May 31st World Understanding Tobacco Farming Day

On 31 May, the World Health Organization (WHO) will be promoting the ‘World No Tobacco Day’. As a result, our sector will once again become subject to unfounded and damaging claims. This is a call to get the tobacco sector united in efforts to raise awareness about the reality of tobacco growing and to counterbalance the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) accusations.


Tobacco Farmers demand protection from their Governments. WHO FCTC operates in an exclusionary manner in which tobacco growers do not have a voice. By ignoring tobacco growers’ legitimate concerns, the livelihoods of millions of people are put at stake.


  • Tobacco growing provides livelihood to millions of farmers around the world, often in the least developed regions.
  • Ending tobacco production in the current environment, without ensuring the sustainable transition to other economically viable crops, will impoverish millions of farmers.
  • Many tobacco growers have successfully diversified their production, but not all have the possibility to do so, especially in low income countries, without compromising the future of their communities.
  • Tobacco growers have operated in the strictest regulatory boundaries for many decades. On global scale they receive very little help.
  • Diversifying projects like the one of WHO FCTC in Kenya, a flagship initiative, covers 0.0005% of global tobacco production. This is a ridiculous example to be given in the international context.
  • Tobacco growers need assistance and support not demonisation.
  • Income against hunger!
No dia 31 de Maio, a Organização Mundial de Saúde (OMS) promove o "Dia Mundial sem Tabaco". O nosso sector será, assim, mais uma vez alvo de afirmações infundadas e prejudiciais. Este é um apelo para que o sector do tabaco se una em esforços de sensibilização para a realidade da cultura do tabaco e para contrabalançar as acusações da Convenção-Quadro para o Controlo do Tabaco (CQCT) da OMS.


Os produtores de tabaco exigem proteção dos seus governos. A CQCT da OMS funciona de forma excludente, na qual os produtores de tabaco não têm voz. Ao ignorar as preocupações legítimas dos produtores de tabaco, os meios de subsistência de milhões de pessoas são postos em causa.


  • A cultura do tabaco proporciona meios de subsistência a milhões de agricultores em todo o mundo, muitas vezes nas regiões menos desenvolvidas.
  • Acabar com a produção de tabaco no contexto actual, sem garantir a transição sustentável para outras culturas economicamente viáveis, empobrecerá milhões de agricultores.
  • Muitos produtores de tabaco diversificaram com êxito a sua produção, mas nem todos têm a possibilidade de o fazer, especialmente nos países de baixo rendimento, sem comprometer o futuro das suas comunidades.
  • Os produtores de tabaco operam há muitas décadas dentro dos mais rigorosos limites regulamentares. À escala mundial, recebem muito pouca ajuda.
  • A diversificação de projectos como o da CQCT da OMS no Quénia, uma iniciativa emblemática, cobre 0,0005% da produção mundial de tabaco. Este é um exemplo ridículo a ser dado no contexto internacional.
  • Os produtores de tabaco precisam de assistência e apoio e não de demonização.
  • Rendimento contra a fome!
El 31 de mayo, la Organización Mundial de la Salud (OMS) promoverá el "Día Mundial sin Tabaco". Como consecuencia, nuestro sector volverá a ser objeto de afirmaciones infundadas y perjudiciales. Este es un llamamiento para que el sector del tabaco se una en los esfuerzos por concienciar sobre la realidad del cultivo del tabaco y contrarrestar las acusaciones del Convenio Marco de la OMS para el Control del Tabaco (CMCT).


Los productores de tabaco exigen protección a sus gobiernos. El CMCT de la OMS funciona de una manera excluyente en la que los cultivadores de tabaco no tienen voz. Al ignorar las preocupaciones legítimas de los productores de tabaco, se pone en juego el sustento de millones de personas.


