It never rains but pours for the local tobacco industry, which is worried with the advent of next generation tobacco products (NGTPs) that may eventually reduce demand for genuine tobacco products from Malawi.
All major global tobacco manufacturers such as British America Tobacco (BAT), Philip Morris, Japan Tobacco International (JTI), Imperial Tobacco and China Tobacco have started manufacturing NGTPs which include e-cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, tobacco plants for fuels and medical use as well as blended and heated tobacco products.
The products are manufactured to reduce toxicity arising from tobacco smoking and originate from the rise in global awareness in health risks associated with tobacco products by World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC) and the enactment of anti-tobacco laws globally.
The products come at a time the country is still battling with WHO-FCTC guidelines, which in essence seek to eliminate tobacco farming in the long-run.
“This [the manufacturing and promotion of NGTPs] is a worrisome development as it will reduce demand for our leaf-based tobacco products,” said Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) chief executive officer Bruce Munthali, outlining new developments in the tobacco industry.
Malawi heavily relies on tobacco, which brings in about 70 percent of the county’s foreign exchange, generates 23 percent of government tax revenue and contributes around 15 percent to the gross domestic product (GDP), among other key benefits of the crop to the economy.
Munthali said e-cigarettes are based on the use of nicotine vapours or aerosols while smokeless tobacco includes chewing tobacco.
He said the products are aimed at replacing leaf-based tobacco products, which Malawi and other countries produce and export.
“These NGTPs could reduce the growing of actual tobacco, low pricing for leaf-based tobacco products, contraction of tobacco-based employment and a rise in illicit trade in tobacco products,” said Munthali.
Malawi’s tobacco overseas customer base of 75 percent is shared by BAT, JTI, Philip Morris International and Imperial Tobacco while the remaining 25 percent is bought by non-traditional customers from Middle East, China, South East Asia and Eastern Europe.