Zimbabwe has teamed up with 78 African, Caribbean and Pacific countries to oppose a proposed World Health Organization agreement that would ban certain ingredients in tobacco that renders the product more appealing to youths in particular.
Reports said the 79 nations are resisting the ban which is being tabled at a meeting in Uruguay and is seen a threat to the tobacco industries of many countries.
The World Health Organization through a treaty called the Framework on the Convention for Tobacco Control, seeks the prohibition of certain tobacco flavoring ingredients.
Proponents of the international agreement say the ingredients make cigarettes appealing to youths who end up addicted to a product known to cause serious illnesses.
But the African, Caribbean and Pacific or ACP nations are opposing a ban on blending tobacco with those ingredients. They say the ban will devastate their economies.
Zimbabwean tobacco farmers said the developing nations group should be commended for resisting the ban. Andrew Ferreira, a former president of the Zimbabwe Tobacco Association, told reporter Gibbs Dube that the ban will hurt the economy.
“The ban will cause a lot of suffering as tobacco is the biggest single employer of labor in the country and a lucrative revenue base,” Ferreira said. Though tobacco farming in Zimbabwe suffered from land reform launched in 2000 as the largest producers were white commercial farmers, many small-scale black farmers now raise tobacco.
Lawmaker Moses Jiri, a member of Parliament's committee on agriculture, said the ACP countries should be commended for fighting the WHO initiative.
World Health Organization spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said the measure would regularize ingredients used to flavor certain varieties of tobacco including Zimbabwean burley.
He told VOA reporter Tatenda Gumbo that the draft articles do not represent a decision by the WHO but an initiative by member countries aiming to reduce smoking.
Anti-tobacco activist Peter Ucko of the South African Council Against Smoking said the WHO should move to ban tobacco smoking outright.