by Charina Clarrise L. Echaluce
HealthJustice and Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance are urging government to provide the support needed by tobacco farmers who want to stop planting tobacco and shift to a safer source of income.
“Shifting to alternative livelihood will not only ensure a better future for local farmers, but will also be consistent with the Philippines’ international obligation under the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC),” HealthJustice said in a press statement.
“Articles 17 and 18 of the FCTC oblige parties to provide farmers with economically sustainable alternatives to tobacco farming and to safeguard the health of workers and the environment from the negative effects of tobacco farming,” it said.
Earlier, the Department of Health (DOH) warned tobacco farmers in the country that planting tobacco gives more risks than benefits.
Tobacco farmers are prone to diseases from exposure to strong chemicals that are found in the pesticides and fertilizers that they are using, the DOH said in its Bulletin on Secondhand Smoke.
These chemicals can cause poisoning, irritation to skin and eyes, kidney problems, and mental illness. In addition, most of these farmers are smokers, too – the reason why they have higher chances of getting diseases.
Those who are always holding wet tobacco leaves are also prone to Green Tobacco Sickness (GTS), which causes a person to be weak, suffer from headache, and have difficulty in breathing.
It added that the salary of farmers who plant tobaccos are too small compared to the kind of labor that it requires, and they must look for other sources of income.
HealthJustice said “majority of profits from tobacco farming go to leaf buying companies and cigarette manufacturers, while many farmers and farm workers find themselves poor and in debt.
“Historically, the tobacco industry has exploited farmers in the Philippines and around by the world by encouraging them to cultivate tobacco leaves and then intentionally keeping prices too low to be profitable. These low prices undermine farmers’ bargaining power, causing them to fall into a cycle of debt that perpetuates poverty,” it revealed.
Photo credit: unjobs.org