Cash Crops: May 31st is World No Tobacco Day

As the title says, May 31st is World No Tobacco Day, a day to advocate the end of tobacco usage.  And in 2023, end its farming.

The WHO’s slogan for 2023 is Grow Food, Not Tobacco, which is apt considering the increasing effects of climate change: the reduction in arable land due to desertification, drought, rising sea levels, and tobacco’s toxicity, just to name a few.  Food insecurity is a growing problem, and growing a useless plant like tobacco is a waste of declining resources.  From the WHO’s website:

Tobacco growing harms our health, the health of farmers and the planet’s health. The tobacco industry interferes with attempts to substitute tobacco growing, contributing to the global food crisis.

This campaign encourages governments to end tobacco growing subsidies and use the savings to support farmers to switch to more sustainable crops that improve food security and nutrition. 

Campaign objectives

  1. Mobilize governments to end subsidies on tobacco growing and use of savings for crop substitution programmes that support farmers to switch and improve food security and nutrition.
  2. Raise awareness in tobacco farming communities about the benefits of moving away from tobacco and growing sustainable crops;
  3. Support efforts to combat desertification and environmental degradation by decreasing tobacco farming;
  4. Expose industry efforts to obstruct sustainable livelihoods work.

The key measure of campaign success would be the number of governments that pledge to end subsidies on tobacco growing.

Tobacco farming poisons the land it is grown on. (source: US’s National Cancer Institute)  Land that has had tobacco farming can no longer grow food nor be used for crop rotation.  It requires increasing use of pesticides and fertilizers to prevent desertification.  Unusable land then leads to deforestation and less plant cover (most tobacco farming happens at tropical lattitudes).

Tobacco farming poisons those who grow it.  (source: British Medical Journal)  Farmers are constantly exposed to nicotine, suffering the same effects are heavy smokers.

Cash crops are a short term “solution” that leads to long term problems. (source: Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance)  Just like farmers in Afghanistan are forced to grow poppies instead of food, farmers in tropical areas are “encouraged” to grow tobacco as a cash crop.  They don’t understand or think about the long term effects of land poisoning, their own health, or the fact that growing tobacco means they will have to buy food that they could and should have grown themselves.  Profit from their cash crops may not be sufficient income to live on, and they have destroyed the land for future food cultivation.

Resources (JPGs and PDF format) can be downloaded from the WHO website.

Posters and other campaign material can be downloaded from the WHO and PAHO websites.

Grow food, not tobacco – Tobacco crops lead to less food on tables (girl, PDF poster)

Grow food, not tobacco – Tobacco crops lead to less food on tables (boy, PDF poster)


New York state (and possibly soon other places) are banning menthol cigarettes.  The CDC and other medical bodies report that menthol smokers breath smoke deeper than unflavoured cigarettes, making them more addictive.  And minorities, especially Black people, are targeted by the advertising.  According to the US’s CDC, 85% of Black non-Hispanic smokers use menthol cigarettes.

Naturally, Big Tobacco (which actually exists, unlike “big pharma”) is fighting tooth and nail, pretending this is “systematic government racism”.  New York cops have a long, long, sordid history of racism and violence as do the city and state governments.  But the racism here is the tobacco industry’s racism, the active targeting of Black people with highly addictive cigarettes.

Support for Policies to Prohibit the Sale of Menthol Cigarettes and All Tobacco Products Among Adults, 2021


This study assessed support for commercial tobacco retail policies among adults. Data came from SpringStyles 2021, a web panel survey of adults in the US aged 18 years or older (N = 6,455). Overall, 62.3% of adults supported a policy prohibiting the sale of menthol cigarettes, and 57.3% supported a policy prohibiting the sale of all tobacco products. A majority of adults supported tobacco retail policies aimed at preventing initiation, promoting quitting, and reducing tobacco-related disparities. These findings can help inform federal, state, and local efforts to prohibit the sale of tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes.


Commercial tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, are disproportionately marketed and advertised to certain population groups (eg, Black people, youth, people who identify as LGBTQ+ [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning]), increasing the likelihood of use and risk for tobacco-related harms among people in these groups (1,2). This might help to explain why disparities in tobacco product use persist, despite considerable declines in US cigarette smoking (3). Additionally, disparities exist in who is covered by comprehensive policies that reduce tobacco product use (4). Public opinion can serve as a lever and influential factor in the acceleration of policy adoption (5). As such, we assessed support among adults for policies aimed at reducing tobacco product use and associated disparities.

