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Forthcoming WHO Tobacco Control Conference and its Implications for Indian Tobacco Farmers

The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) is the international treaty under the World Health Organization (WHO) which entered into force on February 27, 2005. The objective of the FCTC is to provide a framework for tobacco control measures for implementation at the National, Regional and Global levels. So far 180 countries, including India have ratified the FCTC.

The Seventh Conference of Parties (COP7) of the FCTC is being held in Noida, India from 7th to 12th November 2016.

Tobacco Farmers should be allowed to participate in COP7

The FCTC decisions are made behind closed doors, with media, the public and tobacco farmers explicitly excluded from the process. This means that the views and interests of tobacco growers are not represented in the debates.

The decisions on tobacco control at COP7 will have effect on the livelihood of millions of tobacco farmers and farm labour connected with tobacco cultivation in the country.

Farmers should be allowed to participate in the deliberations of the Conference to help farmers understand the future course of actions being proposed by the WHO on tobacco control and the impact of these measures on the tobacco crop and the livelihood of millions that are dependent on tobacco in the country. The Government of India should prevail upon the WHO to not prevent the tobacco farmers from attending this Conference.

FCTC Article 17 & 18 on promotion of alternative to tobacco

Articles 17 & 18 of the WHO FCTC on alternative crops are coming up for discussion at COP7.

The original objective of Articles 17 & 18 was not to reduce tobacco cultivation but for concerned governments to help farmers find alternative crops to tobacco in case demand for tobacco was to come down. However, anti-tobacco activists and such bodies are seeking to influence governments to force tobacco farmers to shift to other crops which are not viable substitutes for earnings of farmers.  

Articles 17 & 18 of the FCTC pose a huge threat to our livelihood and cannot be considered without proper trials and experimentation that can establish the feasibility of sustainable and economically viable alternative crops.

FCTC Articles 9 & 10 on tobacco products ingredient regulation

Articles 9 & 10 of the FCTC will be discussed at COP7 for implementation by countries including India. The rules that are being drafted by the FCTC under Articles 9 & 10 for adoption by tobacco producing countries like India are very extreme and will have severe and adverse impact on tobacco farming.

These guidelines would effectively mean a ban on the tobacco that is grown today in India. Policy guidelines under 9 & 10 of the FCTC at the COP7 that impose any unreasonable restriction on tobacco cultivation should be summarily rejected by the Indian Government. 

FCTC Article 6 on increasing tobacco taxation

Though not in COP7 agenda, FCTC Article 6 with recommendations for imposing excessively high taxation on tobacco products will have serious livelihood impact for Indian Cigarette tobacco farmers. Indian Legal Cigarettes are already subjected to a very high and discriminatory taxation on cigarettes which has led to a shift of consumption to smuggled cigarettes which do not use domestic tobacco. The shrinking domestic legal industry has adversely affected the demand for locally-grown FCV tobaccos, causing huge distress to Indian cigarette tobacco farmers.

The Government should refrain from increasing cigarette taxes further in order to stabilize the domestic tobacco market and provide the much-needed relief to the distressed FCV tobacco farmers in the country by combatting the surging illegal cigarette trade.