Effects of Tobacco on health also impact your everyday life

30May 2019
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Effects of Tobacco on health also impact your everyday life

World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) is observed around the world every year on 31 May. It is intended to encourage a 24-hour period of abstinence from all forms of tobacco consumption around the globe.

The day is further intended to draw attention to the widespread prevalence of tobacco use and to negative health effects, which currently lead to more than 7 million deaths each year worldwide, including 890,000 of which are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.[1] The member states of the World Health Organization (WHO) created World No Tobacco Day in 1987. In the past twenty one years, the day has been met with both enthusiasm and resistance around the globe from governments, public health organizations, smokers, growers, and the tobacco industry.


  • In 1987, the WHO's World Health Assembly passed a resolution   for 7 April 1988 to be a world no-smoking day. The objective of the day was to urge tobacco users worldwide to abstain from using tobacco products for 24 hours, an action they hoped would provide assistance for those trying to quit.
  • In 1988, resolution   was passed by the World Health Assembly, calling for the celebration of World No Tobacco Day, every year on 31 May. Since then, the WHO has supported World No Tobacco Day every year, linking each year to a different tobacco-related theme.
  • In 1998, the WHO established the Tobacco Free Initiative (TFI), an attempt to focus international resources and attention on the global health issue of tobacco. The initiative provides assistance for creating global public health policy, encourages mobilization between societies, and supports the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). The WHO FCTC is a global public health treaty adopted in 2003 by countries around the globe as an agreement to implement policies that work towards tobacco cessation.
  • In 2008, on the eve of the World No Tobacco Day, the WHO called for a worldwide ban on all tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship. The theme of that year’s day was  Tobacco-free youth ; therefore, this initiative was especially meant to target advertising efforts aimed at youth. According to the WHO, the tobacco industry must replace older quitting or dying smokers with younger consumers. Because of this, marketing strategies are commonly observed in places that will attract youth such as movies, the Internet, billboards, and magazines. Studies have shown that the more youth are exposed to tobacco advertising, the more likely they are to smoke.
  • In 2015, WNTD highlighted the health risks associated with tobacco use and advocated for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption, including ending the illicit trade of tobacco products.[6]
  • In 2016, on World No Tobacco Day, held on 31 May, the World Health Organization (WHO) called on governments to get ready for plain packaging of tobacco products.
  • In 2017, WNTD focused on tobacco as a threat to development. The campaign aims to demonstrate the threats that the tobacco industry poses to sustainable development, including the health and economic well-being of citizens in all countries.
  • In 2018, WNTD focused on its theme on 'Tobacco Breaks Hearts: Choose health, not tobacco' NoTobacco.


Each year, the WHO selects a theme for the day in order to create a more unified global message for WNTD. This theme then becomes the central component of the WHO’s tobacco-related agenda for the following year. The WHO oversees the creation and distribution of publicity materials related to the theme, including brochures, fliers, posters, websites, and press releases.

In many of its WNTD themes and related publicity-materials, the WHO emphasizes the idea of "truth." Theme titles such as "Tobacco kills, don't be duped" (2000) and “Tobacco: deadly in any form or disguise” (2006) indicate a WHO belief that individuals may be misled or confused about the true nature of tobacco; the rationale for the 2000 and 2008 WNTD themes identify the marketing strategies and “illusions” created by the tobacco industry as a primary source of this confusion. The WHO's WNTD materials present an alternate understanding of the “facts” as seen from a global public health perspective. WNTD publicity materials provide an "official" interpretation of the most up-to-date tobacco-related research and statistics and provide a common ground from which to formulate anti-tobacco arguments around the world. The theme for World No Tobacco Day 2017 was "Tobacco – a threat to development." In 2018, it is "Tobacco breaks hearts".

