POLITICS AS USUAL: TOBACCO ECONOMICS

By Sahani Lungu (Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocate)

Fact, in Malawi, agriculture contributes to 1/3rd of the country’s GDP and up to 80% of the total revenue.  Tobacco is the main cash crop contributing to approximately 47% of the total forex revenue each year. In 2018, tobacco revenue reached a record high of USD 337.5 million,  up from the USD 212.4 million in the previous year, raising it’s forex contribution to 60%. Another fact is tobacco ‘ s success or lack thereof on the market has adverse effects on the Malawi economy. In some quarters tobacco is referred to as a “Political Crop.” The crop itself is politically sensitive,  this is because tobacco revenue has the power to either make or break the country’s economy. The outcome of which is reflected in the country’s inflation economics thereby dictating the direction of mainstream political rhetoric.

It is not surprising therefore that from a political point of view,  there is little effort towards enacting stringent laws or policies that regulate the use of tobacco products. This can be in part, due to to the perceived fear such regulations might have on the country’s tobacco economics. The well known piece of legislation is the “Tobacco Act” which regulates the growing and exportation of tobacco,  mainly because this where the “money is at.” Even at that,  the act mainly covers tobacco production quotas and tobacco pricing and little to do with health protection of smokers,  regulating public smoking or protecting the health of farmers and laborers (who are mostly underage children) who get exposed to nicotine that permeates through the skin when handling tobacco in in the field. Foreign firms buy tobacco from Malawi for use in manufacturing cigarettes. If you have been reading the publications on on this site,  by now you know that there is a worldwide campaign against smoking tobacco cigarettes because of the known harmful effects that nicotine contained in tobacco cigarettes has on the human body.

Using scientific based evidence on the harmful effects of tobacco smoking,  international lobbyists have led anti-smoking advocacy campaigns that have resulted in countries adopting laws and policies that regulate consumption of tobacco products. The World Health Organization (WHO) in its effort to end the tobacco epidemic,  entered into force the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in February 2005. The FCTC provides legal dimension for international health cooperation on regulations that extend to; monitoring use and prevention policies,  protecting people from tobacco use,  offering help to quit tobacco use, warnings about the dangers of tobacco,  enforcing bans on Tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship and also raising taxes on tobacco. In Malawi however, little is being done to implement the provisions of the FCTC. There is no national agency focused on tobacco use control, there are no restrictions on smoking in public places,  advertising or promotion. There is no law that requires tobacco packaging to display a warning or the associated risks. And there are no laws requiring a minimum tobacco exercise tax rate. On the international front, such laws have contributed to a significant drop in the number of people who smoke,  increase in those who attempt to quit and those who quit entirely or adopt other scientifically proven ways of curbing the nicotine urge. As of 2015, it stated that 21% of the word population smoked and it was projected that the figure will drop to 17% by 2030. This inadvertently is contributing to the drop in on the demand and prices of raw tobacco worldwide. For Malawi (a country largely dependent on Tobacco exports and in the  top ten of the largest tobacco growers in the world),  this not a good sign both politically and economically. Even though tobacco revenue was at a record high this year, government cannot guarantee the same for next year or in the long-run.

This year,  Malawi through the Tobacco Association of Malawi eyed for a slot at the FCTC. This need for a seat at the table was not as one would assume to discuss how Malawi will implement measures to safeguard the health of the population from tobacco harm. Their need for a seat was to, as they framed it as “to enhance a strategic exist of the industry and preserve the economic wellbeing of growers in in the country. At the surface, protecting the poor farmers is all noble and good, but the bottom line is they were aiming to safeguard the economic and political interests of the country. This because WHO is known to make drastic decisions with regards to meeting the set goals  of the FCTC.

It should be noted that Malawi is not and cannot be invisible to the pressure from anti-smoking lobbyists. It is high time Malawi had had a real political discussion on the need to first of all adopt policies that protect its people from the harmful effects of tobacco (which leads to up to 5, 700 related preventable deaths annually) right from the field during during the handling of tobacco and also regulate the consumption of tobacco. Secondly,  the country needs to boost up efforts towards the finding and  farming of substitute cash crop a in order to reduce the tobacco over reliance. Better yet,  the country can invest in developing other areas such as the service industry, industrialization and tourism so as to maximize their forex earning capacity.

