International Conference on Shifting out of Tobacco

Impact of Tobacco Cultivation and Policy Advocacy for Shifting to Food and Other Agricultural Crops

The concerns about the harmful affects of consumption of tobacco products and tobacco cultivation in Bangladesh have drawn considerable attention over last few years. Since the efforts at the global and national level to regulate the use of tobacco products which include the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) entering into force in Bangladesh on 27th of February, 2005 and The ‘Smoking and Tobacco Product Usage (Control) Bill, 2005’ of Bangladesh passed into law a month later the Anti-Tobacco movement has gained much momentum.

 The Anti-tobacco advocacy and campaign have also been able to achieve some success. Although there are limitations in the implementation of The Tobacco Product Usage Control Law and therefore necessary amendments are suggested. At this stage, the issue of tobacco cultivation and its harmful affects have started being focused and UBINIG’s research findings on tobacco cultivation and shifting to food crops have received attention. Since 2006, with support from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Canada UBINIG has conducted research in three intensive tobacco growing areas Kushtia, Bandarban and Chakaria of Cox’sbazar districts. The successful efforts of the farmers were disseminated to different Anti-Tobacco campaign groups and to policy makers. But in order to have influence over the policy makers and to create awareness for wider public it is important to share the experiences of other countries in their efforts to shift out of tobacco and grow other crops including food crops so that the policy makers in Bangladesh are made aware of the global efforts on shifting to other crops. UBINIG felt the urge to share its findings at the national and international level through intensive sharing. So, holding of the International workshop was an opportunity to share, learn from others and also look forward for future strategies.

The general objective of the workshop was to draw the attention of Bangladeshi policy makers to the problems associated with tobacco farming and the potential that exists and necessity for shifting to food production. It was good that the research findings on the problems with and alternatives to tobacco farming could be shared by researchers from Malawi, and Kenya, and India and Vietnam could show the affects of tobacco cultivation on health.

The International workshop was held during 28 to 30 March, 2011 and on 31 March the foreign participants made a visit to Kushtia to meet the farmers and see the fields of food crops, where tobacco was grown before.

The Inaugural Session of the workshop was held in the V.I.P. Lounge of the National Press Club, Dhaka on 28 March 2011, while the Technical Sessions were held in Nawab Nabab Ali Chowdhury Senate Bhabhan of Dhaka University, Dhaka during 29 and 3o March, 2011. The workshop was inaugurated by Mr. Dilip Barua, the Hon. Minister for Industries, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. In the Inaugural session, the main keynote presentation was made by Farida Akhter, Executive Director, UBINIG on behalf of the UBINIG research team. The Nayakrishi farmers and the Nabapran Andolon artists jointly presented anti-tobacco songs in the beginning of the sessions to inspire the participants. There were about 150 participants in three days with very intensive discussion. There were representations of farmer researchers from the UBINIG research areas, district level journalists, NGOs, women’s organizations, Anti-Tobacco , campaign groups, agricultural economists and scientists and a number of policy makers.

The inaugural session was held at the National Press Club with Chief Guest Dilip Barua, Minister for Industries, government of People's Republic of Bangladesh, Special guest former Advisor to the Caretaker government Dr. Akbar Ali Khan and Prof. Kazi Quamurrazaman, Chairman Dhaka cummunity hospital as the chair

Experiences of Shifting out of Tobacco and other agricultural crops

Keynote by UBINIG

Farida Akhter, Executive Director, UBINIG presented the keynote speech on the Bangladesh situation of tobacco cultivation and its impact on food production. She highlighted the background of the introduction of tobacco cultivation in Bangladesh. Mainly three varieties of tobacco - Jati, Motihari and Virginia have been grown in Bangladesh. Jati and Motihari have been grown in Rangpur and Bandarban, while Virginia has been mainly grown in Kushtia, Rangpur, Jessore and Dhaka. Besides, tobacco is extending to Jhenaidah, Nilphamari, Lalmonirhat, Manikganj and Tangail. There may be about one hundred thousand farmers who cultivate tobacco. Rough estimates suggest that 25,000 are associated with British American Tobacco Company. Others are associated with about five more tobacco companies.

In recent years, 2007 to 2010 tobacco cultivation has been increasing. It has increased indiscriminately and abruptly at the cost of intrusion in land suitable for production of food crops. In 2006 - 07 tobacco production was 75,860 acres and 2007 - 08 there was 71,680 acre. In 2008 - 09 there was tobacco on 100863 acres. In 2009 - 10 tobacco cultivation was on 1,82,780 acres. That means there was an increment of 141% in 2009 - 10 as compared to 2006 - 07. It is surprising that there was no government policy to decide what crops are needed to be grown during these time and no steps taken to stop extension of tobacco.

UBINIG’s research, From Tobacco to Food Production in Kushtia, Bandarban and Cox’s Bazar areas in collaboration with the farmers since 2006 found out substitute crops for replacement of tobacco during the season when tobacco is grown. Sustained efforts succeeded for seed production and management in collaboration with Nayakrishi Andolon and Nayakrishi Seed Network. Shifting out of tobacco to food production continued producing food crops that were grown traditionally in the area with land race without chemical fertilizer and pesticides and no ground water irrigation.

It is urged that a comprehensive policy on tobacco control in general and control tobacco cultivation in particular must be taken up by the government.

Keynote papers by International participants:

Prof. Jakob K. Kiburage Project Leader, South Eastern University College, Nairobi, Kenya: :  ‘Potential of adopting bamboo production as an alternative crop and livelihood strategy to bamboo smallholder farmers in South Nyanza region, Kenya

The study has been carried out on 120 field experimental sites. The experiment included 1208 giant bamboo (Denchocalamus giganteus)  and 1243 common bamboo (Bambusa vulgaris). Two species of bamboo perform well in gentle slopes and flat farmlands but not on wetlands. Survival rates of common bamboo and giant bamboo was ranging between 69% and 94%, respectively. It is revealed that the two species of bamboo can grow well in soil and agro-climatic conditions similar to those of tobacco. It was also indicated that besides numerous economic advantages of bamboo, many social and environmental problems associated with tobacco farming can be reduced through bamboo production. The bamboo farmers in Kenya have been enjoying a better life than those of the tobacco farmers. It is interesting to note that there are more than two thousand uses of bamboo. On the contrary tobacco produces only poison, smoking or smokeless.