The WHO serves as a central hub for fostering communication and coordinating WNTD events around the world. The WHO website provides a place for groups to share news of their activities, and the organization publishes this information online by country.[15]


Since 1988 the WHO has presented one or more awards to organizations or individuals who have made exceptional contributions to reducing tobacco consumption. World No Tobacco Day Awards are given to individuals from six different world regions (Africa, Americas, Eastern Mediterranean, Europe, South-East Asia, and Western Pacific), and Director-General Special Awards and Recognition Certificates are given to individuals from any region.



Medical students in Jakarta demonstrate against tobacco, Sunday, 30 May 2010, a day before World No Tobacco Day. The action was meant to raise public awareness on negative effect of smoking. Bundaran Hotel Indonesia, Central Jakarta, Indonesia.

Groups around the world — from local clubs to city councils to national governments — are encouraged by the WHO to organize events each year to help communities celebrate World No Tobacco Day in their own way at the local level. Past events have included letter writing campaigns to government officials and local newspapers, marches, public debates, local and national publicity campaigns, anti-tobacco activist meetings, educational programming, and public art.

In addition, many governments use WNTD as the start date for implementing new smoking bans and tobacco control efforts. For example, on 31 May 2008, a section of the Smoke Free Ontario Act came into effect banning tobacco "power walls" and displays at stores in this Canadian province, and all hospitals and government offices in Australia became smoke-free on 31 May 2010.

The day has also been used as a springboard for discussing the current and future state of a country as it relates to tobacco—for example in India which, with 275 million tobacco users, has one of the highest levels of tobacco consumption in the world.

For some, WNTD is seen as a challenge to individual freedom of choice or even a culturally acceptable form of discrimination. From ignoring WNTD, to participating in protests or acts of defiance, to bookending the day with extra rounds of pro-tobacco advertisements and events, smokers, tobacco growers, and the tobacco industry have found ways to make their opinions of the day heard.

There has been no sustained or widespread effort to organize counter-WNTD events on the part of smokers. However, some small groups, particularly in the United States, have created local pro-smoking events. For example, the Oregon Commentator, an independent conservative journal of opinion published at the University of Oregon, hosted a "Great American Smoke-in" on campus as a counter to the locally more widespread Great American Smokeout: "In response to the ever-increasing vilification of smokers on campus, the Oregon Commentator presents the Great American Smoke-in as an opportunity for students to join together and enjoy the pleasures of fine tobacco products."[21] Similarly, "Americans for Freedom of Choice", a group in Honolulu, Hawaii, organized "World Defiance Day" in response to WNTD and Hawaii's statewide ban on smoking in

Historically, in America the tobacco industry has funded state initiatives that provide resources to help smokers quit smoking as per the Master Settlement Agreement regulated by the U.S. government. For example, Phillip Morris USA operates a website that acts as a guide for those who choose to quit smoking.

World No Tobacco Days have not induced a positive vocal response from the tobacco industry. For example, a memo made publicly available through the Tobacco Archives website was sent out to executives of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in preparation for the third annual World No Tobacco Day,[25] which had the theme of "Childhood and Youth Without Tobacco". The memo includes a warning about the upcoming day, a document that explains the arguments they anticipate the WHO making, and an explanation of how the company should respond to these claims. For example, in response to the anticipated argument that their advertisements target children, the company’s response includes arguments that claim their advertisements are targeted towards adults by using adult models, and that advertisements lack the power to influence what people will actually purchase. In Uganda, since the World No Tobacco Day is the one day that the media is obligated to publicize tobacco control issues, the British American Tobacco company uses the eve of the day to administer counter-publicity. In 2001, their strategy included events such as a visit with the President of the International Tobacco Growers Association.

Unlike the tobacco industry, some major pharmaceutical companies do publicly support WNTD. For example, Pfizer was a large sponsor for many WNTD events in the United Arab Emirates in 2008. At the time, Pfizer was preparing to release its drug Chantix (Varenicline) into the Middle Eastern market. The drug was “designed to activate the nicotinic receptor to reduce both the severity of the smoker's craving and the withdrawal symptoms from nicotine.”