Phiri F, Stoddard E & Fenton S (2018) Malawi Tobacco Revenue Jumps 60 Pct This Year. Retrieved from: www.reuters.com/article/malawi-tobacco-revenue-jumps-60-pct-this-year-idUSLBN1WQ24/

Mzale D (2014) Tobacco Contribution Down to 47%. Retrieved from: https://mwnation.com/tobacco-contribution-forex-47/

Jimu C (2016) Malawi Vows to Continue Growing Tobacco. Retrieved from: https://mwnation.com/malawi-vows-to-continue-growing-tobacco/

World Health Organization (2018) Tobacco. Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/tobacco

Statista (2018) Smoking- Statistics & Facts. Retrieved from: https://www.statista.com/topics/1600/smoking/

Mangazi C (2018) Tama Eyes FCTC Slot. Retrieved from: www.times.mw/tama-eyes-fctc-slot/

Drope J, Makoka D, Lencucha R & Appau A (2016) Farm-Level Economics of Tobacco Production in Malawi. Revised edition.  Presented by: Center for Agricultural Research and Development (CARD). Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR).

 

The KAC Global Tobacco Harm Reduction Scholarship Programme 2019

Recent years have seen advances in the scientific understanding of products used for tobacco harm reduction, including laboratory-based and clinical studies of their effects and safety, behavioral studies of how and why they are used in different populations and contexts, epidemiological studies into patterns of use, and the relationship between the use of these products and changes in tobacco smoking. Continue reading The KAC Global Tobacco Harm Reduction Scholarship Programme 2019

Tobacco Free Kids

More than 5,000 children within the age range of 10 to 15 smoke tobacco in Malawi- Tobacco Atlas. Continue reading Tobacco Free Kids

Protecting non-smokers from secondhand smoke

Although some research studies have established a strong relationship between smoking and alcohol consumption, it is also important to pin point that not all alcohol consumers are smokers. It is interesting to learn that some liquor outlets in Malawi, like the one in the image above, which is located at Bwandilo in Lilongwe, recognize the harmful effects of smoking and have declared their alcohol drinking spaces as smoke free zones. Other liquor outlet owners should emulate from this thoughtful and good practice.

Sweet deadly sensation

By Sahani Lungu (Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocate) 

There is compounding scientific evidence that smokers enjoy their habit because it stimulates the flow of feel good chemicals in the brain. This feel good factor becomes a blissful substitute for stress and anxiety. Smoking in a way provides smokers a sweet escape from everyday rational and emotional quagmire. This is because the chemicals in the cigarettes target the brain’s natural system of chemicals called endogenous opioid, which is responsible for relieving painful sensations and heightening positive emotions. Continue reading Sweet deadly sensation

Cigarette butts; a threat to the health of under-five children.

By Vita Mithi (THR_Malawi Volunteer Ambassador)

Imagine this; you are a tobacco farmer or you are a manager at one of cigarette manufacturing companies in one of the poorest countries, each year, profits from tobacco made cigarette keep increasing because increasing populations of adolescents are initiated into smoking.  You take a walk in a semi-urban setting you find that your child has a fresh cigarette butt in his or her hand which has been littered by a smoker.

Later on the child falls sick and is diagnosed with multi drug resistant tuberculosis and lung cancer. Click Cigarette butt; a threat to the health of under-five children to learn more….

MUSICIAN’S ROLE ON TOBACCO SMOKING

By Lonjezo Idrissa

When different song artists started writing and producing their own songs for their societies, the music industry used to be one of the major channels for disseminating important information about education, life lessons, experiences and advises that helped to develop many lives of people. The songs played a significant part in the everyday lives of people across age, class, religion and ethnicity.  Continue reading MUSICIAN’S ROLE ON TOBACCO SMOKING

Malawi VP views on tobacco harms

“We are mindful of the anti smoking lobby and the dangers associated with smoking in terms of nicotine. We are also aware that we need to diversify away from tobacco and that is being done”. Saulos Chilima- Vice President of the Republic of Malawi.

Let’s deal with cigarette addiction

By Dumase Gzambo Mapemba.

