Thursday, October 06, 2005

Tobacco control or Tobacco growing?

The European Union is still discussing whether or not to eliminate the 821 million Euros worth of subsidies that it gives to tobacco growers !

Eight-hundred-and-twenty-one-million a-n-n-u-a-l-l-y, yes, this was not a typo.

A debate that is taking place more than eight months after the World Health Organisation's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control entered into force.

Yesterday also the Spanish Congress adopted unanimously a new anti-tobacco law proposed by the Spanish government (enhorabuena to our friends from the Spanish Association against Cancer).

Measures such as additional restrictions to the use of tobacco in public places including the workplace, bans on tobacco advertising and sponsorship, and increased taxation of tobacco products are very good.

But the continued subsidies to tobacco growing represent a very obvious case of unacceptable and wasteful double-standard.

Our friends from the tobacco control NGO community could learn from the experience of the anti-GMO activists and ecological farmers, for example. The issue of tobacco subsidies has been dragging on and on for years. Maybe because it has remained just a cozy in-house subject within the walls of the European Commission and Agriculture Ministries. (Zero controversy = zero impact, I always say.)

Some will argue that if we don't grow it here we'll need to import. Well, you can say that of so many things that are not happening in Europe because we have principles based on value judgements, no? With this issue, like with many others, the European Union should do its best to be a role model for the rest of the world. To lead by example.

And I'm not even talking of the likely World Trade Organisation connection to this issue...

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