Mr. Oswin Madzonga and Mr. Duncan Warren, Malawi: Experiences of Shifting out of Tobacco to food crops

Tobacco production was introduced in Malawi about hundred years ago. At present about two hundred thousand farmers are involved with tobacco production. Twenty three percent of the national revenue is earned through tobacco. Tobacco produced in Malawi is exported to Rnssia, Tanzania and Kenya. The tobacco farmers in Malawi get political and legal supports. The President of Malawi personally encourages the Parliament Members for tobacco cultivation. This is really alarming for future of Malawi. We have been trying to find out alternatives to tobacco.


A. UBINIG Experiences on shifting out of tobacco

Paper 1: Rafiqul Haque Tito, Regional Coordinator, UBINIG, Cox’sbazar and Mujahidul Islam Prince Coordinator, UBINIG, Kushtia, Bangladesh

Shifting out of Tobacco: Strategies and Actions

The farmers can raise three crops during the season, which is used to produce a single crop of tobacco on the same land. UBINIG has been conducting action research in Kushtia, Bandarban and Cox’s bazar districts since 2006. The objective is to orient farmers to grow food and other crops shifting from tobacco. The farmers have experimentally proved that net return from cultivation of substitute crops like potato, maize, spices and pulses was higher than tobacco. The tragedy is that the farmers have been trapped into tobacco and caught in the vicious network of the tobacco companies. The findings of the action research of UBINIG need demonstration and up scaling in different areas of tobacco cultivation. 

Paper 2: Md. Mosharraf Uddin Molla: Economics of Producing Multiple Rabi crops by Substituting Tobacco in Bangladesh

There has been a quantum jump in the extension of tobacco cultivation in Bangladesh in the recent past. Tobacco was grown on 74,000 hectares in 2009 - 10 as against 30,000 hectares in 2001. There has been on increase of 68% in this period. Apparently it appears that the farmers are gaining higher return from tobacco compared with other crops but in reality it is not so.

The economies of producing multiple rabi crops combination by substituting tobacco was studied in Kushtia, Cox’sbazar and Bandarban districts. The study revealed that about 80% higher human labor is required in tobacco production and the tobacco farmers paid more than 21% higher wages per man days compared to multiple rabi crops cultivation. The tobacco farmers used excessive and unbalanced doses of chemical fertilizers. The total cost per hectare of tobacco production was more than 119% higher compared to multiple rabi crops including potato maize, lentil, coriander, French bean and felon. The Nayakrishi farmers got remarkably higher net profit from multiple rabi crops cultivation than tobacco on full and cash cost basis, respectively. They obtained more return of Taka 1.42 from per taka investment by cultivating the rabi crops combinations compared to tobacco.

B. Impact of tobacco on food security

Taifur Rahman

Does Tobacco Cultivation threaten food security in Bangladesh?

Ensuring food security through attaining self-sufficiency in food production is one of the most important policy goals of Bangladesh. One of the biggest risks, due to the recent trend of sharply increasing tobacco cultivation is a threat to the country’s food security. There has been a sharp increasing trend of acreage of tobacco production in Bangladesh since 2007-08. The expansion of tobacco cultivation means that lands are being gradually diverted from food grains to tobacco production. Thus a significant increase in tobacco cultivation is a threat to attaining self sufficiency in food grains through diversion of lands from food grain cultivation to tobacco cultivation.

Moreover, observations and evidences (UBINIG 2010) suggest that tobacco cultivation is harmful for soil fertility.

C. Impact on Environment and plant genetic resources

Paper 2: Sayeed Ahmed Baset, Executive Engineer, Local Government Engineering Department (LGED), Mymenshing, Bangladesh

Environmental Impact on Matamuhuri River for Tobacco and Shrimp cultivation     

Matamuhuri is one of the rivers that originated within the boundary of Bangladesh and created an environmental complex. Matamuhuri plays a pivotal role in the social, cultural and economical life of the peoples living in the basin. Intervention in terms of tobacco and shrimp culture has been depleting the environment of the basin for decades. The upstream of the river bank of Matamuhuri is entirely taken away by the tobacco companies for growing tobacco. The entire banks on two sides of the upstream, 80 km is now taken over by the tobacco cultivation causing serious hazard on ecology on different ways. Trees are logged, land cleared and tobacco cultivation is extended in forest area. Tobacco is processed in stages consuming huge quantities of fuel wood and cause deterioration of forest cover. Lange quantities of fertilizers and pesticides used in tobacco production pollute the environment and affect bio-diversity.

Paper 3: Dr. M.A. Sobhan: Plant Genetic Resources Erosion due to tobacco and potential for retrieval by food crops

Bangladesh belongs to the category of bio-geographical locations of the origin of biodiversity. These resources are now at risk due to environmental pollution, introduction of exotic genotypes, monoculture, aggressive introduction of hybrid species and varieties and climate change. On top of it, the monoculture and extensive cultivation of tobacco is the latest emerging threat to Plant Genetic Resources (PGR) of Bangladesh.

Tobacco has been extended at the cost of many crops including food crops. Tobacco is grown in monoculture. Huge quantities of chemical fertilizers and pesticides are used for tobacco production. All forms of plants including small and big trees have been logged for curing tobacco.

Nayakrishi Seed Network (NSN) supported transition in relation to providing seeds for transition and substitute crops. Nayakrishi farming emphasizes on local seed maintenance and has successfully developed a network of Community Seed Wealth Center, Seed Hut and farmers’ houses for seed saving. Further strengthening and consolidation of local seed system are needed to provide farmers with ongoing and independent access to seed of alternative food crops. The action research, “From Tobacco to Food Production: Assess the Constraints and Transition Strategies in Bangladesh” conducted by UBINIG with support from IDRC since 2006 has demonstrated the potential food crops in the research areas and also have shown the need to provide support for seeds and training the farmers for maintenance of PGR.