  • El cultivo de tabaco proporciona medios de subsistencia a millones de agricultores de todo el mundo, a menudo en las regiones menos desarrolladas.
  • Acabar con la producción de tabaco en el entorno actual, sin garantizar la transición sostenible a otros cultivos económicamente viables, empobrecerá a millones de agricultores.
  • Muchos cultivadores de tabaco han logrado diversificar su producción, pero no todos tienen la posibilidad de hacerlo, especialmente en los países de renta baja, sin comprometer el futuro de sus comunidades.
  • Los cultivadores de tabaco llevan muchas décadas operando dentro de los límites reglamentarios más estrictos. A escala mundial reciben muy poca ayuda.
  • Proyectos diversificadores como el del CMCT de la OMS en Kenia, una iniciativa emblemática, cubre el 0,0005% de la producción mundial de tabaco. Se trata de un ejemplo ridículo en el contexto internacional.
  • Los cultivadores de tabaco necesitan ayuda y apoyo, no demonización.
  • Renta contra el hambre!

ITGA President call to the sector on May 31st World Understanding Tobacco Farming Day

“It is time to stand up together and request the support of governments against the demonization of our sector. For more than 15 years, tobacco growing and growers have been subjected to false arguments that put tobacco farming as the main enemy to all sustainable development goals. The real evidence is completely ignored. The reality is that no viable alternatives to tobacco growing have been found and the implementation of WHO FCTC Article 17 (economically sustainable alternatives to tobacco growing) has not provided any tangible results. This is due to the exclusion of the main actors in this debate – the tobacco growers. We will never achieve sustainable transition, where growers’ livelihoods are guaranteed, if we don’t look at the issue from all relevant perspectives.”

Read the full Press Release

Myths and Facts About Tobacco Growing

Myth: Tobacco growing is bad for the environment

Tobacco grows on 0.25% of the world cultivated land so the size of its production by itself it is not a threat compared to many other agricultural activities. Even in the countries where tobacco is a very important crop, with the exception of two cases, it covers far less than 1% of the cultivated land. Soil degradation destroys the livelihood of growers. The fear of soil degradation is more than adequate incentive for tobacco growers to employ the right techniques, especially rotation with other crops, to avoid damage to the land, which is the main asset of small-scale farmers. In fact, as tobacco is a particularly tough crop that can be grown in harsh conditions, the need for significant amounts of fertilizers is actually reduced compared to other crops. This is also proved by several comparative reports carried out by the FAO. Please check them in our library. Plant protection product (pesticide) use on tobacco is comparable to that of other crops. This is clear from the rates of use on the labels of plant protection products, which are checked by regulatory authorities around the world. Please check our library. Tobacco is particularly resistant to drought. In the overwhelming majority of cases tobacco is rain-fed. On small-holder farms it is always rain-fed. Irrigated tobacco probably is no more than 15% of world production. Even in the case where wood is used as fuel for curing tobacco, in those countries our farmers have considerable tree and bamboo planting schemes to ensure wood is sourced from sustainable sources and does not lead to deforestation. In many countries where burley tobacco is grown, farmers adopt live bars, where the pillars of the barn are the trunks of live trees which are purposely planted at appropriate distance.
Myth: Tobacco growing is bad for growers’ health

The only health risk that is unique to tobacco crops is green tobacco sickness, a condition caused by handling wet tobacco leaves in conditions of high temperatures. Though there are no precise statistics, from literature reports it seems to affect more less than 1% of people working in tobacco farms. It can be avoided through basic measures like ensuring that skin is covered with long clothing or gloves before handling leaves or changing wet clothing after harvesting. The risk posed by green tobacco sickness can be minimized through education. Our members are working at national level with public bodies and the tobacco industry to ensure that awareness for farmers and workers is as high as possible. Plant protection products (pesticides) are highly regulated substances that are authorized on the basis of a governmental assessment that includes an analysis of health and environmental risks. Plant protection products used in tobacco are also used in the cultivation of other crops and at a rate which is no higher, and in some cases lower, because of the toughness of the tobacco plant. Pant protection products are medicaments for plants, and like the medicaments for plants they must be handled with care. Our members are trained on the safe handling, use, storage and disposal of plant protection products.
Myth: Tobacco growing exacerbates poverty and contractual arrangements trap farmers in a vicious cycle of debt

