Brazil is the world’s largest tobacco exporter and the second-biggest producer, responsible for an annual output of 850 thousand tons (worth US$ 1.5 billion), outranked only by China’s 2 million tons.
India, in third place, with 700 thousand tons, was the only one of the major producers to sign the “Tobacco Control Framework Convention,” proposed by the United Nations to establish strict anti-smoking rules.
September 15, Brazil’s Senate Commission on Foreign Relations and National Defense held a public hearing to discuss this matter.
The president of the Tobacco Industry Syndicate (Sindi-Fumo), Cláudio Henn, said that he is afraid that Brazil will sign the agreement under international pressure.
“Brazil is suffering international pressure from rival countries that are out to grab the share we export,” Henn believes. From his perspective, the country should act cautiously.
World cigarette consumption amounts to three trillion cigarettes annually and is growing at a rate of nearly 1%. For Henn, the industry also has a responsibility in matters of health, and the treaty contains various positive items.
“Not selling to minors, not smoking in enclosed spaces, doing away with subsidies, and combatting the black market, all of this is positive,” he comments.
Nearly 1/3 of the cigarettes sold in Brazil nowadays are contraband, and this entails US$ 484 million (R$ 1.4 billion) in lost taxes and the elimination of 16 thousand jobs.
Taxes on tobacco yield US$ 2.1 billion (R$ 6.2 billion) in revenue to the Brazilian government each year. Almost all of Brazilian production is concentrated in the South, in the states of Rio Grande do Sul, Paraná, and Santa Catarina.
During the public hearing to discuss the ratification of the international convention to control tobacco throughout the world, the Brazilian Minister of Health, Humberto Costa, asserted that the agreement is intended neither to harm Brazilian tobacco farmers nor to make tobacco an illegal product.
In order for the convention to go into effect, at least 40 of the 192 countries that signed the framework convention need to ratify it. Around 30 nations have already done so.
The “Tobacco Control Framework Convention” has already been approved by the Chamber of Deputies and has been in the Senate for four months.
If it is approved, it will only require the President’s signature to be placed in practice. The reporter of the Commission, Senator Fernando Bezerra, has shown himself to be in favor of approval.
Reporter: Alessandra Bastos
Translator: David Silberstein