In order to prevent the present process of Plant Genetic Resources (PGR) destruction by tobacco cultivation, with needs of reversing the trend of tobacco aggression, restoration of soil quality, biodiversity and enhancement of environment, immediate actions must be taken by the Ministry of Environment and Forest and particularly the Department of Forest, the Ministry of Agriculture and other relevant organizations.


Kamal Uddin, farmer, Bandarban

The agents of the tobacco companies tactfully motivated us to grow tobacco. Initially we got attractive cash money. Gradually income margin is declining. Later we realized that tobacco production is not only harmful to environment but also to human health. Out of our own experience we see that cultivation of alternative crops like turmeric, potato, pineapple, etc one more profitable than tobacco.

Aminul Islam Gain

I am a farmer I live on agriculture. We are all aware of the impacts of tobacco cultivation on land and environment. We are also concerned about the adverse impacts of tobacco, smoking and non-smoking. I think tobacco is a poison. So I gave up tobacco cultivation in favor of growing food and other crops. I am also motivating other farmers to stop tobacco production in favor of growing food crops.

Tobacco is a long duration crop. It occupies the land from Vadra (mid Augest) to Chaitra (mid April). Three crops can be raised in this time on the same land in lieu of tobacco. Black gram can be grown in Vadra after the harvest of aus rice. Black gram is a short duration crop. Mustard can be grown after the harvest of black gram. The land may be used for transplanting boro rice after the harvest of mustard. These three crops can be grown in lieu of tobacco on the same land the time taken for growing the single crop of tobacco.

In this season I have harvested 8 maunds (one maund = 37.32 kg) of lentil from one bigha (33 decimals) land. I have also harvested 20 maunds of wheat from one bigha. This year has been a very good time for rabi crops. I have been benefited from this cropping pattern. I have earned food autarky for the whole year. On the other hand the tobacco farmer is totally dependent on the tobacco company for marketing of the produce. Tobacco has little value in case the tobacco company does not buy it. Moreover, tobacco can not be stored for next year for it degrades quickly.

I am a farmer. I should have some freedom of selling by produce. I shall store some of my crops in my own store. My sons and daughter are students. I need money to meet their educational expenses round the year. If I have some crops in my store, I can sell and get money immediately to face emergency.

Hear say, there is Tobacco Control Act. In reality, there is no existence of implementation of such acts.

It is also heard that there is a ban on publicity on tobacco. What we see in the rural areas the tobacco companies rewarding the smokers for returning the empty cigarette packets back to the company. These rewards included plates, tumblers, motorcycle, mobile phone, pressure cooker, etc. More people are attracted for smoking by the gift offers. My question, how this can happen where there is legal restriction in place?

There is also legal restriction for not allowing tobacco production in G.K. irrigation command areas. But there is tobacco in G.K. irrigation area again in violation of the policy decision.

I take the opportunity to refer to a statement made by an environmental activist in the previous session that there was restriction on distribution of fertilizer to tobacco companies. The fact is that the tobacco companies manage the fertilizer with subsidy with the help of the Cardholder Tobacco Farmers, from the fertilizer dealers. As a result they have no shortage of fertilizers. However, the shortage is reflected in the shortage of food crops.

We have to create awareness of tobacco menace among the people and motivate the farmers to grow food and other crops in lieu of tobacco. Our land is very much suitable for pulses, oil seeds, cereals, fruits, vegetables and spices. We should grow these crops in place of tobacco and ensure food sovereignty for the peoples.

Mymuna Begum, a farmer, Ruposhipara, Upazila: Lama, district: Bandarban

Tobacco production is a labor intensive culture. The women have to work hard in the tobacco field during growing stage. The work load increase further during harvest and curing of tobacco leaves in the kilns. Tobacco curing in the kilns is a continuous work for day and night without any beak. This tedious work is done mainly by women. The mothers of the small babies do not have time to care for their milking babies. The babies sometimes become unconscious after taking milk from the mothers who were constantly involved in the processing of tobacco leaves. Such mothers are confronted whether to attend the sick babies or to continue the on-going work of tobacco processing.

Last year one expecting mother in our village had abortion in course of continuous working in the kilns for curing tobacco leaves. The situation became so complex that she was moved to district hospital for treatment. She had to be operated in the hospital. This family had to sell their trees in the homestead and also sell their cultivable land in the field to meet the medical cost. Many women in the village become sick in the tobacco season because of their continuous work with tobacco, without proper rest.

The school going children can not go to schools for their engagement in the tobacco related activities. They go to tobacco fields early in the morning. Sometimes they have to forget breakfast and bath. Sometimes they become sick in the field and are taken to hospital.

Women are the worst affected by tobacco related illness. They suffer from ulcer, cancer, tumor and complex eye diseases. The sap of the green tobacco leaves is poisonous for eye. Direct contact on eyes cause irritation and develops complex diseases.

We have no place to go. We are caught in the tobacco trap. We find no way out. We are dying. Please help us to live from the tobacco crunch.

Anil Barua, Farmers representative, Bandarban

I am a farmer. I live in the eastern part of Bangladesh. It is a hilly area. I am a farmer close to the tobacco faming region. I have some idea of tobacco production. To be frank, tobacco production has been constraining some of our basic rights. Now we are at a critical point of saving our country from the adverse impacts of tobacco production. We must free our posterity from tobacco menace. Day before yesterday, our Honorable Minister for Industries had mentioned that he would stop allotment of fertilizer for tobacco production. What we had observed last year was that fertilizer allotment to tobacco farmers from Government stock was stopped. The tobacco companies directly managed non-urea fertilizer from the importers. They also got urea fertilizer from the Government stock through the Card Holder Tobacco Farmers. The tobacco companies tactfully managed the required quantity of fertilizer for tobacco production.

