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Tob Control. 2012 Mar;21(2):191-6. doi: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2011-050318.

Environmental health impacts of tobacco farming: a review of the literature.

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1
International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. nlecours@idrc.ca

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To review the literature on environmental health impacts of tobacco farming and to summarise the findings and research gaps in this field.

METHODS:

A standard literature search was performed using multiple electronic databases for identification of peer-reviewed articles. The internet and organisational databases were also used to find other types of documents (eg, books and reports). The reference lists of identified relevant documents were reviewed to find additional sources.

RESULTS:

The selected studies documented many negative environmental impacts of tobacco production at the local level, often linking them with associated social and health problems. The common agricultural practices related to tobacco farming, especially in low-income and middle-income countries, lead to deforestation and soil degradation. Agrochemical pollution and deforestation in turn lead to ecological disruptions that cause a loss of ecosystem services, including land resources, biodiversity and food sources, which negatively impact human health. Multinational tobacco companies' policies and practices contribute to environmental problems related to tobacco leaf production.

CONCLUSIONS:

Development and implementation of interventions against the negative environmental impacts of tobacco production worldwide are necessary to protect the health of farmers, particularly in low-income and middle-income countries. Transitioning these farmers out of tobacco production is ultimately the resolution to this environmental health problem. In order to inform policy, however, further research is needed to better quantify the health impacts of tobacco farming and evaluate the potential alternative livelihoods that may be possible for tobacco farmers globally.

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