Tobacco is a cash crop and the chief incentive for tobacco growing is that it is more profitable than most other crops. This is acknowledged in all relevant independent literature on the topic, including in many studies commissioned by the WHO. We do not consider independent authors those who belong to tobacco control organizations and are paid to speak negatively of tobacco in all its forms, including leaf production. Smallholder farmers may be small, but still have a choice. If they realized that they regularly lost out of tobacco, they would not continue to grow it just out of habit, but would quickly switch to something else more profitable. Contracts are not forced on tobacco farmers but are voluntarily signed. Contracts are also universally recognized as the best way to address the price fluctuations which can take place when selling on the open market without a contract. Tobacco growers make a contract with a buyer, stating that crop of certain quantity and quality will be delivered at a pre-determined price. Buying companies help farmers with selection of variety, seed and other input supply, dissemination of good cultivation practices etc. Their field staff undertake regular inspection of the fields, and recommend measures to improve quality of the product, and third parties like research institutes and agricultural universities are also involved to train the farmers. At the end of season, the dried leaf is taken to the close-by market centres and sod at the previously agreed price. This has resulted in improved productivity and assured market for tobacco growers, and also saves them from the trouble of having to transport on long distances, store and market their produce. In countries where there are auctions system or there is a prevalent free market outside contract, tobacco growers are free to choose which alternative they prefer, whether to sell under contract or sell without one.
Myth: Child labour is a particular problem in tobacco growing

Child labour is a problem in agricultural sectors across the developing world, a fact which is recognised by the International Labour Organization, trade unions, employers associations and national governments: the Government of the United States every two years publishes a list of goods produced with child labour. The list comprises 148 goods from 76 countries, of which 75 are agricultural products. However, tobacco growers believe that they should play their part along with other relevant stakeholders in tackling a complex issue. For this reason, in 2001 ITGA was one of the three founders and has always been a Board member of the Eliminating Child Labour in Tobacco-Growing Foundation (ECLT), a partnership between tobacco growers, leaf suppliers, tobacco manufacturers and the unions to tackle child labour. The International Labour Organization acts as adviser to the ECLT. Since its creation in 2001, the ECLT has funded and co-managed projects for the reduction and elimination of child labour in Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Kyrgyzstan, Indonesia, Philippines and Guatemala and is doing some work with the Government of Zimbabwe. In addition to this initiative which is managed centrally by the ITGA Secretariat, our members carry out a number of initiatives to ensure tobacco growing communities are aware of the importance of not involving children in farm work in order to progressively eradicate child labour.
Myth: Tobacco growing aggravates food security
There is no evidence to support this assertion. Tobacco covers only 0.25% of cultivated land, excluding pastures. Even in countries where tobacco is the major crop, with the exception of two cases, where however it does not reach 3% of cultivated land, it never exceeds 1% of the cultivated land. In such a context, at macro-level tobacco production cannot be considered a threat to food security. At micro-level, in the overwhelming majority of cases, tobacco is grown by small-scale farmers who use only a fraction of their farm for tobacco: they plant other crops, including food crops, in rotation with tobacco and to complement tobacco production. Rather than threatening food security in impoverished regions of the world, where tobacco is grown it is safeguarding food security. Tobacco growers, thanks to the rotational crops they grow as part of good agricultural practices, also grow food crops which guarantee food for the family. The cash from tobacco allows to purchase something else.
Myth: There are many economically sustainable alternatives to tobacco farming for small-scale farmers, even in low- and middle-income countries.
Tobacco generally grows well on marginal soils where other crops do not grow well. If economically sustainable alternative crops were available to millions of farmers, certainly many more farmers would have adopted them. Those who decide to switch to another crop do it because they have found an alternative, but those who remain is because they find an advantage in tobacco growing. Tobacco is grown increasingly in areas where a) either farms are too small to allow other field crops which are paid much less than tobacco b) or where there is no cold chain or primary processing industry available to allow the production of crops which need immediate processing to be put on the market. All tobacco growers grow tobacco in rotation with other crops, but in the overwhelming majority of cases the income from tobacco is much higher than the income from the other farm activities. Unless a country develops alternative markets, farmers will always grow what they perceive is the best solution for them, for the size of their farm, for their soil type, water availability and weather conditions, and for the infrastructure to preserve the goods till delivery to the buyer. We do not deny that there are alternatives, but certainly there are no alternatives available to all tobacco growers. Tobacco growers who have no alternatives cannot bear the burden to have their livelihood removed by legislation unless their governments provide practical and tangible support to help in the transition. So far we have not seen much help.

