MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Asian farmers launched a campaign Tuesday opposing international tobacco treaty measures they say could devastate the livelihood of the region's 10 million tobacco growers.
The International Tobacco Growers Association said the campaign by its Asia chapter includes an online petition and YouTube testimonials urging governments to reject some of the proposals being developed under the World Health Organization treaty.
ITGA chief executive Antonio Abrunhosa said farmers are against proposals to limit the land area where tobacco can be grown and other curbs to reduce tobacco production.
The treaty known as the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control has been adopted by 176 countries since its inception in 2005. The measures aimed at promoting alternatives to tobacco growing will be debated by treaty signatories at a November meeting in South Korea. They would be binding only for countries that formally adopt them in a protocol to the treaty.
"We are calling on Asian leaders to defend the livelihoods of 10 million tobacco farmers in the region by rejecting WHO-FCTC's absurd guidelines," said Asuncion Lopez, ITGA's Asia spokeswoman.
Anti-tobacco groups criticized the ITGA, saying the tobacco job losses due to control measures are nothing compared to the millions of lives lost due to smoking.
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 other profitable crops require huge investments, bigger farms, and do not have large enough markets to absorb the world's 30 million tobacco growers.
Five of the world's top seven tobacco producers — the U.S., Malawi, Zimbabwe, Indonesia, Argentina — have not signed the WHO treaty. A drop in production from countries that have signed the convention can be offset by countries not bound by the treaty, Abrunhosa said.