He is a lung cancer patient under chemotherapy, bedridden in the medical ward at Kamuzu Central Hospital where he is battling for his life, doctors established that he is suffering from the deadly disease because of tobacco smoking. Shockingly, he periodically sneaks out of the hospital to source tobacco cigarettes in order to satisfy his crave for smoking. Continue reading Let’s deal with cigarette addiction

Wheel of Tobacco Regulation

We must take the initiative to use these interventions more vigorously. This will require governments, civil society, researchers to work together. The Tobacco Atlas

Tobacco Smoking as a Superstition/ Medicine

By Vita Mithi

Tobacco smoking is understood to have superstitious elements in some parts of rural Rumphi and Balaka districts. Superstition can be defined as any belief or practice that is considered absurd to scientists; it can also be referred to as a religion not practiced by the majority of a given society regardless of whether the prevailing religion contains irrational beliefs. Continue reading Tobacco Smoking as a Superstition/ Medicine

Effects of second-hand smoke

By Dumase Gzambo Mapemba and Chimwemwe Ngoma

As published in the Malawi News on 15 September, 2018

“Second-hand Smoke (SHS) is one of the most important and most widespread exposures in the indoors environment. The link between secondhand smoke and several health outcomes such as respiratory infections, heart diseases, lung cancer and asthma have long been established” reads the Global Health Observatory (GHO) data by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Continue reading Effects of second-hand smoke

Mkamanga’s testimony on tobacco harms

On 5 September, 2018, Tobacco Harm Reduction team had an opportunity to converse with Mr. Kumbukani Mkamanga, a Nursing Officer, medical ward at Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe. During the interaction, Mkamanga mentioned that most of the patients he receives in the ward suffer from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and lung cancer which are caused by smoking and inhaling of tobacco smoke. Continue reading Mkamanga’s testimony on tobacco harms

THE AGONY BEHIND SMOKING TOBACCO IN MALAWI

By Lonjezo Idrissa

In a country like Malawi, some people get initiated to tobacco smoking at a very tender age, some as young as 10 years old. As they grow up, the behavior continues, this makes them to grow addiction over time. Other people reach the extent of smoking more than four or five times a day when they become addicted, Continue reading THE AGONY BEHIND SMOKING TOBACCO IN MALAWI

NCDI and poverty.

Minister of Health and Population, Hon. Atupele Muluzi making a speech at the NCDI Poverty Commission Report Launch.

” There is a common misconception that Non-Communicable Diseases and Injuries(NCDI’s) are diseases for the well to do and people living in urban areas because of unhealthy life styles like smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and unhealthy foods. But this is not the case, they are diseases affecting the whole population”. Hon. Atupele Muluzi.

NCDI’s and programmatic funding.

Dr. Jones Masiye,NCDI Commission chairperson making a presentation of the NCDI Poverty Commission Report.

“The disease burden caused by Non Communicable Diseases and Injuries (NCDI) is more than 30% but the programmatic funding allocated for the NCDI’s is less than 1%. Why can’t we advocate for heavy taxes on tobacco products and channel the revenue to support NCDI . Dr. Jones Masiye.

Introducing our Agricultural Transformation Initiative (ATI)

As part of Foundation for a Smoke-Free World’s mission of ending smoking in this generation, the Foundation supports efforts to diversify tobacco economies and lessen the reliance of smallholder farmers on the tobacco sector. This requires much more than simple crop substitution, and the Foundation’s approach incorporates aspects of science, technology, innovation, and commercialization to view what is fundamentally an economic question through an economic lens.

Continue reading Introducing our Agricultural Transformation Initiative (ATI)

Tobacco smoking and the under aged

He is 13 and comes from an affluent family. He goes to one of the prestigious high schools in Blantyre. His family is spending a fortune to send him to this high school forgoing a luxurious life they can afford to live.

The parents get the shock of their lives when they are called by school authorities informing them that their son has been caught in his room with some of his friends smoking Chamba (weed). The son is dismissed from school.

This is not an isolated case of Chamba and tobacco smoking in Malawi among under aged children. A recent report by the Tobacco Atlas revealed that more than 5, 000 children within the age bracket of 10 to 14 years smoke tobacco in Malawi. Continue reading Tobacco smoking and the under aged

Celebrating Creativity and Innovation in a Smoke-Free Zone at the Ufulu Festival

 

A smoking ban notice at the the 2018 Ufulu Festival

This year’s independence celebrations brought with it a number of attractive and well organized events, one of which is the Ufulu Festival which took place at the Civil Stadium in Lilongwe. The festival was patronized in large numbers with the youth in majority. The organizers of the event brought on stage high quality performers, artistic artwork, not to mention the excellent sound system. Creativity and innovation was displayed and celebrated throughout the event.

It is important to commend the organizers of the 2018 Ufulu event for giving the audience a show to remember and giving a good example to other social event organizers by creating a smoke free and a drug abuse free zone. Continue reading Celebrating Creativity and Innovation in a Smoke-Free Zone at the Ufulu Festival