Tobacco Use in Africa
Compared to the rest of the world, tobacco use in Africa is relatively low. A 2019 report from the World Health Organization (WHO) found that in 2000, the African region had a tobacco use prevalence rate of 18.5%, the lowest of any of the WHO regions.

However, as economic development in Africa continues to rise, with countries like Ethiopia and Rwanda seeing unprecedented expansion, tobacco consumption has also increased. The WHO now predicts that tobacco-related deaths are likely to double in the coming years within low and middle-income countries, many of which are in Africa.

Rising tobacco use is likely to have a detrimental effect on developing countries. The infrastructure to deal with the associated health issues is simply not in place. Facing this problem early will be crucial in giving African nations the best chance of reducing poverty and improving standards of living, along with overall health.

Targeting Emerging Economies

People commonly associate economic growth with positive changes, such as job opportunities and more money in our pockets. However, as consumers find they have more money to spend, companies are eager to market products to them. This includes the tobacco industry. In 2013, a committee of experts that the Network of African Science Academies convened found that “As the use of tobacco has declined in high-income countries, the tobacco industry has increasingly turned to low- and middle-income countries, particularly in Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe, to recruit new users.”

Tobacco manufacturers have used specific tactics to promote their products in African countries. According to a 2021 report published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, companies have encouraged local traders to sell individual cigarettes to attract young and low-income customers. Tobacco companies have also used promotional tactics, such as price reductions, coupons and giveaways, even though these practices are usually against the law.

Unfortunately for some African nations, as the economy has grown, the number of smokers has followed suit. For example, as the annual GDP consistently grew from 2009 to 2014 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, tobacco use also increased.

The Burden on Health Care

Research has well documented that tobacco use causes health issues, such as cancer, stroke and lung disease. These are known as non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and case numbers are rising in Africa. This poses a problem for healthcare infrastructure. The World Economic Forum reported that most NCDs undergo treatment in large city hospitals, placing an additional burden on rural patients. Furthermore, many hospitals simply do not have the resources to treat so many cases.

Another factor to consider is the prevalence of infectious diseases, such as malaria, HIV and COVID-19. These afflictions have been a persistent burden on healthcare systems described as “fragile, fragmented, under-resourced and limited.” Increasing tobacco consumption will only exacerbate this problem.

The Effect on Poverty

Tobacco companies often cite job creation to justify their presence in developing countries. They go on to suggest that increasing taxes on tobacco products will cause people to lose their jobs.

Some developing countries indeed have tobacco-dependent economies. For example, a 2009 study found that Malawi relies on tobacco exports for 70% of its foreign earnings. However, placing more restrictions on tobacco could actually be beneficial for Malawi. It could “diversify [its] economy” and open it up to foreign aid for funding other industries.

Dr. Kenneth E. Warner made this same argument in his 1999 article, “The Economics of Tobacco: Myths and Realities,” published in Tobacco Control. Essentially, he stated that if a country is no longer dependent on the tobacco industry, this does not mean that it has no other industry to rely on. Resources can go toward developing other industries and consumers can spend their money elsewhere, generating new jobs.

The myth of economic development through tobacco is further debunked when one considers the financial burden of addiction. Studies found that rising tobacco use in Africa will exacerbate poverty. Money spent on tobacco products and the cost of treatment for associated diseases could cripple low-income families by affecting employment, not to mention the debilitating effects that these diseases cause.

Implementing Solutions

Thankfully, many African nations are taking measures to prevent their economies from becoming overly dependent on tobacco. Uganda is one of these nations. In 2015, the Ugandan government passed the National Tobacco Control Act, prohibiting tobacco sales to anyone under the age of 21. It also banned smoking in public buildings, such as schools and hospitals, and banned the advertising of tobacco products.

In recent years, media campaigns launched in Uganda, educating the public on the economic and health risks associated with tobacco use. They have also advocated for harsher taxation on tobacco products, which would generate funding for further tobacco control measures.

Another positive step is that 51 out of 54 countries in Africa have ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, thereby committing to implementing policies to reduce tobacco consumption.

Tackling rising tobacco use in Africa is instrumental in reducing poverty and moving forward. Funding tobacco control measures is an important step in releasing pressure on African healthcare systems. It is time for the world to leave smoking in the past.