Many tobacco growers feel that anti-tobacco efforts by organizations such as the WHO jeopardize their rights. For example, the International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA) argues that poor farmers in Africa may suffer the consequences if WHO anti-tobacco movements succeed. They also argue that these efforts may gang up on manufacturers of tobacco and be an attack on the industry, therefore hurting the growers.

As some traditions and ceremonies of a number of cultures and ethnicities of Native Americans in the United States and First Nations in North America have been based on tobacco since pre-Columbian times, some potential for unintended abrogation of such traditions may exist from authorities seeking to eliminate tobacco from worldwide use - traditions of non-combustive use of tobacco for some forms of indigenous American ceremonial purposes have begun to be used for cessation of cigarette use among indigenous tribal members, while members of the Oglala Lakota have had their struggles to retain important historic tribal artifacts used for tobacco's traditional role in their ethnicity's traditions, to prevent their illegal sale. It is possible that a 2015 survey from Health Canada concerning future tobacco control legislation in Canada, having a section requesting advice from indigenous peoples within Canada, showed the potential of concern over such issues.






Tobacco is a product prepared from the leaves of the tobacco plant by curing them. The plant is part of the genus Nicotiana and of the Solanaceae (nightshade) family. While more than 70 species of tobacco are known, the chief commercial crop is N. tabacum. The more potent variant N. rustica is also used around the world.

Tobacco contains the alkaloid nicotine, which is a stimulant, and harmala alkaloids. Dried tobacco leaves are mainly used for smoking in cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, and flavored shisha tobacco. They can also be consumed as snuff, chewing tobacco, dipping tobacco and snus.

Tobacco use is a risk factor for many diseases; especially those affecting the heart, liver, and lungs, as well as many cancers. In 2008, the World Health Organization named tobacco as the world's single greatest preventable cause of death.


The English word "tobacco" originates from the Spanish and Portuguese word "tabaco". The precise origin of this word is disputed, but it is generally thought to have derived at least in part, from Taino, the Arawakan language of the Caribbean. In Taino, it was said to mean either a roll of tobacco leaves (according to Bartolomé de las Casas, 1552) or to tabago, a kind of L-shaped pipe used for sniffing tobacco smoke (according to Oviedo; with the leaves themselves being referred to as cohiba).

However, perhaps coincidentally, similar words in Spanish, Portuguese and Italian were used from 1410 to define medicinal herbs believed to have originated from the Arabic a word reportedly dating to the 9th century, as a name for various herbs.


Tobacco has long been used in the Americas, with some cultivation sites in Mexico dating back to 1400–1000 BC. Many Native American tribes have traditionally grown and used tobacco. Eastern North American tribes historically carried tobacco in pouches as a readily accepted trade item, as well as smoking it, both socially and ceremonially, such as to seal a peace treaty or trade agreement. In some populations, tobacco is seen as a gift from the Creator, with the ceremonial tobacco smoke carrying one's thoughts and prayers to the Creator.


Following the arrival of the Europeans to the Americas, tobacco became increasingly popular as a trade item. Hernández de Boncalo, Spanish chronicler of the Indies, was the first European to bring tobacco seeds to the Old World in 1559 following orders of King Philip II of Spain. These seeds were planted in the outskirts of Toledo, more specifically in an area known as "Los Cigarrales" named after the continuous plagues of cicadas (cigarras in Spanish). Before the development of the lighter Virginia and white burley strains of tobacco, the smoke was too harsh to be inhaled. Small quantities were smoked at a time, using a pipe like the midwakh or kiseru or smoking newly invented waterpipes such as the bong or the hookah (see thuốc lào for a modern continuance of this practice). Tobacco became so popular that the English colony of Jamestown used it as currency and began exporting it as a cash crop; tobacco is often credited as being the export that saved Virginia from ruin.

The alleged benefits of tobacco also account for its considerable success. The astronomer Thomas Harriot, who accompanied Sir Richard Grenville on his 1585 expedition to Roanoke Island, explains that the plant "openeth all the pores and passages of the body" so that the natives’ "bodies are notably preserved in health, and know not many grievous diseases, wherewithal we in England are often times afflicted."

