What a choice

An anomaly …

Making Poverty History is a global aspiration, and Africa remains key on any MPH agenda – especially when posed vociferously by Bono and Geldof et al. Good for them.

Making our planet a smoke free zone is, however, also high on many people’s wish list. Indeed in England – as of 1st July – it will be an offence to smoke in public places.

And here’s where it gets tricky: many, indeed thousand and thousands of Africans make a living out of a habit that is being forced out of existence.

The economies of Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania, for example, are dominated by tobacco production. Together, these 3 countries produce an annual crop of over 250,000 tons of tobacco. Tanzania is the biggest player of the three, all of which have picked up production in light of Zimbabwe’s collapse. Tobacco in Tanzania isn’t grown on large scale commercial plantations, instead it is cultivated by small-holders who are supported (inputs, technical know-how, transport) by international tobacco companies. Sure, the tobacco merchants need their produce but the farmers need food on the table more. It’s a symbiotic relationship that – importantly – preserves familiar subsistence lifestyles; not enough people understand that Africa’s future depends on the integration of peasant farmers in private enterprise.

In the First World one had a choice: to smoke or not. In the Third, choice – any choice – is always a luxury. Ought we – in the West – impose limitations on choice? Would we, if we knew it might jeopardize the chance of making poverty history, certainly in the case of the 55,000 peasant farmers in Tanzania who grow tobacco for the cigarettes that will be disallowed in public places from Sunday, support a ban?

Quit smoking or help make poverty history?

What a choice.

3 Responses to “What a choice”

  1. The Good Woman Says:

    Hmmm. I think it’s safe to say that with the amount of education and support dedicated to smoking awareness in the UK, it will reduce the need for tobacco. We can only hope that the same support and education will be offereed to African farmers as they shift to other crops – cotton for example.

    Also, smoking is still reputed to be on the increase in third world countries…

  2. Roberta Says:

    Tobacco has been ruled out here in Southern West Virginia. The government has bought out all of the subsidies. The farmers have learned they can no longer count on their “Christmas Crop”. Taxes have skyrocketed on the purchase of tobacco products and it pays for our roads.

    I worry about the African Farmers.

  3. R. Sherman Says:

    We have a similar conundrum here. States sued Big Tobacco for health care cost reimbursement. Tobacco settles case and agrees to pay States billions, which States come to rely on. Therefore States need Tobacco to stay in business in order to pay which requires people to continue to smoke, which States say is bad.

    Interesting unintended consequence, no?


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