Trees from the Government forest have been ruthlessly logged for use as fuel for curing tobacco leaves. Now I have a question to the policy makers, do we have any rule to stop this destruction? We have a Ministry of Environment and Forest. What that Ministry is for?

Tobacco is an exhaustive plant. It depletes our soil nutrient status. It is harmful for our agricultural environment. It is harmful for biological diversity as well. I request the Ministry of Agriculture to omit the name of tobacco from the list of crops. The farmers should be given all sorts of support to get out of tobacco production in favor of growing food and other crops.

Niazi Sultana, Member, Tamak Birodhi Naria Jot (Tabinaj), Sirajganj

I am a rsident of Sirajganj District. Sirajgonj has been a famous area for growing boro rice in the rabi season. Recently, there has been a sharp change in the cropping pattern. Boro has been replaced by tobacco. Day by day tobacco acreage has been increasing.

Bidi factories are common in our locality. In most of the cases, the mother along with her children works in the bidi factory. The school going children are engaged in the bidi factory. The children are preferred as workers in the bidi factories for finer finishing of the produce. Moreover, the income of these children is very essential for the respective families to support the food security.

School going children are engaged in tobacco fields and bidi factories undermining education. Food and other crops should be grown in place of tobacco.


S.K. Bashar, Head of the Department (agriculture), The Daily Andoloner Bazar, Kushtia

Tobacco cultivation and Perspectives of Kushtia - our efforts to encourage farmers to grow food and other profitable crops

Total area of land in Kushtia district is 1,62,000 cultivable area is 1,17,002 hectares. Three or more cropped area is 98,066 hectares, two cropped area is 14,193 hectares and single cropped area is 3,783 hectares. Major elevation of land is medium-high, formed by the Padma-Gorai alluvium.

The medium-high land close to the banks of the rivers and canals are preferred for tobacco cultivation. The majority of the tobacco growers are middle class, investors of idle money and ordinary business men. Mirpur, Daulatpur and Veramara upazilas are major tobacco growing areas. Recently tobacco production has been extended to Kushtia Sadar, Kumar Khali and Khoksha upazilas as well. Annually tobacco has been grown on 22,140 hectares, based on average of last five years in Kushtia district.

Tobacco production was introduced in Kushtia district in 1980s. Areas of tobacco production have increased with time. Now tobacco is a threat to the production of food crops. Tobacco production is now being extended to adjoining districts including Jenaidoh, Magura, Faridpur, Rajbari, etc.

Now it appears that the tobacco companies have focused their extension of tobacco in the fertile areas of South Western region of the country. Last year tobacco was grown on 74,000 hectares. Among the tobacco growing districts Kushtia tops the list of 12 districts. In 2009-10, there was tobacco on 28,000 hectares in Kushtia, 6,535 hectares in Nilphamari, 6030 hectares in Bandarban, 5250 hectares in Rangpur, 2700 hectares in Mamikganj, 2541 hectares in Jhenaidoh, 2000 hectares in Cox’s Bazar, 743 hectares in Rangamati, 503 hectares in Rajbari, 823 hectares in Natore, 235 hectares in Tangail and 07 hectares in Jessore district. This is an alarming situation for our food sovereignty.

UBINIG, Nayakrishi Andolon and other like minded organizations have been relentlessly working with the farmers to shift out of tobacco in favor of growing food and other crops. In the meantime a total of 600 farmers have given up tobacco production and started food and other crops production.

Reasons for rapid extension of tobacco:

The tobacco companies have been offering some incentives to the farmers for growing tobacco. The field based workers of the tobacco companies maintain an intimate contact with the tobacco growers. Tobacco farmers are offered ensured supply of fertilizers even if there is scarcity of fertilizer in the country. The tobacco companies provide all the inputs including fertilizers, pesticides, cash capital for wage laborers to the tobacco growers just in the beginning of the tobacco growing season. Moreover, the companies procure the tobacco leaves from the farmers at a pre-determined price. In addition, the companies provide some other facilities to the tobacco growers and other members of the tobacco growing families.

Impacts of tobacco cultivation

Tobacco cultivation degrades the soil. Tobacco plant harbors a dangerous parasitic higher plant, Orobanche on the roots. Tobacco production is damaging the environment. High dose of pesticides are used in tobacco fields. Huge quantities of fire wood are used for curing of tobacco leaves. Trees are indiscriminately logged for supplying fire wood for curing tobacco leaves. Tobacco production is taking away valuable land from food crops production and thus creating food shortage. Tobacco is impacting human health in two ways: (1) creating health hazard during production and (2) by consumption of tobacco products - smoking and non-smoking.

Efforts to encourage the farmers to grow food and other profitable crops:

 The farmers can be discouraged from tobacco production in two ways: (1) restriction on tobacco production. In this context the Government has to take the initiative; (2) encourage the farmers to grow such crops that ensure equal return to the farmers.

The major crops alternative or substitute for tobacco include potato, garlic, onion, boro rice and vegetables. The net returns from these crops are higher than that of tobacco. Moreover, the environment is better maintained by the substitute crops than that of tobacco.   

Md. Mynuddin Hasan, journalist, The Daily Prothom Alo, Cox’sbazar

There is a policy decision for not growing tobacco on leased out khas land. In Cox’s Bazar district especially in Chokoria upazila, Tobacco has been grown in such khas land in violation of the Government decision. Effective measures must be taken by the local authority to stop tobacco production.

Humayun Kabir Himu, the daily Ittefaq, Kushtia

Tobacco is an introduced crop in Kushtia district. The main reason for intensive engagement of people in tobacco production is that there is little employment opportunity in other sectors. That is whey people are so much inclined to tobacco production. Even there is a problem of employment of child labor in tobacco production. Attendance in schools drastically reduces in the tobacco harvesting season. Tobacco is not only grown in Kushtia, bandarban and Coxisbazar districts, recently it has been extending in many new areas. It is a burning issue to stop the extension of tobacco cultivation.