Q&NoA: WHO FCTC Articles 17&18



  • How are the flagship WHO FCTC programs, i.e. Kenya, related to alternative crops being subsidised/financed?
  • What is the estimate of the Government investment required to support tobacco farmers switch to other crops on global level?
  • What does the FCTC do to encourage implementation of Articles 17&18?
  • If farmers can achieve a higher income with tobacco than food crops, how can FCTC/governments support farmers in transitioning to food crops?



  • Como estão a ser subsidiados/financiados os programas emblemáticos da CQCT da OMS, como por exemplo no Quénia, relacionados com culturas alternativas?
  • Qual é a estimativa do investimento governamental necessário para ajudar os produtores de tabaco a mudar para outras culturas a nível mundial?
  • O que é que a CQCT faz para incentivar a aplicação dos Artigos 17&18?
  • Se os agricultores podem obter um rendimento mais elevado com o tabaco do que com as culturas alimentares, como podem a CQCT/governos apoiar os agricultores na transição para as culturas alimentares?



  • ¿Cómo se subvencionan/financian los programas insignia del CMCT de la OMS, por ejemplo en Kenia, relacionados con los cultivos alternativos?
  • ¿Cuál es la inversión pública estimada necesaria para ayudar a los cultivadores de tabaco a cambiar a otros cultivos en todo el mundo?
  • ¿Qué está haciendo el CMCT para fomentar la aplicación de los Artículos 17&18?
  • Si los agricultores pueden obtener mayores ingresos del tabaco que de los cultivos alimentarios, ¿cómo puede el CMCT/los gobiernos apoyar a los agricultores en la transición a los cultivos alimentarios?

