Supply vs. demand? The political economy of trade, tobacco farming and tobacco control in Sub-Saharan Africa

Presented by ANU College of Asia & the Pacific

Tobacco use remains one of the major public health issues worldwide. The World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) is a binding international treaty with recommended actions member states should take to reduce tobacco consumption.

Challenges to implement the FCTC have been most striking in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) with little prior history of tobacco control policies. Compounding these challenges are:

1.    Trade liberalization and investment policies that enable tobacco transnationals to diversify markets for their products in LMICs and to challenge national-level efforts to implement tobacco control measures to reduce demand.

2.    Economic interests of countries involved in tobacco leaf production and export, or tobacco product manufacture and export, weakening efforts to reduce supply.

3.    The widely-held belief that tobacco farming in many LMICs is essential to the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands small-scale farmers.

This seminar will present key findings from a multi-year study of trade, tobacco farming and tobacco control in three Sub-Saharan African countries: Kenya, Zambia and Malawi.

The countries represent different degrees of agricultural dependencies on tobacco farming and domestic tobacco control policies. The research involved document analyses, key informant interviews, tobacco farmer surveys and focus groups, detailed economic costing of tobacco farming, and textual analyses of positions taken on tobacco control measures at the World Health Assembly and the World Trade Organization.

About the Speaker

Professor Ronald Labonté is Canada Research Chair in Globalization and Health Equity, Professor in the Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa, and Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences, Flinders University.

His earlier work in the 1980s and 1990s focussed on health promotion, community development, community empowerment and social determinants of health. For the past 25 years he has led research and scholarship on the health equity impacts of contemporary globalization. Present research interests include health equity impacts of comprehensive primary health care reforms; health worker migration; medical tourism; global health diplomacy; globalization, trade and tobacco control; trade and food security; and health and foreign policy. 

For more information about Professor Labonté's work, please visit here.