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  World No Tobacco Day |01 June 2023

‘We need food, not tobacco’


The member States of the World Health Organisation created World No Tobacco Day in 1987 to draw global attention to the tobacco epidemic and the preventable death and disease it causes. Since then, every year on May 31, this day is celebrated worldwide.

Tobacco is the common name of several plants in the genus Nicotiana of the family Solanaceae, and the general term for any product prepared from the cured leaves of these plants. More than 70%  of tobacco are known, but the chief commercial crop is N. tabacum.  Dried tobacco leaves are mainly used for smoking in cigarettes and cigars, as well as pipes and shishas. They can also be consumed as snuff, chewing tobaccodipping tobacco, and snus.

In 1602 an anonymous English author published an essay titled Work of Chimney Sweepers (sic) which stated that illnesses often seen in chimney sweepers were caused by soot and that tobacco may have similar effects. This was one of the earliest known instances of smoking being linked to ill health. Upon its introduction into Europe, it rapidly spread across the world though universally unpopular at that time. It happened that King James 1 of England called it a barbarous custom while in Turkey, Sultan Murad beheaded anybody caught smoking in public. The governments in Europe in the 17th centuries imposed high taxes as profit potential on tobacco since the industry was expanding, while the Bristish officals had reason other than taxed for attempting to control production in Virginia, because the settlers were growing much more tobacco in 1629 that they were neglecting food crops.

For centuries, gardeners have used home-made mixtures of tobacco and water as a natural pesticide to kill insect pests. A “green” pesticide industry based on tobacco could provide additional income for farmers, and as well as a new eco-friendly pest-control agent.

Scientists describe a promising way to convert tobacco leaves into pesticides with pyrolysis. That process involves heating tobacco leaves to about 900 degrees Fahrenheit (482.222°C) in a vacuum, to produce an unrefined substance called bio-oil. The bio-oil was tested against the Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsadecemlineata), 11 fungi, and 4 bacteria, all of which are agricultural pests. Despite making good use of tobacco other than commercialising it as cigarettes, it remains a danger for human health due to the amount of toxic properties it contains.

The US Food and Drug Administration issued a final rule in June 2021 that requires tobacco companies to place new graphic health warnings on cigarette packages and in advertisements.

The Global Report on Food Crises (GRFC) for 2023 highlights that the number of people experiencing acute food insecurity and requiring urgent food and livelihood assistance is on the rise. The report indicates that over a quarter of a billion people are facing acute hunger, with economic shocks and the Ukraine war contributing to the increase. In 2022, around 258 million people across 58 countries and territories faced acute food insecurity at crisis or worse levels (IPC/CH Phase 3-5), up from 193 million people in 53 countries and territories in 2021.

By highlighting the theme ‘We need food, not tobacco’, World No Tobacco Day aims to draw attention to the fact that resources and efforts should be directed towards combating food insecurity and addressing the underlying causes, rather than promoting and sustaining tobacco use. It calls for a reevaluation of priorities and a collective effort to tackle the global food crisis and promote healthier and more sustainable lifestyles.

We need food not tobacco.


Climate Research and Innovation Institute Seychelles

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