tocacco plant Native American Tobaccoo flower, leaves, and buds

tocacco Tobacco is an annual or bi-annual growing 1-3 meters tall with large sticky leaves that contain nicotine. Native to the Americas, tobacco has a long history of use as a shamanic inebriant and stimulant. It is extremely popular and well-known for its addictive potential.

tocacco nicotina Nicotiana tabacum

tocacco Nicotiana rustica leaves. Nicotiana rustica leaves have a nicotine content as high as 9%, whereas Nicotiana tabacum (common tobacco) leaves contain about 1 to 3%

tocacco cigar A cigar is a tightly rolled bundle of dried and fermented tobacco which is ignited so that its smoke may be drawn into the mouth. Cigar tobacco is grown in significant quantities in Brazil, Cameroon, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Indonesia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Sumatra, Philippines, and the Eastern United States.

tocacco Tobacco is an agricultural product processed from the fresh leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. It can be consumed, used as an organic pesticide, and in the form of nicotine tartrate it is used in some medicines. In consumption it may be in the form of cigarettes smoking, snuffing, chewing, dipping tobacco, or snus.

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What is the government’s take on tobacco, cigarette consumption?

TOBACCO farmers might have a reason to hope that any move pushing for the reduction of tobacco production in the country will not succeed. After all, the recent Philippine national elections put into power a new president who regularly puffs the very end product of their industry. Will P-Noy, preferred nickname of President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III, a known smoker, heed their call?

The farmers’ fear is caused by the pronounced objective of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Council (FCTC), negotiated under the auspices of the World Health Organization, in which the Philippines is a signatory, to encourage ending tobacco consumption.

Commiserating with the farmers is the National Tobacco Administration (NTA), which is concerned particularly in FCTC’s Articles 9 and 10. Article 9 provides the establishment of guidelines for testing and measuring the contents and emissions, of tobacco products and for regulation of these contents and emissions while Article 10 pertains to measures requiring manufacturers and importers to disclose to government authorities information about the contents and emissions of these products.

Article 9 is sponsored by Canada which may bring into the international arena its local legislation, Bill C-32 that bans the manufacture and sale of cigarettes containing 5,000 flavorings and additives, including those used in traditional blended cigarettes.

For their part, the farmers early this year drafted and submitted numerous petitions to President Aquino and are hopeful that the new administration will consider the detrimental effects of reducing the tobacco production in the country.

The NTA earlier already reiterated its stand that it will continue to oppose any move pushing for the reduction of tobacco production in the country unless the Philippine government would effectively put in place measures that will counter the effects of such in the livelihood of thousands of tobacco farmers and stakeholders.

Through its Corporate Planning Department and Industrial Research Department, the NTA stated that unless a law is passed covering health matters relative to smoking, NTA will interpose objection to any direct campaign, measure or initiative that will result to the reduction in the production of leaf production by the farmers, without first putting in place concrete and specific measure or safety net to counteract the economic dislocation that may result from the campaign, especially at this period of economic adjustment and search for gainful employment among Filipinos.” The local tobacco industry provides livelihood and sustenance to 2 million people including 600,000 tobacco farmers and families. It generates more than P30-billion revenue in taxes annually which help the government fund its education, health, welfare, infrastructure and economic programs over the country.

‘P30 bllion is just a small fraction’

BUT, in the latter part of May, the Department of Health issued an administrative order calling giving tobacco companies until mid-July to put graphic health warnings on tobacco product packages, in line with an international treaty that the Philippines signed. The treaty states that it is required to use graphic warning signs.

Former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral said the revenues generated from tobacco taxes in 2009 are only small compared to the health costs and productivity losses caused by smoking.

Various agencies and concerned sectors have even warned the President with regards to his smoking habit and its ill effects to his health and to millions of Filipinos who look up to him as a promoter of healthy living.

Tobacco farmers’ take

“NO one is poor to a family that is innovative, resourceful and diligent,” said Andres Ventura, 49, married with four children, the eldest child being in high school, while the younger ones are ages 8, 4 and 1 year old. The family lives in Camanggaan, San Juan, Ilocos Sur. They make their living from tobacco and rice farming and by planting low-land vegetables. Ventura spends almost all day in their farm yearning for bigger produce.

A barangay councilman, Ventura is also a farmer leader. He started planting tobacco when he was still single. For him, planting tobacco is tiring work, but he is assured of the returns he obtains after the harvest. He is not worried about the market for his tobacco produce since there is a regular buyer. He also does not spend money to transport his produce the warehouse where he brings his tobacco is just near their house.

Ventura is proud that his eldest son is studying in a private high school in Magsingal, Ilocos Sur. The earnings he gets from tobacco helped his family for the education and their children’s other needs. He said that the rice and vegetables that he harvest from his farm are enough for the subsistence of his family.

An inspiring side of Ventura’s life story is his own generosity. Being the President of the Camanggaan, Barbar, Nagsupotan Farmers Association, the association which was organized through the PMPMI project, he was able to request for livelihood assistance from the Ilocos Sur governor’s office. Through him, they were granted 100 Sasso chickens which were shared among 6 members of the association interested in tending them. He saw how chicken production could provide income, and improve a family’s health and nutrition.

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