Smokers' loss turns into farmers' gain

While research has time and again pointed out that products made of tobacco are dangerous to health, increasing cultivation of this cash crop has cumulatively added to number of smokers increasing.

With yet another ‘World No Smoking Day’ to be observed on May 31, it is time that the government focuses on encouraging growth of crops with nutritional value.
WHO statistics indicate that more than 10 lakh people die due to the consumption of tobacco.

Tobacco is among the most profitable commercial crops grown in the State. With ideal temperatures and environment available for growing the crop, tobacco grown in the agricultural district of Mysore has gained a lot of prominence.

Growing tobacco has also ensured that the farming community has become financially sound, however, at the same time, its effects on the society are equally dangerous.
According to a directive by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Central Government has to stop cultivation of tobacco completely by 2020.

In the State, the lion’s share of tobacco cultivation is undertaken in Hunsur Sub Division and Arkalgud Taluk of Hassan District. Periyapatna and Hunsur lead the way in tobacco cultivation followed by H D Kote, K R Nagar and Arkalgud.

According to reports from tobacco board, around 42,000 farmers are officials registered as tobacco growers. However, according to an estimate around 57,364 to grow tobacco unofficially, which outnumbers the official version.

While more than one lakh farmers cultivate tobacco, the region supplies around 125 to 130 million kilograms every year.

Raising his concerns about the issue, social activist M B Prabhu bemoaned that even though farmers have become financially secure by growing tobacco and the exchequer is filling its coffers through taxes, it is causing irreparable damage to the health of people. It has only increased government expenditure on the health sector, he added.

Instead, the government should help farmers switch over to alternate crops, he said.
Gynaecologist Dr S Saraswathi warned that smoking could cause cancer in various parts of the body and could also make people vulnerable to heart attacks and increase in blood pressure.

Despite the drawbacks, the government is providing incentives to tobacco growers indirectly encouraging them to grow it in nearly 80,000 acres.

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