PANAMA CITY: Farmers from different countries voiced their grievances over the “exclusion” and the “lack of transparency” in the WHO’s decisions about measures concerning tobacco cultivation, local media reported.
A group of premium tobacco producers and workers from a few tobacco growers’ countries, Colombia, Panama, Honduras and Nicaragua, protested outside the Panama Convention Centre, where the Conference of the Parties (COP) of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), is currently holding. The FCTC aims to safeguard both current and future generations from the adverse effects of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke by diminishing both the demand for and the supply of tobacco.
Article 17 of the Convention mandates parties to advocate for economically viable alternatives to tobacco. It stipulates that “Parties shall, in cooperation with each other and with competent international and regional intergovernmental organizations, promote, as appropriate, economically viable alternatives for tobacco workers, growers, and, where applicable, individual sellers.”
During the protest, farmers voiced their grievances over the “exclusion” and the “lack of transparency” in the WHO’s decisions regarding measures concerning tobacco cultivation.
Furthermore, they have urged for “common sense” to prevail in finding practical solutions and consensus regarding policies, without jeopardizing the livelihoods of millions of families.
Similar concerns are echoed among tobacco growers in Pakistan, where tobacco cultivation has historically been a cornerstone of the economy, contributing significantly to export revenue.
Growers in Pakistan fear that ratifying the FCTC could spell economic disaster for the country. However, they remain hopeful that Pakistan’s participation in the discussions will lead to viable economic solutions, considering the potential impact on the livelihoods of millions of families and the domestic economy if tobacco production were to be halted.
Fawad Khan, Spokesperson for Mustehkam Pakistan, an advocacy platform for marginalized and low-income communities, expressed that farmers responsible for tobacco cultivation may resort to drastic measures if the FCTC continues to uphold its stance on tobacco. Mushfiq Khan, a tobacco grower and Head of the All Pakistan Tobacco Farmer Association, also highlighted that reducing the demand and supply of tobacco would lead to losses in national revenue and potentially push tobacco farmers towards negative activities to sustain their livelihoods.