Curing of tobacco leaves in the kilns is risky. There are frequent fire accidents in the tobacco curing kilns. During the tobacco harvest and processing season the entire locality remains vulnerable to fire accidents.

G.K. irrigation project was commissioned for growing rice in the boro season to meet food requirement of the community. The prime G.K. area is gradually occupied for growing tobacco. Consequently the people are made dependent on external supply of food.

The farmers should be given seed of food and other crops so that they can shift out of tobacco and grow multiple crops.

Mahmudur Rahman, Jaurnalist, The Daily Shamakal, Cox’s Bazar:

I am a resident of Cox’sbazar district. I learnt about forced indigo cultivation by the British colonial power from the text book. Now we see how tobacco cultivation is imposed on the farmers in my locality. It is a pathetic scene that how the most fertile land in Cox’sbazar is being taken up for tobacco production. Tobacco is not only occupying the land but also it is polluting the entire environment including water and air. The strong smell of nicotine at the time of curing tobacco leaves is unbearable by the adult, men and women. The condition of the growing children is much more serious. The lush green hills at Cox’sbazar has now become barren. This is because the trees have been mercilessly logged for curing tobacco leaves. Now it is common news that the herds of elephants are coming down in the plain land and damaging crop fields and dwelling houses of people. The feed of the elephants in the hills have been logged for curing tobacco leaves. Finding no food in the hills the elephants are coming down and attacking people. The plain land near the bank of the river Matamohuri has been occupied for tobacco production. Heavy dose of chemical fertilizers and pesticides are used in the tobacco fields. These chemicals are washed in the river. The aquatic biodiversity including fish are badly affected by the pollutants.

Goni Adom, Jaurnalist, Desh T.V.

The anti-tobacco campaign is still confined within the educated section of the society. We see the warning on the packet of the cigarette that smoking causes lot of harms including death. There is no pictorial presentation of the hazards on the packet of the cigarette. If would be letter if there were pictorial presentation of different types of damage on human body. Such presentations will have greater effect on those people who can not read and write.

Smoking of juniors in front of the seniors is not socially accepted. Smoking before attaining certain age limit is not also a good sign. The fact is that smoking has no social acceptance. In spite of all these facts smoking has been carried forward as a curse on the society. More effective advocacy and campaign should be carried out involving the young generation with a view to stopping smoking.

Ruhul Amin Rushd, Jaurnalist, Bangla vision T.V.

I am a journalist. I have completed my reporting, career. Now I am working as a news editor. Negative news is the best news. We highlight the negative news. In this workshop, Mr. Dilip Barua, the Honorable Minister for Industries had declared that the tobacco farmers would not be given any fertilizers. Such important news was not highlighted in the electronic and print media. I was not so frustrated in this news. We have to move ahead. We must not fall back. If we are committed we must be successful.

I have the pleasure to share one of my personal experiences. It happened seven days ago. My wife started taking betel leaf with tobacco and jarda. I expressed my disliking. I mildly tried to convince her to give up this dirty habit. However, I did not put any pressure to give up the habit of taking tobacco. I expected that she would understand slowly about the adverse impacts of tobacco. My daughter (6) watched a reporting event in the T.V. She very clearly understood the adverse impacts of tobacco. She approached her mother and did her best to motivate her mother for giving up betel leaf and jarda. My wife was very easily convinced by my daughter to give up betel leaf and jarda (Smokeless tobacco).

My mother had taken betel leaf with jarda. She had lesions on her mouth. Her doctor advised her to immediately give up taking betel leaf and jarda. As per the advice of the Doctor, my mother gave up betel leaf with jarda. I am an optimist. We ant to go ahead with firm commitment and we must achieve success.


A. Ministers and Parliament members

Inaugural address by Mr. Dilip Barua

Honorable Minister for Industries, Govt. of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

I consider it as a great privilege to be here with you in the inaugural session of the International Workshop on ‘Impact of Tobacco Cultivation and Policy Advocacy for shifting to Food and Agricultural crops.’ The three days workshop jointly organized by the International Development Research Centre (IRDC), Canada and the UBINIG (Policy Research for Development Alternative) is designed to highlight the impact of tobacco cultivation on environment and food sovereignty in Bangladesh. I count it as a great personal pleasure to congratulate the organizers, IDRC and UBINIG for organizing the workshop for such an important issue. I believe, meaningful public awareness against the adverse impact of tobacco will be created from this event.

The Bangladesh Chemical Industries Corporation (BCIC) will be instructed for not allotting fertilizer to tobacco farmers and to tobacco companies. The farmers need appropriate knowledge for transition from tobacco to other crops. Such crops must be more profitable than tobacco. I think food crops and in some cases spices may be the right choice. The Government of Bangladesh is also encouraging the farmers to grow the alternative crops in lieu of tobacco. The Bangladesh Bank is giving loans to farmers through the commercial banks for growling spices.

I appreciate UBINIG for its solidarity with government effort to discourage the cultivation and use of tobacco. I hope other social and environmental groups will also follow the example of UBINIG for stopping the cultivation and use of tobacco. I am really happy to see that representatives from India, Kenya, Malawi and Vietnam are participating in this International Workshop. I would like to thank you all for participating in this workshop.

Md. Rezaul Karim Hira MP, Hon’ble Minister, Ministry of Land

The most precious resource of Bangladesh is land. Thus proper use of land can ensure proper growth and development of Bangladesh. With this end in view the Ministry of land is now actively working for enactment of “Conservation of Agricultural Land and Land use law 2011.” This Law is expected to ensure proper use of land and save the land from degradation.