Tobacco smoking, chewing, and snuffing became a major industry in Europe and its colonies by 1700.

Tobacco has been a major cash crop in Cuba and in other parts of the Caribbean since the 18th century. Cuban cigars are world-famous.

In the late 19th century, cigarettes became popular. James Bonsack created a machine that automated cigarette production. This increase in production allowed tremendous growth in the tobacco industry until the health revelations of the late-20th century.


Following the scientific revelations of the mid-20th century, tobacco became condemned as a health hazard, and eventually became encompassed as a cause for cancer, as well as other respiratory and circulatory diseases. In the United States, this led to the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, which settled the lawsuit in exchange for a combination of yearly payments to the states and voluntary restrictions on advertising and marketing of tobacco products.

In the 1970s, Brown & Williamson cross-bred a strain of tobacco to produce Y1. This strain of tobacco contained an unusually high amount of nicotine, nearly doubling its content from 3.2-3.5 pc to 6.5 pc. In the 1990s, this prompted the Food and Drug Administration to use this strain as evidence that tobacco companies were intentionally manipulating the nicotine content of cigarettes.

In 2003, in response to growth of tobacco use in developing countries, the World Health Organizationsuccessfully rallied 168 countries to sign the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The convention is designed to push for effective legislation and its enforcement in all countries to reduce the harmful effects of tobacco. This led to the development of tobacco cessation products.


Many species of tobacco are in the genus of herbs Nicotiana. It is part of the nightshade family (Solanaceae) indigenous to North and South America, Australia, south west Africa, and the South Pacific.

Most nightshades contain varying amounts of nicotine, a powerful neurotoxin to insects. However, tobaccos tend to contain a much higher concentration of nicotine than the others. Unlike many other Solanaceae species, they do not contain tropane alkaloids, which are often poisonous to humans and other animals.

Despite containing enough nicotine and other compounds such as germacrene and anabasine and other piperidine alkaloids (varying between species) to deter most herbivores, a number of such animals have evolved the ability to feed on Nicotiana species without being harmed. Nonetheless, tobacco is unpalatable to many species due to its other attributes. For example, although the cabbage looper is a generalist pest, tobacco's gummosis and trichomes can harm early larvae survival. As a result, some tobacco plants (chiefly N. glauca) have become established as invasive weeds in some places.


