As I earlier mentioned poverty is as much self-imposed as injected. One of the micro-cause of poverty is the use of tobacco…negligence of personal responsibility. Much has been said for its harmful effect on health and to some extent on health expenditure. But issue is far more crucial and evokes serious economic consideration to be undertaken.
Tobacco and poverty are inextricably linked through various channels. Some of which are highlighted below.
- Tobacco reduces man-power
- Reducing expenditure on necessities
- Reducing worker’s productivity
- Reducing land availability
Less developed countries (LDCs) are usually human-resource abundant. New theories of growth recommend human capital the most significant factor of production. Use of tobacco either curtails LDCs to revolute their human resource into capital or abates existing human capital. World Health Organization (WHO) states that out of 1.3 billion smokers 84% of all smokers live in LDCs and transitional economy countries. And that if current smoking patterns continue it will cause some 10 million deaths each year by 2020.
Resources are scarce, basic economics claims. It sounds truer for poor countries and their households. Opportunity cost of expending on tobacco is to end with less allocation on necessities. Increased malnutrition multiplies health care costs and premature death. It also contributes to a higher illiteracy rate, since money that could have been used for education is spent on tobacco instead. According to an estimate, in the poorest households in some low-income countries as much as 10% of total household expenditure is on tobacco.
The economic costs of tobacco use are equally devastating. In addition to the high public health costs of treating tobacco-caused diseases, tobacco kills people at the height of their productivity, depriving families of breadwinners and nations of a healthy workforce. Tobacco users are also less productive while they are alive due to increased sickness. WHO estimated that a third of the global loss of productivity is borne by developing countries.
Tobacco industry diverts huge amount of land resources from producing food to producing tobacco. Dr Judith MacKay, Director of the Asian Consultancy on Tobacco Control in Hong Kong, claims that tobacco’s “minor” use of land denies 10 to 20 million people of food. “Where food has to be imported because rich farmland is being diverted to tobacco production, the government will have to bear the cost of food imports,” she points out.
The loss is crystal clear. Developed countries have the resources and will to overcome the tobacco corporations. LDCs don’t have enough resources but will can’t be regarded ineffectual. So, choice is ours; say no or yes to drugs. Result will be crystal clear too.