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Grow Food, Not Tobacco: Promoting Health and Sustainability on World No Tobacco Day (May 31)

World No Tobacco Day is an annual event that spotlights the devastating impact of tobacco use on public health. This year's theme--Grow Food, Not Tobacco-- encourages us to shift our focus towards cultivating sustainable and healthy practices by highlighting the detrimental effects of tobacco farming on both human health and the environment.

Tobacco consumption continues to wreak havoc on public health globally, causing millions of premature deaths each year. However, the harm extends far beyond the individuals who smoke. Tobacco farming, with its heavy reliance on chemicals, deforestation, and unsustainable practices, also contributes to environmental degradation and poses significant risks to the communities involved.

Click here or on the image above to download the World No Tobacco Day 2023 featured publication from the World Health Organization.

An estimated 1.3 million children globally participate in tobacco farming practices. Children from poor households miss school to support their families’ tobacco farming practices. (World Health Organization)

The Environmental Impact: Tobacco farming places a heavy burden on our planet. Vast swaths of land are cleared for tobacco cultivation, leading to deforestation, soil erosion, and the loss of biodiversity. Moreover, tobacco requires copious amounts of water, often exacerbating water scarcity issues in already vulnerable regions. Chemical pesticides and fertilizers used in tobacco farming contaminate soil and water, affecting ecosystems and local communities.

The Health Consequences: The health hazards associated with tobacco farming extend beyond smoking-related diseases. Workers in tobacco fields are often exposed to harmful pesticides and nicotine through direct contact with the leaves, leading to various health problems such as respiratory issues, skin diseases, and even nicotine poisoning. Children, who are sometimes involved in tobacco farming, are particularly vulnerable to these health risks. By advocating for alternatives to tobacco farming, we can prioritize the health and well-being of communities and ensure a safer working environment for all.

From 2005 to 2020, the area under tobacco cultivation decreased globally by 15.8%, while in Africa it increased by 19.8%. (World Health Organization)

Promoting Sustainable Agriculture: The theme "Grow Food, Not Tobacco" emphasizes the need to shift agricultural practices towards sustainable food production. Encouraging farmers to diversify their crops and supporting them in transitioning to sustainable farming methods not only benefits their economic well-being but also promotes sustainable development and resilience in the face of climate change.

Empowering Communities: World No Tobacco Day presents an opportunity for individuals and communities to come together and advocate for change. By supporting initiatives that promote sustainable agriculture, providing education and resources, and raising awareness about the harmful effects of tobacco farming, we can empower communities to take control of their health and future. Governments, NGOs, and individuals can collaborate to implement policies and programs that promote sustainable farming practices, support farmers in transitioning to alternative crops, and invest in research and development for environmentally friendly farming techniques.

Learn more about what the World Health Organization is doing to encourage building healthier, more sustainable communities at

Visit the Duke-UNC TTS website to learn more or register for an upcoming comprehensive tobacco treatment specialist or short course training.


  • World Health Organization (WHO)

  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

  • Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

  • Truth Initiative


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