International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA), which opposes some of the articles of World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), on Tuesday alleged big pharmaceutical companies are behind the campaign.

It said this was to reduce cigarette production and thereby increase nicotine patch sales which is used to help people quit smoking.

The FCTC has been adopted by 176 countries, including India since its inception in 2005. The measures are aimed at promoting alternatives to tobacco growing, production, besides reducing the acreage of plantation.

India is also one of the countries that have adopted the FCTC.

ITGA chief executive Antonio Abrunhosa said some of the NGOs with offices in hundreds of countries are also behind the WHO move which will threaten millions of farmers depending on tobacco farming.

“This is big war. Pharmaceutical companies always dream of replacing each cigarette with nicotine patch. They have been campaigning very heavily against tobacco for many years. They fund heavily for the campaign against tobacco,” Abrunhosa alleged while talking to reporters.

“We are poor farmers, we cannot fight with big companies. They have millions of dollars. But we have millions of people on our side,” he added.

The fifth session of the Conference of the Parties to the WHO FCTC (COP5) will be held from November 12-17 in Seoul, he said.

Abrunhosa said studies have shown that it is difficult to replace tobacco with other crops with the same level of income and employment.

He said the proposal if adopted would threaten the source of livelihood of millions of tobacco farmers and their dependent relatives globally.

India is the third largest tobacco producer in the world and thousands of farmers, farm workers and farm families depend on income derived from tobacco farming.

(This article was published on November 6, 2012)
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