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30M tobacco industry workers may lose jobs

FILIPINO tobacco growers on Monday joined a global petition against a World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation to regulate tobacco growing, saying the move would result in the loss of more than 30 million jobs.

“We will not take this issue sitting down. We will do everything we can to fight for the survival of the tobacco industry not only in the Philippines but in other countries, as well,” Saturnino Distor, Philippine Tobacco Growers Association (PTGA) president, said.

Even if the original mandate of WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) is to reduce smoking, its guiding principle stresses “the importance of technical and financial assistance to aid the economic transition of tobacco growers and workers whose livelihoods are seriously affected as a consequence of tobacco control programs,” Distor said.

The WHO proposals also include asking the governments to restrict or stop all financial and technical support for tobacco farming; mandate the seasons when tobacco can and cannot be grown; limit, then reduce, the land area where tobacco can be grown and reduce tobacco production.

Distor appealed to President Aquino to protect the interest of local tobacco growers, as the WHO proposals would virtually eliminate the tobacco industry.

He branded as “misguided, impractical and unrealistic” the WHO recommendations.

“The WHO has consistently turned a deaf ear on the pleas of tobacco farmers. Its proposals put the lives of some 2.7 million Filipino tobacco farmers and their dependents at risk without offering them economically viable alternative crops,” he said.

Asuncion Lopez, PTGA spokesman, said the proposals of WHO-FCTC would also trigger high incidence of poverty not only in the Philippines but also in other parts of the world because tobacco growers would not find a crop that is as economically viable as tobacco.

Earlier, the International Tobacco Growers Association called on governments to reject the proposals in favor of a more realistic approach to help tobacco farmers around the world.

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