– Abbi Powell
Photo: Unsplash

tobacco in myanmarMillions of people worldwide use tobacco every day. Though tobacco usage has decreased in some countries, it still remains a significant public health concern for various populations. This is especially true for lower-income countries all over the globe. Myanmar is no exception. With the highest rate of tobacco usage in Southeast Asia, tobacco in Myanmar runs rampant with limited regulation.

The Feedback Loop: Tobacco and Poverty

Worldwide, 1.8 billion people smoke, with 84% of smokers from underdeveloped countries. The world’s poor are prone to spending their limited income on tobacco. However, smoking comes at a high opportunity cost. Money spent on tobacco could instead go toward food, education and health care. In countries such as Bangladesh, the poorest households spend 10 times more on tobacco than they would on education. In Mexico, the poorest 20% of households spend at least 11% of their income on tobacco. Overall, the world’s poor sacrifice significantly more of their income to satiate tobacco addiction than do richer households.

In addition to being a financial drain, tobacco also presents numerous health risks. Users of tobacco are at risk for cancer, respiratory diseases and heart problems. These illnesses create higher medical and insurance costs, which could cause households to spiral deeper into poverty.

Tobacco in Myanmar

Currently, around 1.6 million people in Southeast Asia die from tobacco-related illnesses each year. Myanmar currently has the region’s highest prevalence of tobacco use. Approximately 80% of men use tobacco in Myanmar. In this country alone, over 65,600 people die from tobacco-related diseases annually. Regardless of this risk, more than 5 million adults in Myanmar continue to use tobacco every day.

The lack of regulation of tobacco in Myanmar puts millions of individuals at risk of exposure to secondhand smoke. Currently, 13.3 million smokers and individuals exposed to secondhand smoke are at risk of developing tobacco-related diseases such as CVD (cerebrovascular disease). CVDs are one of the most common ways tobacco claims lives. They are also the leading cause of death in the country, contributing to 32% of all deaths.

Premature deaths have also greatly affected Myanmar’s economic growth, severely limiting income opportunities for the nation’s poor and middle-class families. In 2016, economic losses due to tobacco-related mortality were estimated at MMK 1.32 trillion. Overall, the economic loss caused by tobacco-related health complications places a huge strain on Myanmar. Most importantly, without explicit programming efforts, very few users have successfully quit tobacco in Myanmar.

So, What’s Next?

A number of efforts are looking to minimize the harmful effects of tobacco in Myanmar. For example, Myanmar’s government created various changes to its Tobacco Control Laws upon joining the World Health Organization’s FCTC (Framework Convention on Tobacco Control) in 2005. Despite these changes to the law, however, there are insufficient funds for smoke-free enforcement in public spaces. Currently, smoking remains legal in pubs and bars, indoor offices and public transportation.

A comprehensive tobacco control program is therefore necessary to limit the prevalence of tobacco in Myanmar. Luckily, many organizations are willing to assist in this fight. The World Health Organization released plans for its Tobacco Control 2030 campaign, which includes Myanmar. It will be one of the 15 countries chosen to receive aid from the U.N. to support its battle against tobacco.

In 2019, the People’s Health Foundation also implemented a four-year plan to turn Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar, completely smoke-free. This organization plans to raise public awareness of the dangers of smoking and passive smoking on various media platforms. The People’s Health Foundation also partnered with the Ministry of Health and Sports to minimize smoking and overall tobacco usage in the country. Already, the organization has converted regions including Ayeyarwady, Bago and Mon into smoking-free zones. While much work still remains, Myanmar these efforts to minimize the use of tobacco among its citizens are showing some signs of success. This provides hope that the epidemic of tobacco in Myanmar may soon end.

Vanna Figueroa
Photo: Flickr

Tobacco industry labour conditions
The global tobacco market accounted for $663.76 billion in 2017, and the tobacco industry is an economic sector employing millions of men and women. However, behind the scenes of the tobacco industry lies the death of 8 million people yearly, the creation of dependency and diseases for tobacco farmers, as well as extreme poverty, child labor and environmental issues. Tobacco industry labor conditions are very poor and require reform.

