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Aspects of smoking in developing countries in Africa.

Published Article
New York state journal of medicine
Publication Date
PMID: 6582385


This discussion of smoking in developing countries in Africa focuses on the cultivation of tobacco and the economics of tobacco smoking. The cultivation of tobacco in Africa has been encouraged in recent years by multinational companies, especially British American Tobacco and Rothmans, thus avoiding import duty on raw materials and conservation of scarce foreign exchange. In Nigeria, 60,000 farmers now grow tobacco on 120,000 acres. The 3 major deleterious effects of cultivating tobacco are: competition with cultivation of staple food crops, such as rice, millet, cassava, and guinea corn; displacement of necessary cash crops, such as cotton; and loss of timber through tree felling and bush fires due to ignited cigarette stubs and promotion of erosion and Sahelian migration in areas with already sparse vegetation. In the Sokoto region of Nigeria, tobacco thrives in the flood plains where rice would normally be expected to grow. Because tobacco provides ready cash, rice is a 2nd choice for cultivation. The net result of such displacement of staple food crops is that rice is now imported into Nigeria. Any development economist would rather cultivate rice than tobacco. Forest reserve has been lost from clearing bush to promote cultivation of tobacco and using wood fuel in flue-curing of tobacco. The ecologic consequences in areas bordering on the desert are disastrous. Yet, the spinoffs to the grower of tobacco cannot be dismissed. Most obvious is that cash returns for cultivating tobacco are better than for food crops. Because tobacco growers are relatively prosperous, they tend to stay on during periods of drought whereas food growers tend to migrate to the urban areas. The acquisition of modern skills is associated with growing tobacco. The multinational tobacco companies take pains to teach local farmers modern methods of land preparation. The fight against cultivation of tobacco can be won only by planned action. Recently, tobacco companies introduced programs such as block farms among tobacco growers. Farmers are now encouraged to grow other crops as well as tobacco, especially those related to food, in small land holdings. In the past 5 years, the tobacco industry has begun active reforestation programs since 3.5% of wood-fuel consumption is devoted to flue-curing of tobacco. Governments in the 3rd world have been slow to arrest the tobacco smoking habit because of large government revenues derivable from sales and manufacture of cigareetes. The consumption of cigarettes is underestimated in government or commercial statistics because smuggling accounts for 25% of total cigarette consumption.


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