How loathsome and morally low are tobacco companies?  So low that they use the murders of Eric Garner and George Floyd to keep selling their product.  Garner was murdered while selling cigarettes, so tobacco companies are pretending the sale of cigarettes to Black people is about “human rights and freedoms”, that banning menthol cigarettes is about “criminalizing Black people”.  And who are the tobacco peddlars using to promote this crass lie?  Al Sharpton.  From Salon, 2017:

Blowing smoke: Tobacco giant uses Al Sharpton, other black leaders to combat menthol restrictions

Tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds, the top seller of the menthol cigarettes favored by most black smokers, is seizing on the hot button issue of police harassment of blacks to counter efforts by public health advocates to restrict menthol sales.

In recent months, the company has quietly enlisted black groups and leaders, including civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton and ex-Florida Congressman Kendrick B. Meek, to hold meetings at prominent black churches on the theme of “Decriminalizing the Black Community.” Sharpton and Meek, along with speakers from groups involved in criminal justice reform, have warned of the unintended consequences of banning cigarettes with the minty, throat-numbing additive — namely, the risk of creating an underground market and giving police new reasons to lock up black males. The meetings have been held at churches in Minneapolis, Los Angeles and Oakland, and in other forums.

Reynolds makes Newport cigarettes, the most popular menthol and the No. 2 U.S. cigarette brand overall, with a market share of nearly 14 percent. The company has paid travel costs for the panelists and contributed to their organizations, according to the panelists and Reynolds spokesman David Howard. However, promotional flyers (here, here and here) suggest that Sharpton and his National Action Network are the main sponsors of the meetings, rather than the tobacco company.

Sharpton’s National Action Network takes money from RJR.  From Politico, March 2023:

Sharpton dodges the spotlight on latest push to ban menthol cigarettes

When the New York City Council tried to ban menthol cigarettes in 2019, Rev. Al Sharpton lobbied aggressively against the bill.

He went on local television, fielded press queries and called council members, who ultimately agreed with his concerns that it would criminalize menthol smokers who are predominately Black.

Now that Gov. Kathy Hochul is trying to outlaw flavored tobacco this year, Sharpton — who’s faced criticism for taking money from the tobacco industry — is no less involved, but is keeping a low profile. This time he’s allowed powerful surrogates like the mother of Eric Garner and the brother of George Floyd to speak in his place so he can influence the issue without having to answer questions about his involvement or how it conflicts with the positions of other civil rights leaders.

The debate, part of budget negotiations in Albany, pits Sharpton against NAACP NY President Hazel Dukes, who supports the ban because of the high lung cancer rate in the Black community. So far, it appears that Sharpton’s side will prevail in what could be a preview of the coming battle around a similar ban proposed by President Joe Biden’s Food and Drug Administration.



Ending on a bright note, the fools at Juul are in financial difficulty.  What looked like a growing billion dollar market in 2018 (because they were targeting teens and children with their products) has massively declined thanks to regulation and lawsuits.  Marlboro/Altria sunk huge amounts of money into the company only to withdraw to a minor investor in 2022.

What’s next for Juul after settlements

Minnesota settled its lawsuit against Juul labs and the e-cigarette manufacturer’s previously largest investor Altria as their trial was wrapping up on Monday, the two parties announced.

  • The big picture: Juul has settled thousands of lawsuits — its biggest coming last week when it agreed to pay six states and the District of Columbia $462 million related to allegations that the vaping company targeted youth in its marketing. The Minnesota case was first to reach trial.

Juul noted in an emailed statement Friday that the company “suspended all mass marketing of our product in 2019” and that its appeal against the Food and Drug Administration’s plan to take its e-cigarettes off the shelves in the U.S. market remains ongoing.
By the numbers: Some 2.55 million U.S. middle (3.3%) and high school (14.1%) students used e-cigarettes last year, according to the latest available data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • Juul has settled cases with 48 states and territories, “providing over $1 billion to participating states to further combat underage use and develop cessation programs,” per a statement from the e-cigarette maker announcing it’s working with Minnesota to finalize the details of their agreement over the coming weeks.

Now would be a good time to permanently ban that crap from the market.


  1. jenorafeuer says

    Not to mention that the actual harvesting tends to be back-breaking near-slavery level work.

    “Tillsonburg… Tillsonburg. My back still aches when I hear that word.”
    — “Stompin’ Tom” Connors