Videos Testimonials



In 2007, the WHO FCTC commissioned a study to an independent consultant for the Ad Hoc study group on alternative crops. The study is focused on crop substitution and alternative crops and it was the starting point of the Article 17. The study remains a true pillar in understanding tobacco farming even after all these years. Some key findings in this study showed:
  • Tobacco is a unique case because of its addictive properties and high costs to society, but this does not necessarily mean that farmers should (or will) stop growing the crop as long as it is still in demand, is profitable and compares favourably with other agricultural possibilities.
  • The choice is not simply between growing tobacco and not growing tobacco. This greatly oversimplifies the issue and detracts attention from the real challenge, which is to develop viable, high-value alternatives alongside tobacco that are internationally competitive and offer farmers a realistic choice of how to allocate their resources.
  • One important finding of the case study is that tobacco profits do, more often than not, compare very favourably with alternative enterprises, at least in the countries covered in this study.
  • The high profitability of the crop is a major challenge that must be taken seriously by any diversification effort.
  • It must be kept in mind that most “tobacco farmers” are already quite well diversified.
  • One valid criticism of tobacco is that the crop is very harsh on the soil, but for this exact reason, tobacco is almost always grown in a carefully planned rotation even by small-scale farmers. Farmers are unlikely to grow tobacco to their own long-term detriment.
  • There is considerable evidence to show that tobacco can (and did) help to fuel the process of crop diversification.
  • Long-term indebtedness, the need for pre-season finance and problems with unscrupulous moneylenders are not unique to tobacco.
  • As a way of reducing consumption, supply-side measures are widely acknowledged to be ineffective.
  • It is widely accepted that reductions in demand will be gradual at best, meaning that tobacco will still be an important part of some rural and national economies for many years to come.
Read here the complete report:
Em 2007, a CQCT da OMS encomendou um estudo a um consultor independente para o grupo de estudo ad hoc sobre culturas alternativas. O estudo centra-se na substituição de culturas e nas culturas alternativas e foi o ponto de partida para o artigo 17. O estudo continua a ser um verdadeiro pilar na compreensão da cultura do tabaco, mesmo após todos estes anos. Algumas das principais conclusões deste estudo são as seguintes:
  • O tabaco é um caso único, devido às suas propriedades viciantes e aos seus elevados custos para a sociedade, mas isso não significa necessariamente que os agricultores devam (ou queiram) deixar de o cultivar, desde que continue a ser procurado, seja rentável e se compare favoravelmente com outras possibilidades agrícolas.
  • A escolha não é simplesmente entre cultivar tabaco e não cultivar tabaco. Isto simplifica demasiado a questão e desvia a atenção do verdadeiro desafio, que é o de desenvolver alternativas viáveis e de elevado valor, a par do tabaco, que sejam competitivas a nível internacional e ofereçam aos agricultores uma escolha realista sobre a forma de afectar os seus recursos.
  • Uma conclusão importante do estudo de caso é que os lucros do tabaco são, na maior parte das vezes, muito favoráveis em comparação com empresas alternativas, pelo menos nos países abrangidos por este estudo.
  • A elevada rentabilidade da cultura constitui um desafio importante que deve ser levado a sério por qualquer esforço de diversificação.
  • Há que ter em conta que a maior parte dos "produtores de tabaco" já são bastante diversificados.
  • Uma crítica válida ao tabaco é que a cultura é muito dura para o solo, mas, exactamente por essa razão, o tabaco é quase sempre cultivado numa rotação cuidadosamente planeada, mesmo por pequenos agricultores. É pouco provável que os agricultores cultivem tabaco em seu próprio prejuízo a longo prazo.
  • Existem provas consideráveis de que o tabaco pode contribuir (e contribuiu) para alimentar o processo de diversificação das culturas.
  • O endividamento a longo prazo, a necessidade de financiamento na pré-época e os problemas com prestamistas sem escrúpulos não são exclusivos do tabaco.
  • Como forma de reduzir o consumo, as medidas do lado da oferta são amplamente reconhecidas como ineficazes.
  • É amplamente aceite que a redução da procura será, na melhor das hipóteses, gradual, o que significa que o tabaco continuará a ser uma parte importante de algumas economias rurais e nacionais durante muitos anos.
Leia aqui o relatório completo:
En 2007, el CMCT de la OMS encargó un estudio a un consultor independiente para el grupo de estudio ad hoc sobre cultivos alternativos. El estudio se centra en la sustitución de cultivos y los cultivos alternativos y fue el punto de partida del artículo 17 del CMCT. El estudio sigue siendo un verdadero pilar en la comprensión del cultivo del tabaco, incluso después de todos estos años. Algunas de las principales conclusiones de este estudio son las siguientes:
  • El tabaco es único por sus propiedades adictivas y sus elevados costes para la sociedad, pero esto no significa necesariamente que los agricultores deban (o quieran) dejar de cultivarlo, siempre que siga teniendo demanda, sea rentable y se compare favorablemente con otras posibilidades de cultivo.
  • No se trata simplemente de elegir entre cultivar tabaco o no cultivarlo. Esto simplifica demasiado la cuestión y desvía la atención del verdadero reto, que es desarrollar alternativas viables y de alto valor al tabaco que sean competitivas a escala internacional y ofrezcan a los agricultores una opción realista sobre cómo asignar sus recursos.
  • Una conclusión importante del estudio de casos es que los beneficios del tabaco son en su mayoría muy favorables en comparación con otras empresas alternativas, al menos en los países incluidos en este estudio.
  • La alta rentabilidad del cultivo es un reto importante que debe tomarse en serio en cualquier esfuerzo de diversificación.
  • Hay que tener en cuenta que la mayoría de los "productores de tabaco" ya están bastante diversificados.
  • Una crítica válida al tabaco es que el cultivo es demasiado duro para el suelo, pero por esa misma razón el tabaco casi siempre se cultiva en una rotación cuidadosamente planificada, incluso por pequeños agricultores. Es poco probable que los agricultores cultiven tabaco en detrimento propio a largo plazo.
  • Existen pruebas considerables de que el tabaco puede contribuir (y ha contribuido) a impulsar el proceso de diversificación de cultivos.
  • El endeudamiento a largo plazo, la necesidad de financiación previa a la temporada y los problemas con prestamistas sin escrúpulos no son exclusivos del tabaco.
  • Como medio para reducir el consumo, las medidas relacionadas con la oferta están ampliamente reconocidas como ineficaces.
  • Está ampliamente aceptado que la reducción de la demanda será gradual en el mejor de los casos, lo que significa que el tabaco seguirá siendo una parte importante de algunas economías rurales y nacionales durante muchos años.
Lea el informe completo aquí: