By Kim Tae-gyu
The world is proactively making it tougher for smokers to light up with a positive reaction from some and bitter opposition from others.
Understandably, tobacco companies and most smokers do not welcome such measures and also on their side are the growers of tobacco leaves.
The Korea Tobacco Growers Organization (KTGO), which represents around 5,000 tobacco farmers here, said in a news release Wednesday that they are against the new proposals from World Health Organization (WHO) on smoking.
The Seoul-based outfit claimed that the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) will end up substantially cutting the income of Korean tobacco farmers, threatening their livelihood.
The announcement came two months before the FCTC meeting in Seoul during which 160-plus members from across the world will convene to discuss ways of regulating the tobacco industry and cigarette consumption.
``The current proposals go far beyond the FCTC’s original mandate. They are designed to force all governments to put the tobacco farming industry out of business without providing us with any economically viable alternative crop,’’ KTCO Chairman Lee Haw-kwon said.
``If the unreasonable proposals pass during the FCTC’s upcoming fifth Conference of Parties, which takes place in Seoul in November, it will put more than 30 million farmers at risk including Korean tobacco farmers who have been in the industry for more than 400 years.’’
According to Lee, the original goals of the FCTC states that governments have to provide 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 policies.
Yet, Lee continued to say, the newly-suggested FCTC Articles 17 an 18, supposed to help tobacco growers, lack such steps which he contends will generate further outcry from tobacco farmers in Korea and other countries.
Lee asked the Seoul administration to oppose the new proposal in Article 17 and 18, which he claims wrongly assumes that the reduction of tobacco farming households will automatically lead to a decrease in cigarette consumption.
``The new proposal will ruin the tobacco farming industry as well as destroy the lives of tobacco farming households as it bans financial or technical support for farmers,’’ Lee said.
“We will join the International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA) to launch a global campaign, with a petition available online and through growers associations. The petition calls on government leaders around the world, including Korea, to reject these irrational and destructive proposals in favor of a more realistic approach that will help tobacco farmers.”
ITGA CEO Antonio Abrunhosa has published similar opinions.
``The WHO has consistently refused to listen to tobacco growers in drafting the proposals that directly impact our lives. By doing so, they act like a blind man driving a steamroller without paying any attention to the consequences of their folly,” he said when he visited Korea in July.