Abuja, Nigeria – In a groundbreaking move, stakeholders represented by the Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance (NTCA) are advocating for a shift away from tobacco farming towards sustainable and healthy crops. During a press briefing to commemorate the 2023 World No Tobacco Day, held under the captivating theme “Nigeria Needs Food, Not Tobacco,” the stakeholders highlighted the urgent need to prioritize nutritious and sustainable cropping practices.


Akinbode Oluwafemi, Chairman of NTCA, emphasized the deceptive nature of the tobacco industry’s portrayal of economic prosperity among tobacco farmers. In reality, these farmers live in poverty. The cultivation of tobacco exposes them to numerous risks, including green tobacco sickness, respiratory issues, and neurological disorders caused by the absorption of toxins during cultivation.


Drawing attention to Article 17 of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, Oluwafemi stressed the importance of promoting economically viable and sustainable alternatives for tobacco farmers. However, due to a lack of critical data on the extent of tobacco farming in Nigeria, it becomes challenging to identify and implement effective interventions for these farmers.


Oluwafemi called on the Federal Ministry of Health and relevant agencies responsible for implementing the National Tobacco Control Act to collaborate, share information, and allocate resources cohesively to ensure the effective implementation of tobacco control laws. He also appealed to President Tinubu to champion the strengthening and enforcement of these laws, safeguarding the health of all Nigerians.


Hilda Ochefu, the sub-regional coordinator for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, echoed the sentiments, lamenting the dire economic situation faced by tobacco farmers. She emphasized the need to reallocate the vast hectares of land currently dedicated to tobacco farming towards food production. Ochefu also urged President Tinubu to support farmers in the transition process.


Peter Unekun-Ojo, the project specialist from Management Science for Health, highlighted the devastating consequences of tobacco farming, including disease, death, and poverty. He echoed the urgent need for mapping tobacco lands and farmers in Nigeria, facilitating a swift and appropriate transition to alternative crops.


As Nigeria takes this momentous step towards sustainable farming practices, the stakeholders anticipate a future where nutritious crops flourish, poverty diminishes, and the health and well-being of Nigerians are protected.