  • Aromatic fire-cured is cured by smoke from open fires. In the United States, it is grown in northern middle Tennessee, central Kentucky, and Virginia. Fire-cured tobacco grown in Kentucky and Tennessee is used in some chewing tobaccos, moist snuff, some cigarettes, and as a condiment in pipe tobacco blends. Another fire-cured tobacco is Latakia, which is produced from oriental varieties of N. tabacum. The leaves are cured and smoked over smoldering fires of local hardwoods and aromatic shrubs in Cyprus and Syria.
  • Brightleaf tobacco is commonly known as "Virginia tobacco", often regardless of the state where it is planted. Prior to the American Civil War, most tobacco grown in the US was fire-cured dark-leaf. Sometime after the War of 1812, demand for a milder, lighter, more aromatic tobacco arose. Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland all innovated with milder varieties of the tobacco plant. Farmers discovered that Bright leaf tobacco needs thin, starved soil, and those who could not grow other crops found that they could grow tobacco. Confederate soldiers traded it with each other and Union soldiers, and developed quite a taste for it. At the end of the war, the soldiers went home and a national market had developed for the local crop.
  • Burley tobacco is an air-cured tobacco used primarily for cigarette production. In the U.S., burley tobacco plants are started from pelletized seeds placed in polystyrene trays floated on a bed of fertilized water in March or April.
  • Cavendish is more a process of curing and a method of cutting tobacco than a type. The processing and the cut are used to bring out the natural sweet taste in the tobacco. Cavendish can be produced from any tobacco type, but is usually one of, or a blend of Kentucky, Virginia, and burley, and is most commonly used for pipe tobacco and cigars.
  • Criollo tobacco is primarily used in the making of cigars. It was, by most accounts, one of the original Cuban tobaccos that emerged around the time of Columbus.
  • Dokha is a tobacco originally grown in Iran, mixed with leaves, bark, and herbs for smoking in a midwakh.
  • Turkish tobacco is a sun-cured, highly aromatic, small-leafed variety (Nicotiana tabacum) grown in Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, and North Macedonia. Originally grown in regions historically part of the Ottoman Empire, it is also known as "oriental". Many of the early brands of cigarettes were made mostly or entirely of Turkish tobacco; today, its main use is in blends of pipe and especially cigarette tobacco (a typical American cigarette is a blend of bright Virginia, burley, and Turkish).
  • Perique was developed in 1824 through the technique of pressure-fermentation of local tobacco by a farmer, Pierre Chenet. Considered the truffle of pipe tobaccos, it is used as a component in many blended pipe tobaccos, but is too strong to be smoked pure. At one time, the freshly moist Perique was also chewed, but none is now sold for this purpose. It is typically blended with pure Virginia to lend spice, strength, and coolness to the blend.
  • Shade tobacco is cultivated in Connecticut and Massachusetts. Early Connecticut colonists acquired from the Native Americans the habit of smoking tobacco in pipes, and began cultivating the plant commercially, though the Puritans referred to it as the "evil weed". The Connecticut shade industry has weathered some major catastrophes, including a devastating hailstorm in 1929, and an epidemic of brown spot fungus in 2000, but is now in danger of disappearing altogether, given the increase in the value of land.
  • White burley air-cured leaf was found to be more mild than other types of tobacco. In 1865, George Webb of Brown County, Ohio planted red burley seeds he had purchased, and found a few of the seedlings had a whitish, sickly look, which became white burley.
  • Wild tobacco is native to the southwestern United States, Mexico, and parts of South America. Its botanical name is Nicotiana rustica.
  • Y1 is a strain of tobacco cross-bred by Brown & Williamson in the 1970s to obtain an unusually high nicotine content. In the 1990s, the United States Food and Drug Administration used it as evidence that tobacco companies were intentionally manipulating the nicotine content of cigarettes.


Tobacco is cultivated similarly to other agricultural products. Seeds were at first quickly scattered onto the soil. However, young plants came under increasing attack from flea beetles (Epitrix cucumeris or E. pubescens), which caused destruction of half the tobacco crops in United States in 1876. By 1890, successful experiments were conducted that placed the plant in a frame covered by thin cotton fabric. Today, tobacco is sown in cold frames or hotbeds, as their germination is activated by light.

In the United States, tobacco is often fertilized with the mineral apatite, which partially starves the plant of nitrogen, to produce a more desired flavour.

After the plants are about 8 inches (20 cm) tall, they are transplanted into the fields. Farmers used to have to wait for rainy weather to plant. A hole is created in the tilled earth with a tobacco peg, either a curved wooden tool or deer antler. After making two holes to the right and left, the planter would move forward two feet, select plants from his/her bag, and repeat. Various mechanical tobacco planters like Bemis, New Idea Setter, and New Holland Transplanter were invented in the late 19th and 20th centuries to automate the process: making the hole, watering it, guiding the plant in — all in one motion.

Tobacco is cultivated annually, and can be harvested in several ways. In the oldest method still used today, the entire plant is harvested at once by cutting off the stalk at the ground with a tobacco knife. It is then speared onto sticks, four to six plants a stick and hung in a curing barn. In the 19th century, bright tobacco began to be harvested by pulling individual leaves off the stalk as they ripened. The leaves ripen from the ground upwards, so a field of tobacco harvested in this manner involves the serial harvest of a number of "primings", beginning with the volado leaves near the ground, working to the seco leaves in the middle of the plant, and finishing with the potent ligero leaves at the top. Before this, the crop must be topped when the pink flowers develop. Topping always refers to the removal of the tobacco flower before the leaves are systematically removed, and eventually, entirely harvested. As the industrial revolution took hold, harvesting wagons used to transport leaves were equipped with man-powered stringers, an apparatus that used twine to attach leaves to a pole. In modern times, large fields are harvested mechanically, although topping the flower and in some cases the plucking of immature leaves is still done by hand. Most tobacco in the U.S. is grown in North Carolina, Kentucky, and Virginia.


