Zimbabwe’s tobacco sector has for now survived the global push to reduce nicotine levels in cigarettes that could have cut down the country’s income from the golden leaf by 50% after the recent Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) conference failed to reach a consensus on the proposals.
by Fidelity Mhlanga
The conference, held in India between November 8 and 12, had been expected to adopt recommendations to reduce nicotine content in cigarettes to a maximum of 0,4 mg, representing a 10% cut.
However, the FCTC proposal was not tabled at the conference, giving countries like Zimbabwe that are opposed to the lobby more time to consolidate their campaign.
Zimbabwe Tobacco Association chief executive Rodney Ambrose confirmed the development, saying the FCTC had been blocked from steam-rolling the proposals without consultations.
“As will be noted, issues around nicotine reduction were not resolved,” he said.
“The matter was not even tabled for further debate at the next COP8 as this was simple inadequate preparedness by the FCTC.
“There is a growing, high level of alertness by many parties calling for transparent, scientific methodologies and all-inclusive approaches on all FCTC matters.
“This has derailed the FCTC’s attempts to steam-roll many draconian, non-consultative regulations.”
Ambrose, who attended the conference in India, said they made it clear to the World Health Organisation that they would not accept a framework that was not inclusive.
“Our message to the WHO FCTC remains: ‘include us in all your deliberations and decisions. until then, we will continue to resist their attempts to unfairly and unilaterally regulate our industry,’” he said.
Tobacco Industry Marketing Board CEO Andrew Matibiri echoed Ambrose’s sentiments, adding that the conference felt that there was no adequate information to reach a fair decision on the matter.
Tobacco is one of Zimbabwe’s biggest foreign currency earners and by November 17, the country had exported $735 million worth of the golden leaf. China is the biggest buyer of Zimbabwe’s tobacco.