The year 2023 was a year for change towards a tobacco-free world. We spoke out for the protection of human rights and the environment, for a raw materials transition and a European supply chain law. We presented alternative livelihoods to tobacco cultivation and strategies for prioritising health over profits. And we transformed our website in this direction. In all of this, we were supported by numerous partners from all over the world.
Disposable e-cigarettes, the environment and influencers
Expanding on this focus from the previous year, we published our video “What’s actually in disposable e-cigarettes?” in spring 2023. We show which raw materials are used in disposable e-cigarettes, where they come from and what this means for local people and the environment. We interviewed partners from Bangladesh and Argentina and supplemented this information with footage from Peru.
With the video and sharepics in social media, we also accompanied the political debate in the German Federal Council about a ban on these products and the discussions in European countries about a possible ban at EU level. Such a ban would remove electronic products from the market, where the waste of raw materials is particularly evident. This would be a small step towards a raw materials transition.
The fact that influencers advertise disposable e-cigarettes on social media despite the ban on advertising was a concern for our FÖJ volunteer. On our social media channels, we published a series to show what this advertising looks like and which emotions it appeals to. These findings were and are also incorporated into our education services.
Alternatives to tobacco or ‘Food Not Tobacco’
The World Health Organisation’s tobacco control motto for this year was “We need food, not tobacco”. Matching this motto, we also focussed events and publications on the topic ‘Food not tobacco’ in 2023.
In May, we organised a joint online seminar with our sister project FoodJustice to mark World No Tobacco Day: Planetary healthy food, not tobacco! We hosted a virtual 3-course meal on planetary health and tobacco control. Experts from Germany, Brazil, Nigeria and Bangladesh talked about how to build global momentum for an ecologically healthy diet that is good for the people and the planet – without tobacco.
To complement the seminar, we updated our postcard “Tobacco growing or food” to show why tobacco cultivation jeopardises food security and which countries are particularly affected.
On World No Tobacco Day, we also informed over 100 nursing students at the University of Greifswald with an interactive presentation on the tobacco supply chain, human rights violations, environmental damage and, of course, ways to get out of tobacco cultivation.
In the second half of the year, we focussed specifically on what a tobacco-free world would mean for the countries where a lot of tobacco is still grown today. We published the new video “Food, Not Tobacco”, in which farmers from Bangladesh show how they managed to quit tobacco and what crops they now grow.
We were very active on social media on both topics – planetary healthy food, not tobacco! and food cultivation instead of tobacco – and used sharepics to show why these topics are so important.
From status quo to change towards a tobacco-free world
We have been pursuing the vision of a tobacco-free world for some time now. This year, it was time to reflect this in our website. We want to better show what we are committed to. That’s why we’ve revamped our website, redesigned the homepage and developed a new slogan.
All over the world, there are already many successful examples of people who switched from tobacco to other crops. We have been collecting and describing them for several years. Since this collection is part of a change towards a tobacco-free world, we have renamed our world map from “Tobacco Map” to “World Map of Change”. We have also added new examples of alternative livelihoods to tobacco cultivation.
The second part of the world map is dedicated to the strategies of the tobacco industry, which can essentially be seen as obstacles to a tobacco-free world. In this section we have documented cases of greenwashing.
Comprehensive tobacco control in Germany and worldwide
Comprehensive tobacco control – this implies not only health protection, but also considering the tobacco industry’s impact on all areas of life, calling for political changes and driving them forward. Thus, as part of civil society, we campaigned for the German Supply Chain Act, which came into force in January 2023. This year, together with the German Supply Chain Law Initiative, we were campaigning to ensure that an effective corporate due diligence law is also introduced at EU level – so that human rights violations such as child labour or the lack of occupational health and safety in tobacco fields and deforestation for tobacco curing are finally a matter of the past. We followed the debates on the EU corporate due diligence law closely on our social media channels throughout the year.
In November, the 2023 Index of Tobacco Industry Interference in Germany was published by the German Cancer Research Centre (DKFZ) – Unfairtobacco co-signed it. After two years, the 2023 Index once again shows how much influence the tobacco industry can exert on politics and that Germany’s measures to protect its policies against this influence are still inadequate.
We also took another closer look at the strategies of the tobacco lobby. At the German Conference on Tobacco Control from 6 to 7 December, we organised and presented the plenary session “Tobacco industry under scrutiny: green change or trapping farmers?”, where a speaker from Malawi shed light on the strategies used by tobacco companies against Malawian farmers.
And finally, we continued our work on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The interim report of the National Coalition Germany on the children’s rights situation in Germany was published in December 2023, including two pages on the lack of tobacco control in Germany thanks to our contribution.
Education on tobacco: addiction prevention & global learning
As part of our educational work, we combine addiction prevention and learning in global contexts. We emphasise why a tobacco-free world is an important and worthwhile goal.
On project days and sustainability weeks at Berlin schools, we showed the complex global aspects of tobacco cultivation and tobacco use. With the students, we discussed the global consequences of the tobacco industry and what a change towards a tobacco-free world could look like. Unfairtobacco was also present at the Youth Film Days in Berlin-Hellersdorf offering an interactive booth on disposable e-cigarettes and their global value chain. Disposable e-cigarettes were also the main topic in our programmes for young people outside school.
In several online training sessions, we informed numerous educators from the fields of health, addiction prevention and global learning about the supply chains of tobacco and nicotine products and answered their questions.
From May to September, Unfairtobacco was once again present at various environmental and neighbourhood festivals, e.g. the Hellersdorf neighbourhood festival, Neukölln Nachhaltig, Langer Tag der Stadtnatur and Potsdamer Umweltfest. We explained the impact of tobacco products on the environment and on human rights and discussed alternative livelihoods in tobacco growing areas and specifically the theme ‘food instead of tobacco’.
And we produced new material for use in schools, libraries, universities and other educational institutions. The exhibition “Tobacco and nicotine products: Supply chains in focus” (German only) will soon be presented on our website and will then be available for lending in Germany.
If you are interested to join hands for an English version of the exhibition, please don’t hesitate to contact us via email@example.com.
Thank you for your support throughout the year!
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Thank you for your support in 2023! Let us continue to drive the change to a tobacco-free world together in 2024.
Download & Links:
Recording of our World No Tobacco Day Webinar: Planetary healthy food, not tobacco!
Video “Food, Not Tobacco” (Bangladesh)
Postcard “Tobacco growing or food”