Curing and subsequent aging allow for the slow oxidation and degradation of carotenoids in tobacco leaf. This produces certain compounds in the tobacco leaves, and gives a sweet hay, tea, rose oil, or fruity aromatic flavor that contributes to the "smoothness" of the smoke. Starch is converted to sugar, which glycates protein, and is oxidized into advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs), a caramelization process that also adds flavor. Inhalation of these AGEs in tobacco smoke contributes to atherosclerosis and cancer. Levels of AGEs are dependent on the curing method used.

Tobacco can be cured through several methods, including:

  • Air-cured tobacco is hung in well-ventilated barns and allowed to dry over a period of four to eight weeks. Air-cured tobacco is low in sugar, which gives the tobacco smoke a light, mild flavor, and high in nicotine. Cigar and burley tobaccos are 'dark' air-cured.
  • Fire-cured tobacco is hung in large barns where fires of hardwoods are kept on continuous or intermittent low smoulder, and takes between three days and ten weeks, depending on the process and the tobacco. Fire curing produces a tobacco low in sugar and high in nicotine. Pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco, and snuff are fire-cured.
  • Flue-cured tobacco was originally strung onto tobacco sticks, which were hung from tier-poles in curing barns (Aus: kilns, also traditionally called 'oasts'). These barns have flues run from externally fed fire boxes, heat-curing the tobacco without exposing it to smoke, slowly raising the temperature over the course of the curing. The process generally takes about a week. This method produces cigarette tobacco that is high in sugar and has medium to high levels of nicotine. Most cigarettes incorporate flue-cured tobacco, which produces a milder, more inhalable smoke.
  • Sun-cured tobacco dries uncovered in the sun. This method is used in Turkey, Greece, and other Mediterranean countries to produce oriental tobacco. Sun-cured tobacco is low in sugar and nicotine and is used in cigarettes.

Some tobaccos go through a second stage of curing, known as fermenting or sweating. Cavendish undergoes fermentation pressed in a casing solution containing sugar and/or flavouring.

Global production

Production of tobacco leaf increased by 40 per cent between 1971, when 4.2 million tons of leaf were produced, and 1997, when 5.9 million tons of leaf were produced. According to the Food and Agriculture organization of the UN, tobacco leaf production was expected to hit 7.1 million tons by 2010. This number is a bit lower than the record-high production of 1992, when 7.5 million tons of leaf were produced. The production growth was almost entirely due to increased productivity by developing nations, where production increased by 128 per cent.During that same time, production in developed countries actually decreased. China's increase in tobacco production was the single biggest factor in the increase in world production. China's share of the world market increased from 17 per cent in 1971 to 47 per cent in 1997. This growth can be partially explained by the existence of a high import tariff on foreign tobacco entering China. While this tariff has been reduced from 64 per cent in 1999 to 10 per cent in 2004, it still has led to local, Chinese cigarettes being preferred over foreign cigarettes because of their lower cost.






















Every year, about 6.7 million tons of tobacco are produced throughout the world. The top producers of tobacco are China (39.6 pc), India (8.3pc), Brazil (7.0pc) and the United States (4.6 pc).


Around the peak of global tobacco production, 20 million rural Chinese households were producing tobacco on 2.1 million hectares of land. While it is the major crop for millions of Chinese farmers, growing tobacco is not as profitable as cotton or sugarcane, because the Chinese government sets the market price. While this price is guaranteed, it is lower than the natural market price, because of the lack of market risk. To further control tobacco in their borders, China founded a State Tobacco Monopoly Administration (STMA) in 1982. The STMA controls tobacco production, marketing, imports, and exports, and contributes 12 per cent to the nation's national income. As noted above, despite the income generated for the state by profits from state-owned tobacco companies and the taxes paid by companies and retailers, China's government has acted to reduce tobacco use.


