Are tobacco plants really poisonous?
Tobacco does not only harm its consumers, but also the farmers who grow it. The plant contains the poison nicotine adhering to the fresh green leaves which can be absorbed through the skin particularly in wet conditions (morning dew, rain, sweat). This may result in an acute nicotine poisoning known as Green Tobacco Sickness. It leads to dizziness, nausea, vomiting, headaches, and weak muscles.
This is particularly dangerous for the numerous children working in tobacco fields all over the world. Without protection and under wet conditions, workers can get into contact with an amount of 54 mg nicotine per day – the amount of nicotine contained in 50 cigarettes. Even if they don’t smoke themselves, after the harvesting season, the workers’ blood can contain as much nicotine as the blood of heavy smokers.
Furthermore, nicotine weakens the immune system and can boost cancer as well as metabolic diseases such as diabetes.
Very often, farmers do not have enough resources to buy protection gear. Additionally, they have to calculate the risk of nicotine poisoning against the risk of overheating. Particularly the children on the fields have an increased risk of suffering from life threatening heat strokes and dehydration.
Is there any fairtrade tobacco?
No, there is no such thing like fairtrade tobacco.
The label fairtrade indicates fair production conditions: health and safety measures for workers, no child labour, fair wages and prices. This is well known from coffee, chocolate or tea. But for tobacco there ain’t no fairtrade standards nor a fairtrade label.
Neither the cultivation nor the use of tobacco are consistent with the principles of fairtrade due to its negative social, ecological and health impact. Members of the fairtrade network, therefore, do not at all consider tobacco in their product lines.
Tobacco harms the health of its consumers. Cigarettes kill half of their consumers and cause longtime illnesses for many users.
Tobacco also harms the producers. Tobacco growing destroys the environment due to deforestation and the heavy use of pesticides. Futhermore, tobacco growing has a negative impact on the food security of the farmers and the whole population in tobacco growing areas.