Tobacco Farmers

The tobacco industry controls the tobacco cycle from seed to sale and in most producing countries, tobacco companies operate in a contract system through which companies provide the inputs required–including seeds and chemicals for production–in the form of credit for farmers. Farmers agree to sell their tobacco leaf to specific companies at a set price in return. For many farmers, the revenue earned from their tobacco leaf sales barely suffices to cover their costs or repay their loans. This creates a debt cycle.

Moreover, Human Rights Watch reported labor rights abuses on large-scale tobacco farms. In Zimbabwe, some workers reported overtime and excess working hours after their employers pressured them, but they did not receive compensation for it. Other incidents and labor abuses include underpaid or delayed wages and occasionally going two months without receiving their salary, which makes it hard for workers to maintain a basic living standard.

Health Issues

Tobacco cultivation exposes workers and farmers to health hazards from pesticide exposure to nicotine poisoning. Physical contact with wet tobacco leaves causes the body to absorb nicotine leading to poisoning called green tobacco sickness (GTS). This involves symptoms of nausea, vomiting, fluctuating blood pressure and heart rate and trouble breathing, and they are quite frequent among tobacco workers.

Tobacco industry labor conditions expose workers to high amounts of pesticides which damages the human nervous system and can also cause pesticide poisoning; common symptoms include convulsions, respiratory problems, nausea, kidney damages and skin irritation. Children to have a lower intoxication threshold due to their smaller body mass and weaker immune system, which reinforces the issue of child labor in the tobacco industry.

Child Labor in the Tobacco Industry

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), 108 million children work in agriculture, representing 70 percent of overall child labor. Although child employment is not easy to verify, some believe that millions work in the tobacco industry. Families living in poverty and dependent on tobacco production for a living often make their children work in tobacco farms and factories to help them. Because children start working from a very early age, they do not obtain a necessary education which could help them break away from the poverty cycle.

Child labor in the tobacco industry is prominent in India, especially in the production of Bidi. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 10 percent of female workers and 5 percent of male workers in the bidi industry in India are below the age of 14 and that 40 percent of those children never went to school. Besides, although child labor is illegal in India, the county cannot incriminate employers as they do not include working children officially on their payrolls.

Many companies in the tobacco industry have adopted policies prohibiting children from working in direct contact with green tobacco, which is a step forward in limiting the health risks for children working in the tobacco industry. However, none of the tobacco companies adopted policies prohibiting the involvement of children working in direct contact with tobacco (such as dry tobacco). Moreover, the tobacco industry does not have, unlike other industries, a zero-tolerance policy for child labor, despite publicly condemning it.

International Reaction

In June 2018, 130 public health and sustainable development organizations wrote a letter to the ILO urging it not to renew or extend contracts with Eliminating Child Labour in Tobacco-Growing (ECLT), which is a group that the tobacco industry funds, and Japan Tobacco International (JTI), which ties the ILO to the tobacco industry. Yet, despite the recommendations from the U.N. Interagency Task Force (UNIATF), the ILO still has not cut its ties, which include funding, and its partnerships with the tobacco industry. With regards to tobacco companies, some ‘Tobacco giants’ begun reforming their practices, such as Philip Morris International who committed to eliminating child labour entirely from its supply chain by 2025, hopefully leading the way for the rest of the industry.”

Considering that one of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (Target 8.7) aims to eradicate child labor in all its forms by 2025, the ILO must make it a priority and address the root causes of child labor. Besides, companies and governments must work hand in hand to increasingly adopt adequate labor policies to improve tobacco industry labor conditions, reduce the health risks workers and farmers suffer from, as well as enforce a zero-tolerance child labor policy.

Andrea Duleux
Photo: Flickr

Smoking in Developing Countries
Smoking rates among adults and children in developing countries have been increasing for years. In developed nations, such as the United States, people have implemented certain policies in order to increase taxes and therefore reduce tobacco consumption, successfully. Such policies have not yet enacted in areas of extreme poverty around the world. In fact, tobacco companies have responded by flooding low-income areas with reduced-priced cigarettes, tons of advertisements and an excessive number of liquor stores and smoke shops. It is time to have a conversation about smoking rates in developing countries and whether or not tobacco control policies are the best approach long-term, worldwide. Here are the top 6 facts about smoking in developing countries.

