Segunda, Junho 24, 2024
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The Executive Director of the National Tobacco Control Alliance (ANCT), Sancho Fernandes has urged the government, through the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MTKI) and Trade Invest, to not welcome investment proposals from the tobacco industry because such investments would cause harm to public health, to farmers, and the farming community’s livelihoods.

The Executive Director of the National Tobacco Control Alliance (ANCT), Sancho Fernandes has urged the government, through the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MTKI) and Trade Invest, to not welcome investment proposals from the tobacco industry.

He added many investors are currently reaching out to the government to get their investor certificate in many areas including the tobacco industry.

“The National Tobacco Control Alliance’s position is that we do not agree with this investment, and we urge the government to not welcome investments from the tobacco [industry] in Timor-Leste because this industry contributes to 8 million deaths annually around the world and causes disease and death due to tobacco consumption. This includes 800-1000 deaths in Timor-Leste. It also contributes to 300 premature deaths annually across our nation,” he said during a press conference at FONGTIL, in Caicoli, Dili.

He added the presence of the tobacco industry will have an impact on small business because data from 2022 shows that households spend annually 40 million dollars in tobacco products. This is money that could be best spent investing in the agriculture sector, on health and education.

He said also that farmers are also less productive, and this represents a loss of 16 million dollars because they suffer from more chronic diseases needing to rest and missing days of work.

“If the government welcomes the tobacco industry to make investments in Timor-Leste the number of smokers, diseases, death by non-communicable diseases, tuberculosis, will increase because this industry will boost smoking, recruit new smokers, and farmers will use their productive land to grow tobacco,” he said.

As an example, he added that a few years back, maek (elephant foot yam) was promoted as a profitable crop, so farmers stopped growing coffee and other crops. Everyone started growing maek. Growing tobacco will produce chemicals that will damage the quality of the soil.

According to information obtained by TDW access through the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, one company has already presented their investment program to grow and establish a tobacco industry in Timor-Leste. This program will bring new technologies to Timor-Leste and hopes to establish a sustainable education system for farmers in Timor-Leste.

The company hopes to establish tobacco industries in the municipalities and three products for exporting, with 95% of production to be sent overseas, while 5% will be left for domestic use. The tobacco products will be branded as made in Timor-Leste.

Meanwhile, the Country Representative for World Health Organisation (WHO) in Timor-Leste, Dr Arvind Mathur said tobacco was a big enemy of public health because it can cause chronic diseases that can make people very sick or even cause premature death.

“Tobacco is a big enemy of health. It attacks the lungs, the heart, the brain, and the immune system. Tobacco has long term effects, it can cause chronic disease, suffering and premature death.

“WHO in Timor-Leste is committed to supporting the Ministry of Health to promote a healthy lifestyle and will advocate against any type of tobacco products,” he said.