Tobacco and global poverty have an often overlooked connection. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Many studies have shown that in the poorest households in many low-income countries, spending on tobacco products often represent more than 10 percent of total household expenditure.”
The WHO, the U.N. and other international organizations have recognized and researched this link to decrease tobacco use and poverty rates. Here are five ways tobacco control reduces poverty globally:
1. Tobacco control will relieve financial hardships.
Tobacco addictions exacerbate an already stressful financial situation for those living in poverty.
Families, as a result, have less to spend on food, education, healthcare and other necessities. Bangladesh, for example, spends 10 times the amount on tobacco than on education. Tobacco control reduces poverty by helping families spend less on tobacco, freeing up more income to spend on necessities.
2. Tobacco control will save lives.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports 6 million tobacco-related deaths worldwide per year. Tobacco users die 10 years earlier than non-users. Smoking also causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Tobacco control is known as one of the most effective ways to reduce consumption. Its implementation would reduce the amount of smoking-related illnesses, keeping more workers in the labor force and ease health care expenditures for families.
3. Tobacco control will reduce exploitation.
Tobacco also affects those who produce it. Farmers who produce tobacco on a small-scale in developing countries depend heavily on the tobacco industry. Although large corporations provide credit for farmers, including seeds, fertilizer, pesticides and technological support, they expect the farmers to forgo profits and sell at the company’s contract price. This is further evidence that tobacco control reduces poverty.
Furthermore, farmers’ children have saved the tobacco industry an estimated $1.2 billion in production costs through unpaid child labor. The industry employs 63 percent of children in tobacco-farming families, preventing 10-14 percent from attending school for work’s sake.
The lack of education drives individuals deeper into poverty. Tobacco control reduces poverty not only by giving farmers better opportunities to provide for themselves, but also eliminating the need for children to sacrifice school for work, ultimately granting them the chance to move up social classes in the future.
4. Tobacco control will improve economies.
Tobacco takes away 1-2 percent of the world’s GDP annually. A 2011 WHO report found that governments can introduce effective tobacco control measures for as little as $0.11 per person per year. If governments allocated the extra revenue from such taxes to their health budgets, WHO found this year in a report that “public expenditure on health would increase by four percent globally.”
Currently, the costs of tobacco production outweigh the profits. For example, although Tanzania earns $50 million from tobacco sales annually, the African country spends $40 million on health care for tobacco-related cancers.
Tobacco control in the form of taxes would increase government revenue and funds for the poor.
5. Tobacco control will help the achieve the SDGs.
The U.N.’s Division for Sustainable Development seeks to reduce poverty and coordinate the 17 internationally agreed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The aforementioned effects of tobacco control directly align themselves with the SDGs, as they include no poverty or hunger, good health and well-being, quality education and economic growth worldwide by 2030.
Because of its negative byproducts, tobacco use is considered a hindrance to global development.
However, with proper tobacco control, individuals, governments and organizations believe it can provide sustainable benefits.
– Ashley Leon