Top 6 Facts About Smoking in Developing Countries

  1. Smoking affects populations living in extreme poverty differently than it does those in wealthy areas. Stress is a harmful symptom of poverty and contributes to smoking rates in low-income areas. Oftentimes living in poverty also means living in an overcrowded, polluted area with high crime and violence rates and a serious lack of government or social support. Stress and smoking are rampant in these areas for a reason. It is also important to note that smoking wards off hunger signals to the brain which makes it useful for individuals to maintain their mental health of sorts if food is not an option.
  2. Smoking rates are much higher among men than women across the globe. While the relative statistics vary from country to country, smoking rates among women are very low in most parts of Africa and Asia but there is hardly any disparity in smoking rates between men and women in wealthy countries such as Denmark and Sweden. The pattern of high smoking rates among men remains prevalent worldwide. One can equally attribute this to two factors that go hand-in-hand: the oppression of women and the stress that men receive to provide with their families.
  3. The increase in smoking rates in developing countries also means an outstanding number of diseases and death. The good news is that countries have succeeded in reducing consumption by raising taxes on the product. Price, specifically in the form of higher taxes, seems to be one of the only successful options in terms of cessation. Legislation banning smoking in certain public spaces is one example of an effort that places a bandaid on the problem instead of addressing the root cause. There is no data that shows a direct correlation between non-smoking areas and quitting rates among tobacco users.
  4. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports an estimated 6 million deaths per year which one can attribute to smoking tobacco products. It also estimates that there will be about another 1 billion deaths by the end of this century. Eighty percent of these deaths land in low-income countries. The problem at hand is determining how this part of the cycle of poverty can change when it has been operating in favor of the upper class for so long.
  5. Within developing countries, tobacco ranks ninth as a risk factor for mortality in those with high mortality and only ranks third in those with low mortality. This means that there are still countries where other risk factors for disease and death are still more prominent than tobacco use, but that does not mean that tobacco is not a serious health concern all over the world. Of these developing countries, tobacco accounts for up to 16 percent of the burden of disease (measured in years).
  6. China has a higher smoking rate than the other four countries ranked highest for tobacco use combined. The government sells tobacco and accounts for nearly 10 percent of central government revenue. In China, over 50 percent of the men smoke, whereas this is only true for 2 percent of women. China’s latest Five-Year Plan (2011 – 2015) called for more smoke-free public spaces in an attempt to increase life expectancy. A pack of Marlboro cigarettes in Beijing goes for 22元, which is equivalent to $3. This is far cheaper than what developed countries charge with taxes. This continual enablement is a prime example of why smoking rates in developing countries are such a problem. While many people mistake China for a developed nation because it has the world’s second-largest economy and third-largest military, it is still a developing country.

In countries like China where smoking rates are booming and death tolls sailing, tobacco control policies may not be the best solution. While raising taxes to reduce consumption may seem like a simple concept, when applied to real communities, a huge percentage of people living in poverty with this addiction will either be spending more money on tobacco products or suffering from withdrawals. While it might be easy for many people to ignore the suffering of the other, in this case, a lower-class cigarette smoker, one cannot forget how the cycle of poverty and addiction and oppression has influenced their path in life.

Helen Schwie
Photo: Flickr

Tobacco Use in Developing Countries
Tobacco movements are familiar here in the United states, and as a direct consequence, tobacco usage has decreased almost 15 percent the past 10 years. The World Health Organization (WHO) views tobacco usage as a threat to world health that can contribute to early death, chronic diseases, poverty, environmental degradation and labor exploitation.

Socio-Economic Implications

Among these negative consequences, socio-economic implications (such as labor exploitation and poverty) is perhaps the most prominent to global well-being. A closer look reveals that over 10 percent of household income in poor countries is allocated to tobacco products.

Further, more than a quarter of people below the poverty line smoke. This disparity is characterized most often by tobacco use in developing countries. These countries often include the central Europe region. Data suggests that the global economic costs of smoking amount to nearly $2 trillion of the world’s GDP.

Behind Europe is the United States, Russia and China with staggering tobacco usage data. This includes high smoking prevalence at around 80 percent.