Commercial cultivation of tobacco was initiated in this country in 1964. Later on tobacco cultivation was extended to Kushtia district. Very soon the yield and quality of tobacco recorded a declining. At this stage the tobacco companies moved to Bandarban and Cox’sbazar districts. Another reason for shifting tobacco production to new areas is that curing of tobacco leaves requires huge quantities of fuel wood. The lattest extension of tobacco has taken place in Chalanbeel, Natore, Jessore, Jhenaidoh, Lalmonirhat, Rajbari, Manikyanj and Tangail. We are concerned about the adverse impacts of tobacco. The present Government is also committed to resist the tobacco aggression. Only the Government alone cannot stop the use and production of tobacco. A holistic approach is needed to stop tobacco. Along with the Government some NGOs have also been working to stop tobacco extension. In this context UBINIG (Policy Research for Development Alternative) has been working for cultivation of food and other crops by shifting from tobacco. As a result, hundreds of farmers have shifted from tobacco and started growing food and other crops. UBINIG deserves appreciation for its successful action research for growing food and other crops shifting from tobacco.

The Minister for Land Mr. Rezaul Karim Hira, MP as the chief guest with Mr. Bupender Singh of International Jute Study Group, Special Guest and Advicate Adilur Rahman Khan, General Secretary Odhikar as the Chair

Showkat Momin Shahjahan, M.P. Chief Guest

Tobacco cultivation is creating shortage in food production. Both use and production of tobacco will fall in case tax on tobacco products is increased. The farmers have to be encouraged to produce profitable crops in lieu of tobacco. Tobacco cultivation should be shifted from high fertile land areas to less fertile char lands.

B. Policy makers at relevant departments

Abdur Rahman, Assistant Conservator of Forest, Cox’sbazar South, Forest Division

Tobacco is grown on 1,82,000 acres annually in Bangladesh. Annually 5,200 acres of forest is cleared for other purposes. The rate of annual plantation of forest is less than what is cleared for other purposes. The Forest Department of the Government is now very much active against encroachment of forest land for tobacco cultivation. Many departments of the Government are concerned about the undesired extension of tobacco production. But there is lack of coordination among these departments. A coordinated effort is urged to stop the extension of tobacco.

Abdus Sobhan, Additional Director General, Department of Environment

High dose of chemical fertilizers and pesticides are used for tobacco cultivation. These are directly affecting human health and environment. Open water bodies including river, canal and others have been polluted by the chemicals applied in the tobacco fields nearby. Likewise atmospheric and others pollutions have been continuously taking place in places where there is tobacco cultivation. The rate of the use of chemicals is increased with time of cultivation. Consequently such lands lose fertility and thus productivity with time. The environment in the tobacco growing areas is now under threat.

In addition, huge quantities of fire wood are used for curing of tobacco leaves. Rice straw, wheat straw and other dried leaves and herbs have also been used for curing of tobacco. Consequently there is shortage of cattle feed leading to declining number of cattle heads. The best way to check the undesired extension of tobacco production is to support the farmers for cultivation of food and other alternative crops in lieu of tobacco. In addition the tobacco farmers should be restricted from bank loans and fertilizers.

Dr. Md. Akhtar Uz Zaman, Economic Advisor, Bangladesh Bank

We are aware of the all pervading aggression of tobacco. Chronically food security in Bangladesh is vulnerable due to natural calamities. In addition, the increasing extension of tobacco has been deteriorating the food security situation. The present mode of tobacco cultivation by the multination companies can be compared with the indigo cultivation in this country by the British. Public awareness in wider scale is needed to get out of the crunch. There is need of further action research to get out of tobacco menace.

Dr. Md. Rafiqul Islam Mondol, Director General, Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute (BARI)

In Bangladesh, tobacco is grown after the harvest of amon paddy. Tobacco is an exhaustive crop. It depletes the soil fertility. It takes huge quantities of nutrients from the soil but it leaves nothing to add on the soil. It has been mentioned that tobacco is grown after amon paddy. The amon paddy leaves behind some straw and roots in the field. These are incorporated on the soil. Thus the soil is enriched with organic matter. But in case of tobacco everything of the tobacco plants including the roots are also taken out for use. Total depletion of soil takes place in course of tobacco production.

Previously we did not have wheat and maize in our culture. These crops have been successfully developed and extended among the farmers. These are grown on the same type of land in the same time like that of tobacco. In addition mustard, ground nut have also been improved and extended. These are all essential food crops. These are offered for ensuring food security of the population. The Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARII) is engaged for developing varieties of wheat, maize, oil seeds, pulses, fruits, spices and vegetables. The Bangladesh Rice Research Institute is engaged in developing varieties of rice. The Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) is engaged in extending these varieties and production technologies among the farmers. We have all been sincerely working to increase the acreage and production of food and other essential crops.

The problem is that the Government agencies have been giving the technologies, technical services and other extra supports. On the contrary the tobacco companies are growing tobacco in a contract growing system. The companies have package deal with the tobacco growers. In fact, the farmers are caught in the vicious net work of the tobacco companies. In some way the farmers are also exploited by the tobacco companies. The tragedy is it is one way trafficking. Once a farmer enters into this cycle it is very difficult to get out. This contract growing system and unethical agreement of growing tobacco should be banned.

I like to conclude and express our happiness to mention that we have excellent varieties of different crops and technologies for the farmers. We have also seeds of these varieties of crops for distribution among the farmers.        

Dr. Mizanur Rahman, Chairman, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC),

The Tobacco Farmers do not have the right to grow crops independently. In fact, they do not have the right of independent decision. Direct and indirect violations of human right take place in terms of tobacco production. The tobacco companies tactfully avoid the harmful affect of cigarettes by referring to the filters. The tobacco menace can not be resisted only by legislation. There is strong need of public movement against tobacco.

Bhupendra Singh: International Jute Study Group (IJSG)

We are all well aware of the adverse impacts of tobacco production and use in different countries. Anti-tobacco rules have been enacted in different counties recently. I am happy to know that such anti-tobacco rules have been enacted in Bangladesh as well. I hope the people and the Government of Bangladesh will work united to resist the use and production of tobacco.