India's Tobacco Board is headquartered in Guntur in the state of Andhra Pradesh. India has 96,865 registered tobacco farmers and many more who are not registered. In 2010, 3,120 tobacco product manufacturing facilities were operating in all of India.[41] Around 0.25 per cent of India's cultivated land is used for tobacco production.

Since 1947, the Indian government has supported growth in the tobacco industry. India has seven tobacco research centers, located in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Bihar, Mysore, and West Bengal houses the core research institute.


In Brazil, around 135,000 family farmers cite tobacco production as their main economic activity.[36] Tobacco has never exceeded 0.7 per cent of the country's total cultivated area. In the southern regions of Brazil, Virginia, and Amarelinho, flue-cured tobacco, as well as burley and Galpão Comum air-cured tobacco, are produced. These types of tobacco are used for cigarettes. In the northeast, darker, air- and sun-cured tobacco is grown. These types of tobacco are used for cigars, twists, and dark cigarettes. Brazil's government has made attempts to reduce the production of tobacco, but has not had a successful systematic antitobacco farming initiative. Brazil's government, however, provides small loans for family farms, including those that grow tobacco, through the Programa Nacional de Fortalecimento da Agricultura Familiar

Problems in production

The International Labour Office reported that the most child-laborers work in agriculture, which is one of the most hazardous types of work.) The tobacco industry houses some of these working children. Use of children is widespread on farms in Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Malawi, and Zimbabwe. While some of these children work with their families on small, family-owned farms, others work on large plantations. In late 2009, reports were released by the London-based human-rights group Plan International, claiming that child labor was common on Malawi (producer of 1.8 per cent of the world's tobacco) tobacco farms. The organization interviewed 44 teens, who worked full-time on farms during the 2007-8 growing season. The child-laborers complained of low pay and long hours, as well as physical and sexual abuse by their supervisors. They also reported suffering from Green tobacco sickness, a form of nicotine poisoning. When wet leaves are handled, nicotine from the leaves gets absorbed in the skin and causes nausea, vomiting, and dizziness. Children were exposed to 50-cigarettes-worth of nicotine through direct contact with tobacco leaves. This level of nicotine in children can permanently alter brain structure and function.



Major tobacco companies have encouraged global tobacco production. Philip Morris, British American Tobacco, and Japan Tobacco each own or lease tobacco-manufacturing facilities in at least 50 countries and buy crude tobacco leaf from at least 12 more countries.[48] This encouragement, along with government subsidies, has led to a glut in the tobacco market. This surplus has resulted in lower prices, which are devastating to small-scale tobacco farmers. According to the World Bank, between 1985 and 2000, the inflation-adjusted price of tobacco dropped 37 per cent.  Tobacco is the most widely smuggled legal product.


Tobacco production requires the use of large amounts of pesticides. Tobacco companies recommend up to 16 separate applications of pesticides just in the period between planting the seeds in greenhouses and transplanting the young plants to the field. Pesticide use has been worsened by the desire to produce larger crops in less time because of the decreasing market value of tobacco. Pesticides often harm tobacco farmers because they are unaware of the health effects and the proper safety protocol for working with pesticides. These pesticides, as well as fertilizers, end up in the soil, waterways, and the food chain. Coupled with child labor, pesticides pose an even greater threat. Early exposure to pesticides may increase a child's lifelong cancer risk, as well as harm his or her nervous and immune systems.

As with all crops, tobacco crops extract nutrients (such as phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium) from soil, decreasing its fertility.

Furthermore, the wood used to cure tobacco in some places leads to deforestation. While some big tobacco producers such as China and the United States have access to petroleum, coal, and natural gas, which can be used as alternatives to wood, most developing countries still rely on wood in the curing process.[54] Brazil alone uses the wood of 60 million trees per year for curing, packaging, and rolling cigarettes.

In 2017 WHO released a study on the environmental effects of tobacco.