countries such as those in Southern Africa.
The Zimbabwe Tobacco Association and the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union have both united to fight this ban, which could affect 30 million tobacco farmers globally, according to the International Tobacco Growers Association.

Paul Nyakazeya

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