Dr. Akbar Ali Khan, Former Advisor of Caretaker Government

This workshop is very important for not only Bangladesh but also the whole world. This is because tobacco is a problem of the global community. Tobacco was introduced in this part of the world from America in sixteenth century. At about the same time we also got maize, potato and chili from the same region. Initially tobacco was used as a medicine. Now tobacco is a menace linked with the present trend of globalization. Tobacco production is a threat to agriculture, food sovereignty and health. The Government should enact appropriate legislation to stop tobacco use and production. A Number of government departments are concerned to stop tobacco extension but there is lack of coordination among these departments. It is better to assign a particular department of the government to lead efforts to stop tobacco production. In addition, there is an urgent need of raising the tobacco issue in the parliament for enactment of appropriate legislative instrument in order to stop the use and production of tobacco. Advocacy campaign for creation of public awareness against tobacco should also be strengthened. The campaign against tobacco should be so invigorated that not only agricultural land but also all sorts of land should remain free from tobacco menace.

Prof. Muzaffar Ahmed, Chairperson

Tobacco is not a crop. It is not even a commodity that we own. For the time, some revenue is earned but in the long run it degrades the land, forest is destroyed and it creates long term health hazard. The main role of tobacco production is to ensure profit for the tobacco companies only. All party forum may he formed in the National Assembly with a view to resisting the tobacco extension. Here the farmers will have a space to share their sad experiences of tobacco production.

Professor Dr. Kazi Quamaruzzaman, Chairman, Dhaka Community Hospital Trust

Tobacco production is badly impacting agricultural land, destroying our forest resources and also causing health hazards. Tobacco related diseases are major health concerns in Bangladesh. Cancer, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases have been increasing day by day. Tobacco is one of the leading causes of non communicable diseases. Extension of tobacco cultivation in Bangladesh is posing threat to food sovereignty, environment, soil fertility, ecological balance and public health. Bangladesh has signed the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2003. Bangladesh Tobacco Control Act 2005 completely bans smoking in public places. Advertising in electronic and print media and specific locations is banned. However, the Tobacco Control Act 2005 could not be implemented as expected for certain limitations. In the interest of tobacco control the Tobacco Control Act 2005 needs revision banning smoking and smokeless tobacco in view.

Prof. Dr. Zaker Hossain, Emeritus Professor

There is legal instrument in place against smoking in Bangladesh but there is lack of implementation. In spite of having such legal restrictions there is an increasing trend of smoking. The number of smokers is increasing day by day. There is a need of total ban on smoking in order to reverse the trend. Effective measures are urged to stop the use and production of tobacco.

Adilur Rahman Khan, Lawyer

Tobacco cultivation in Bangladesh has been organized by the tobacco companies in a system of Contract Growing. As per the terms of reference of contract the farmers lose their right to choose any other option for crop production. Moreover, the companies pay the price of the tobacco leaves to the farmers according to grades. This grading is unilaterally determined by the company alone. The right of the farmers is violated by the companies.

The Tobacco control law 2005 needs revision. All the vital points related with production and use should he addressed in the revision of the Tobacco Control Law.

Health issues related to Tobacco cultivation and use of tobacco products

Keynote papers by International Participants

Dr. Bhabna Mukhopadhyay of India and Dr. Kim Bao Giang of Vietnam presented the keynotes on health issues related bidi production to tobacco cultivation 

Dr. Bhabna Mukhopadhyay: The Economics, Poverty, Health and Working Conditions of People Employed in Tobacco Production and Manufacturing

India is third in acreage and production of tobacco in the world. Tobacco is cultivated in 16 states of India. Agricultural land has been degraded by continued cultivation of tobacco for many years. A total of 44 lakh workers are employed in tobacco related activities. Among them two lakh 25 thousand are child labor. There has been no effort in place for improvement of the life and livelihood of these workers. The tobacco companies in India claim that the tobacco farmers are much benefited from tobacco cultivation. On the contrary we have found from experimentation that cultivation of rice and other economic crops provide higher return to the farmers.

Dr. Kim Bao Giang: Health problems and health costs related to tobacco cultivation and processing among tobacco farmers in rural Vietnam

Tobacco cultivation causes illness of tobacco farmers through absorption of nicotine from tobacco plants. This is known as green tobacco sickness (GTS). Huge quantities of pesticides are used for tobacco production. These poisons create disorders of nervous, respiratory and other systems. The storage of dried tobacco leaves in the house creates breathing problems of the family members. The average annual area and production of tobacco in Vietnam is 18,000 hectares and 27,400 tons, respectively. The tobacco industry is planning to increase acreage and production of tobacco further. There was absence of intervention to improve people’s awareness against harmful affects of tobacco production. The main constraint to stop tobacco production was absence of suitable crops to replace tobacco.

It was found that tobacco production did not bring prosperity to the farmers. Rather it caused a lot of health problems of the farmers, more seriously among the women. The tobacco farmers know that tobacco cultivation provide very little financial benefit but they do not know about any other crop to replace tobacco.

There is need of advocacy for awareness and public perception about harmful social, environment and health affects of tobacco cultivation. Alternatives and other crop options may be provided among the farmers outside tobacco cultivation. There is also need of replicating this research in larger areas.


Dr. M. Mostafa Zaman, WHO

Tobacco is a deadly poison affecting each and every parts of human body starting from hairs to nails. Most of the cancers are caused by tobacco. Heart disease, stroke, cardiovascular diseases are mainly caused by tobacco. Most of the diseases of the respiratory tract are caused by tobacco. These harms are caused by direct and indirect smoking. To be born babies are affected by both direct and indirect smoking. Sometimes there is premature abortion due to smoking. Underweight babies are born due to smoking of pregnant mothers. The smokers in general, have ill health. They can not take hard physical works.

In most of the time they remain up set. In fact they have less potential to work.

Tobacco is linked with all sorts of adverse impacts. It does not do any physical benefit. Somebody may argue in favor of good feeling while smoking. But that vanishes as soon as the effect of nicotine is over. The question is that how much harm we can tolerate for such a temporary feeling of relief. This good feeling evaporates very quickly as soon as the impacts of nicotine erode out of the blood system. Soon there is hunger feeling for smoking again.