Preventive Measures

In 2017, The World Heart Federation published their annual report on global tobacco usage saying, “it is critical that all countries act urgently to more effectively protect their people with evidence based tobacco control policies.” Highest levels of political commitment are located in Russia.

One way the country takes measures into its own hands is to target tobacco companies directly. By combating persuasive strategies for tobacco use in developing countries, members of the public become better informed on the consequences of smoking. These consequences not only include detrimental health factors, but economic features as well.

Cutting rates in countries where smoking is an increasingly growing trend is of priority. The most competitive tobacco program is in New Zealand where smoking prevalence is below 20 percent. Further, consumption has halved in 15 years and adult usage has decreased by one quarter.

Tobacco taxation is likely to thank for the decrease in usage. New Zealand exemplifies this strategy by altering the availability of these products. Economic data implies that taxes affect prices and in turn, can be influenced by public health arguments.

Economic Implications

There are many economic burdens associated with tobacco usage. According to a study conducted by The National Library of Medicine, smoking accounts for .7 percent of China’s GDP and 1 percent of the United State’s GDP. If eliminated, many economic benefits would follow, including:

  • More accurate and diversified healthcare
  • Saving on advertising costs
  • Workplace-based investments for microeconomic stimulus

More accurate and diversified healthcare would be one of the main ramifications. Higher costs per life-being-saved versus spending for lung disease and cancer treatment would accumulate quickly into the economy. Advertising costs in 2017 accounted for over $9 billion, and the elimination of these costs could allocate economic resources more efficiently.

Future Growth Opportunities

Smaller microeconomic growth occurs when companies disperse funding into preventive programs. In the long run, these programs place consumer spending onto other products in the market.

Non-smoking movements are becoming more frequent around the world so as to curb tobacco use in developing countries. The positive consequences to controlling production and consumption surpass the economic growth associated with the tobacco industry. Inclusion and increase of positive health and well-being are associated with these preventive measures.

– Logan Moore
Photo: Flickr

Studies have shown that poor households in low-income countries can spend an upward of 10 percent of household budgets on tobacco products. Poverty and tobacco use are a highly linked global phenomenon. This disproportionate relation has several outlining side effects.

Households with less disposable income that use tobacco have fewer means of survival when it comes to health and basic living costs. The choice to buy tobacco-based products deprives families of the income needed for proper diet and nutrition. In this respect, outside of the health risks typically associated with tobacco usage, poor diet and malnutrition are within the realm of side effects.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has also reported that tobacco leads to higher illiteracy rates when money is used on tobacco products over education. One 1997 study in Chennai, India, found this to be true. “Among illiterate men, the smoking prevalence was 64 percent, whereas it was only 21 percent among those with more than 12 years of schooling,” reports the WHO.

The vicious cycle of poverty and tobacco use is prevalent throughout the world. Due to the prevalence of poverty in certain countries, farmers will accept a line of credit from tobacco companies. This credit is set in the form of seeds, fertilizer and other essentials for growing tobacco. The problem with this business transaction is that farmers must then sell all of their product. However, the profit for selling the tobacco leaves often ends up being less than that of the line of credit, leaving the farmers indebted to the tobacco companies and continuing the cycle even further.

Luckily, in 2015 the United Nations General Assembly adopted a new plan in order to combat the socioeconomic side effects of poverty and tobacco use. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) formally recognize, on a global scale, the negative impact of tobacco consumption on health, wealth and development. Under the SDGs, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) was set to “protect present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke.”

One key difference included in the Sustainable Development Goals is that, unlike previous implementations, the SDGs apply to all U.N. members. High-income countries, especially the United States, are no exception. Though the United States has one of the highest standards of living, poverty and tobacco use still afflict lower socioeconomic groups. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention found in 2014 that, in the population of people having only a GED certificate, smoking prevalence is more than 40 percent.

Fighting poverty is essential to the fight against tobacco use. Tobacco use is a habit that is so detrimental to human life that it should be of high focus for eradication, especially when global health is at risk.

