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OVER 3,000 chemical substances, many of which cause cancer are found in tobacco when manufactured into cigarettes, according to Professor of Physiology and Cardiovascular Health at the University of Zambia, Fastone Goma.
Prof Goma said tobacco was the most toxic crop and its use was known to cause more than 100 diseases and 40 different cancers, causing death to its consumers.
He said tobacco causes harm at every stage of its life cycle, from cultivation to disposal, linking to an ever increasing list of diseases, and burdens health systems.
Prof Goma said to this effect, Zambia was a signatory to, and has ratified, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, an international and binding legal treaty under the auspice of the World Health Organisation.
The treaty has obliged countries that have ratified the treaty were not to provide any incentives to tobacco companies, which extends to offering them tax exemptions.
Prof Goma noted that foreign markets were interested in the tobacco leaf, not the finished product, as an export crop, adding most of the tobacco farmers were still living in poverty.
He said the treaty also commits Zambia’s government to incentivise the production and creation of value chains for alternative crops to tobacco, to assist tobacco farmers in diversifying their cash-paying crops.
He stated that most of the farmers according to the study do not want to continue growing tobacco, but instead want the government to provide them with assistance to grow other cash crops.
Prof Goma added that most smallholder tobacco farmers either make very little in profit, or end each growing year in debt to the leaf-buying companies that supply them on credit with inputs at the start of the season.
“The UN Food and Agricultural Organisation finds that, in 2015, tobacco contributes only 0.4 percent, a tiny amount and hardly worth the many deaths its production and use leads to, and therefore notions about growing the economy was not true,” he said.
Source: SANDRA MACHIMA || Daily Nation, Zambia