THE Tanzania Tobacco Control Forum (TTCF) has commended the International Labour Organization (ILO) for its commitment to stop relying on funding from tobacco companies and affiliated organizations.
During its 337th session held in Geneva recently, the ILO governing body validated an integrated strategy to address decent work deficits in the tobacco sector, without funding from the tobacco industry.
TTCF Executive Director, Ms Lutgard Kagaruki, applauded the move, saying that it will boost the efforts in the fight against tobacco and its related health risks.
Ms Kagaruki said that for the past few years, the global tobacco control community has been actively involved in efforts to get the ILO permanently stop its financial ties with the tobacco industry, noting that the efforts have finally paid off after the ILO governing body reaffirmed its commitment to end contracts with tobacco companies.
“With the ILO moving forward to implement its integrated strategy to address decent work deficits in the tobacco sector, TTCF is hopeful that the appropriate safeguards will be in place, in line with Model Policy for agencies of the United Nations system on preventing tobacco industry interference,” she said.
Ms Kagaruki said that contrary to the assertions by the tobacco industry that tobacco growing was lucrative, it actually perpetuates poverty and promotes food insecurity in homes.
She cited Tabora Region, a major tobacco producer, saying it has lower per capita income ($133) than the average for Tanzania Mainland ($162). She added that the region lost tress worth more than $10m between 2010 and 2011 due to tobacco curing .
“Although the tobacco industry has had several programmes in Tanzania, including Eliminating Child Labour in Tobacco Growing (ECLT) and ARISE, it is estimated that children comprise 45 per cent of the labour force in Tanzania’s tobacco cultivation; an indication that the tobacco industry uses the so called CSR not to benefit the community, but to justify its existence and re-invent its image,” she said.
In Tanzania, tobacco use is reported to cause over 14,700 deaths per year, almost 4% of all deaths in the country.
Ms Kagaruki, however, said that there was no country that has ever prospered from tobacco businesses, citing studies conducted at Ocean Road Cancer Institute (ORCI) and Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH) in 2009 which indicated that, 32% of all cancers were tobaccorelated, costing the government more than US dollars 40 million annually; within the same year, tobacco generated to the government US dollar 50 million only.