– Richard Zarrilli, Jr

Photo: Flickr

Tobacco Use in Impoverished Countries

Tobacco is one of the world’s most preventable causes of disease. Preventing tobacco use in impoverished countries is important because tobacco use causes many diseases and about half of tobacco users end up dying from it. In recent years, the World Health Organization (WHO) discovered that about 80% of tobacco users live in low- and middle-income countries.

Before, the citizens in those countries would and could not spend their money on tobacco because it was not necessary. Tobacco is considered a luxury. But as they earn more money and incomes increase in their countries, they can afford to spend their money on tobacco.

As impoverished countries begin to get out of the lower classes of income, tobacco companies begin to target these countries. They sell and advertise tobacco without many restrictions, as the countries have often not yet put regulations in place. Because of that, the citizens of these countries end up buying tobacco and facing the consequences of its use. However, preventing tobacco use in impoverished countries through restrictions can have dramatic effects.

One of the best examples of this is Honduras. Between the years 2000 and 2015. The World Bank reported that smoking prevalence in adult males decreased by 30%. The World Bank also noted that Honduras is a low-middle income country, the target area for tobacco companies. So why has tobacco usage decreased in Honduras?

To put it simply, they have begun to put restrictions on tobacco. According to The Tobacco Atlas, Honduras has many rigorous regulations regarding tobacco. For example, many of Honduras’s public areas do not allow smoking. Universities, restaurants and all other indoor public spaces are smoke-free. They have also limited the number of television channels on which tobacco can be advertised. Additionally, Honduras has a 21% excise tax on cigarette prices. Because Honduras has these restrictions, their smoking rate has decreased by 30%.

The positive impacts of these restrictions on tobacco advertisement and use in Honduras are that fewer people are buying tobacco because of the added expense of taxes and fewer people are being exposed to tobacco in the first place. The laws that limit where people can smoke help to prevent people from smoking in indoor public spaces and prevent nonsmokers from being exposed to cigarette smoke.

Preventing tobacco use in impoverished countries requires many different strategies. Taxes, advertisement restrictions and other policies work together to lower tobacco usage. Low-middle income countries need to implement these policies to help protect their citizens. Implementing proper restrictions on tobacco is important to the health of these countries.

Daniel Borjas

Photo: Flickr

Tobacco Tax
Tobacco products are responsible for causing millions of preventable deaths each year. While there are several many ways to deter tobacco use, the most powerful and cost-effective way to decrease its use is by implementing tobacco control policies. Such policies, such as increased taxation, has been shown to reduce tobacco-related deaths and disease, prevent initiation of new smokers and decrease overall tobacco use. Tobacco taxes also increase government revenue, decrease the societal costs of tobacco (medical intervention and lost productivity) and allow individuals and families to reduce their expenses when quitting.

Organizations, such as the World Bank Group (WBG), WHO, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, have been dedicated in expanding tobacco taxation work globally. The coordination of these organizations work to assist countries to most effectively control the spread of tobacco use.

Evidence shows that price increases on cigarettes are effective in reducing demand. Countries of all income levels have seen higher tobacco prices both decrease and prevent initiation of tobacco use. Compared to adults, children and adolescents are more sensitive to price increases, allowing for a significant impact in juvenile smoking.

The WHO is committed to helping governments design intelligent tobacco tax policy, and created an economics team to develop the WHO Tobacco Tax Simulation Model, TaXSiM. This model helps countries analyze tax policies, impacting assessment and decision-making.

Bull World Health Organ published data from 181 countries to quantify the impact of raising cigarette tax by one international dollar (I$) per pack. If implemented, daily smoking would decrease by 9 percent, resulting in 66 million fewer smokers and 15 million fewer smoke related deaths.

Countries that reinvested revenues from tobacco tax increases in health programs would also experience a greater impact on public health. Additionally, if revenues from tax increases were allocated to health budgets, expenditure on health would increase by 4 percent globally.

Tobacco use is a huge expense to society, and kills up to half of its users. Tobacco taxation, an important evidence-based intervention, helps countries achieve development objectives by increasing revenue, decreasing tobacco-related expenses and saving lives. Creating finance development while reducing tobacco use is a win-win policy for governments.

Yosef Mahmoud

Photo: Flickr

Tobacco Control Reduces Poverty
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

Photo: Pixabay