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Tobacco is "our industry and we must support it": Exploring the potential implications of Zimbabwe's accession to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

  • Author(s): Lown, E Anne
  • McDaniel, Patricia A
  • Malone, Ruth E
  • et al.

Zimbabwe is the largest tobacco producer in Africa. Despite expressing opposition in the past, Zimbabwe recently acceded to the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). We explored why Zimbabwe acceded to the FCTC and the potential implications for tobacco control within Zimbabwe and globally.We conducted a qualitative archival case study based on 542 documents collected from 1) the Truth Tobacco Industry Documents; 2) media indexed in the Lexis-Nexis media database; 3) the websites for tobacco growers' associations, tobacco control groups, and international agencies; 4) FCTC reports and Framework Convention Alliance newsletters; 5) Zimbabwe's legal codes; and 6) the peer reviewed scientific literature related to tobacco growing.Zimbabwe has a long history of tobacco growing. There are currently over 90,000 tobacco farmers, and tobacco growing is prioritized, despite widespread food insecurity and environmental degradation. Zimbabwean government officials have been outspoken FCTC critics; but recently joined the accord to better protect Zimbabwe's tobacco growing interests. FCTC membership obligates nations to implement a variety of tobacco control measures; Zimbabwe has implemented several measures aimed at reducing tobacco demand, but fewer aimed at reducing tobacco supply or protecting the environment. Zimbabwe joins the FCTC amid increased efforts to protect FCTC proceedings from industry interference, to adopt recommendations for alternative crops and livelihoods and reduce environmental damage.Zimbabwe's decision to accede to the FCTC does not appear to represent a softening of its historical opposition to the treaty. Thus, its status as a Party creates opportunities for it to undermine ongoing efforts to implement and strengthen the treaty. At the same time, however, Zimbabwe's accession could provide much needed international support for Zimbabwe's civic organizations and its Ministry of Health to develop stronger tobacco control measures. How Zimbabwe's participation impacts the work of the FCTC as a whole may ultimately depend on the allegiances of its delegates, and the effectiveness of FCTC measures to limit tobacco industry interference and enforce compliance with FCTC measures.

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