Moreover, the tobacco companies add some flavoring agents with the finished products. These things create further addiction. This is very sad for us that knowing full well we are taking poison and offering poison to our nearest and dearest. These poisons include carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide benzopyrin napthomine, etc. These are responsible for causing cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

It was estimated that 100 million people embraced death by disease linked with tobacco in the last century (WHO, 2009). About 5.5 million people die by tobacco related diseases, annually. This rate may increase in time. It may reach 10 million per year by 2030. This death will mainly take place in the poor countries like Bangladesh. Two thirds of the smokers live in 10 countries on global context. Unluckily we in Bangladesh belong to the gang of ten. We are champion on the wrong side of the scale. We are third in the list of smokers. There are more smokers in china and India. This is probably those countries have higher population than Bangladesh.

In terms of public awareness and policy decision, the situation of Bangladesh is not so bad. This is remarkable that we have been working for tobacco control before the initiative of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control by the World Health Organization (WHO). Tobacco has been used in all the countries across the globe. However, the intensity of use has been higher in the poor countries. About 25% people above the age of 15 years are smokers on global account.

Dr. Rezaul Karim, Civil Surgeon, Rangpur

Tobacco cultivation: An obstacle to Economic and Healthy life

An item of top priority may become redundant in time - a subject of irritation. This is true for tobacco. In this country tobacco was third in order of priority after jute and tea as a cash crop. In the northern region of Bangladesh, especially the farmers in the greater Rangpur district used to build new houses, buy new cloths for the family members with money earned through tobacco. The past scenarios are no more there. The conscious common people today know much more about the adverse impacts of tobacco than what I knew as a student of medical science. The credit for this public education and awareness about tobacco goes to those who have been working relentlessly for about a decade last.

Now I like to flash back to history. Indigo and tobacco were introduced in this part of the world long ago by the British colonial power in their own interest. The indigo cultivation was resisted by the people and stopped totally. But tobacco cultivation and use remained. Again, commercial cultivation of tobacco was initiated in the mid-sixties of the last century by the British American Tobacco Company.

The situation has changed a lot recently. The farmers and others have realized the adverse impacts of tobacco. The farmers are trying to find out alternative crop to tobacco. Gangachara, Kaunia and Taraganj Upazilas are major intensive areas for cultivation of tobacco. The farmers in these upazilas have selected potato for cultivation in lieu of tobacco. They have also selected sunflower, soybean, pulses and vegetables in place of tobacco. There is need of efficient marketing to these crops.

Bidi industry is an established sector of employment in Rangpur region. Alternate employment opportunity should be created there before phasing the bidi industry there. Advocacy campaign against the adverse impacts of the use of tobacco should also be invigorated in the interest of ensuring good health of the people.

Dr. Sohel Reza Chowdhury

Policy implication for reduction of smokeless tobacco use in Bangladesh

Smokeless Tobacco (SLT) includes a large variety of products and mixtures that contain tobacco and are used either orally or nasally without combustion. Various types of SLT products are used globally that include Zarda, Gul, Toombak, Nassi, Snus, etc. SLT products contain a large array of chemicals including nicotine, nitrosamines and nitrosamine acids, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), aldehydes and metals. Diseases associated with use of smokeless tobacco include dental diseases, pre-malignant oral lesions, oral cancer, laryngeal and pharyngeal cancer, esophageal cancer, lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, asthma, poor reproductive out comes and addiction.

Global Adult Tobacco Survey, Bangladesh in 2009 has documented wide spread use of SLT products in Bangladesh. The prevalence of smokeless tobacco users among adults 15 years or more was 27.2%.

The Government of Bangladesh has taken initiatives to reduce tobacco use. Bangladesh is one of the first signatory countries of WHO FCTC. In 2005, Bangladesh passed a comprehensive tobacco control law in line with FCTC and in 2006 passed rules to facilitate the enforcement of law. One of the main weaknesses of the law is not inclusion of SLT products in its purview. Amendment of the current tobacco control act to include SLT products and raising the tax on these products should be urgently done to reduce the use of SLT products.


Dr. Pran Gopal Dutta; Vice Chancellor, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, Dhaka

Tobacco is killer. It affects entire human body. Now people are much more aware of the deadly impacts of tobacco than any time before. There is rejection and objection against tobacco from every corner of the globe. People are horrified by the devastating impacts of tobacco on human body. Appropriate legislative instrument should be enacted to stop the production and use of tobacco.

Brigadier (Rtd) Abdul Malik, Secretary General, National Heart Foundation and President UFAT 

Both men and women in Bangladesh use tobacco. Men mainly prefer smoking while women are more concentrated to smokeless tobacco. The immediate impact of smokeless tobacco use is to create lack of appetite. Gradually they are affected by many serious health complications including cancer in the internal organs. The “adverse impacts of tobacco production and use” should be taught in the schools. Invigorated public awareness program against tobacco should be implemented at the national level.



Dr. Zafrullah Chowdhury: Health Specialist, Trustee Gonoshasthya Kendra Trust

The tobacco companies have been enticing the farmers to tobacco cultivation taking advantage of their poor economic condition. These companies have been offering different types of incentives to the tobacco growers. The tragedy is that tobacco is a poison from the field to the lips.

More or less we know about this menace. Appropriate legislative instrument should be enacted to stop the production and use of tobacco. There should be total ban on smoking in public. There should be total ban on smoking in academic institutions and offices, both public and private.

Farhad Mazhar, Columnist and Writer

Tobacco cultivation has been posing a serious threat to food sovereignty in Bangladesh. Tobacco is a poison. There can not be any legal right to produce poison. Ethically, it is a crime to produce poison. So is the case with production of tobacco. Legal internment of law should be enacted in order to stopping tobacco production. Collaborative efforts of both Government Departments and Non-Government Organization should continue with a view to resisting tobacco use and production.                               


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