Monday, 22 November 2010

Scotland, Malawi and tobacco ingredients ban

According to this BBC report, tobacco farmers in Malawi could lose 60 to 90 per cent of their livelihoods, if an ingredients ban is implemented. The Scotland Malawi Partnership (whose website sports a thumbnail picture of Jack McConnell, former First Minster, whose main claim to fame was introducing the smoking ban) has operated since 2004, but it remains to be seen whether it will offer any support to Malawi in the defence of its tobacco growers. Working mostly with non-government organisations, it acknowledges that 'Malawians know best (a) ... (b) what challenges and issues there are in Malawian civil society; and (c) what mechanisms or interventions could help address these challenges'. Will this reasoning apply to anyone who wants to defend the tobacco plantations?

And does the Scotland Malawi Partnership make any attempt to work with official bodies that will represent the government viewpoint, as well as NGOs?

A quick look at the Scotland/Malawi links reveals a concern for child labour in Malawi's tobacco plantations, touched on here. This is a typical anti-smoking take on any tobacco industry: the fact is that child labour occurs everywhere and in any occupation in which children are vulnerable.  UNICEF tells us that one in six of the world's children is engaged in child labour, so talking of child labour as if it were specific to tobacco plantations is dishonest (or naive), but what is expected of reporters today. If it is common in Malawi, this is because of Malawi's heavy reliance on tobacco. Destroying Malawi's staple industry will do nothing for the welfare of its children.

So has Scotland any plans to address the issue of the tobacco industry in Malawi? Well, yes it has. Is it likely to help tobacco growers' interests? Probably not: the MSPs Michael Matheson (SNP) and Karen Gillon (Scottish Labour) have buried their differences to invite us to this meeting, both supporters of anti-smoking legislation. Speakers are Dr Jeff Collin and Dr Nathaniel Wander of Edinburgh University, both named as external co-workers of Professor Anna Gilmore.  It is hard to imagine that this meeting will agree to help Malawi to defend tobacco farmers against the ambitions of the global tobacco control community.


Michael J. McFadden said...

I'm sure that many of the Antismokers who would target Malawi for "child labor" are quite happily munching on the fruits of the child labor in many other fields in the world. Some literally, and some figuratively in terms of having their lifestyle supported by a world economy of which a significant amount is built to some degree on child labor. It's sad, but true, and I sincerely doubt that tobacco farming just *happens* to be the worst case example for those who would yell, "Well, we've got to start SOMEwhere!"

As Belinda has noted, it's just another example of the antismoking lobby seeking to use emotional or propagandistic "hooks" whenever and whereever it can find them. If the child labor was tilling the fields for Zyban ingredients you can bet your bupkis they wouldn't be saying a word about it.

Michael J. McFadden
Author of "Dissecting Antismokers' Brains"

Anonymous said...

Has it occurred to these people that if these children did not perform any work they would most likely starve.
In many parts of the world the notion of childhood is confined to the period of life during which a human being is dependent on others for its survival. Once you can walk, communicate, carry something and get out of trouble (or make an attempt to do so) by yourself you are no longer considered a child and expected to become a productive member of your community. The vision of childhood espoused by the prosperous West is a modern fantasy and appears to be extending both forwards and even stranger, backwards through life. This is the same phenomenon as we see in the wealthy nations' definitions of health, a vague and pleasant sounding idea of little substance that can be expanded to include just about anything you fancy.

Michael J. McFadden said...

Anonymous's point is valid. I also had another thought after an evening's rest: the real culprits behind this problem may be the Antismokers themselves as they have sought to bring pressure on American farmers to shut down tobacco production in what are thought to be some of the best tobacco-growing fields in the world. Closing them down here, where things such as child labor and worker safety laws are stringent, has simply served to promote worse conditions overseas to produce the product.


budgie said...

Michael wrote:

'If the child labor was tilling the fields for Zyban ingredients you can bet your bupkis they wouldn't be saying a word about it.'

Anyone know how and where they source nicotine for patches?