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World No Tobacco Day 2023: Grow Food, Not [Commercial] Tobacco

World No Tobacco Day 2023: Grow Food, Not [Commercial] Tobacco

By Nasbah Ben | May 22, 2023
Director of Tribal Projects, ETR

Each year on May 31st, we join other public health leaders and advocates across the globe in recognizing World No Tobacco Day1. This year’s campaign urges cutting back on farming commercial tobacco to improve food security and nutrition worldwide. By shifting from growing commercial tobacco to food, we improve the health of farmers, our communities, and the planet.

To join the masses worldwide, this year’s campaign allows us to address and highlight the difference between traditional and commercial tobacco. As an organization, ETR is committed to improving health outcomes and advancing health equity for youth, families, and communities.

ETR’s work in alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs (ATOD) began in 1990 with the award of the first Tobacco Education Clearinghouse of California (TECC) contract, which remains the most significant and oldest clearinghouse in the country focused on tobacco control and prevention education. We have housed the Tribal Community Coordinating Center (TCCC) under our ATOD body of work since 2019. The TCCC was established to provide technical assistance to 12 California Tobacco Control Program (CTCP) funded Tribal Projects and 5 Tribal serving organizations working to address health disparities among American Indian and Alaska Native people who use and abuse commercial tobacco.

Honoring Traditional vs Commercial Tobacco Use

Through our TCCC tobacco work, we recognize and honor the difference between traditional and commercial tobacco. Traditional tobacco use varies with each Tribe. The common agreeance is that traditional tobacco focuses on the PROCESS of tending, gathering, and respectfully using the tobacco following Tribal guidance, as opposed to commercial tobacco which is PRODUCT and PROFIT-driven, with no connection to spiritual or respectful use. We also recognize and honor that there are Tribes that continue to grow tobacco for traditional use today.

With this established, ETR joins the campaign to grow food, not [commercial] tobacco in honor of the 574 federally recognized and numerous unrecognized Tribes throughout the United States.

Health Equity and World No Tobacco Day

This year’s World No Tobacco Day campaign objectives1 are to:

  1. Mobilize governments to end subsidies on tobacco growing and use of savings for crop substitution programs that support farmers to switch and improve food security and nutrition.
  2. Raise awareness in tobacco farming communities about the benefits of moving away from tobacco and growing sustainable crops.
  3. Support efforts to combat desertification and environmental degradation by decreasing tobacco farming.
  4. Expose industry efforts to obstruct sustainable livelihood work.

This makes sense, and ETR is committed to ensuring that our youth, families, and communities can make healthy choices, live healthy lives, and leave a healthy environment for generations to come. We recognize that the tobacco industry keeps individuals addicted to their products at the expense of the health of farmers, our communities, and the planet. ETR addresses these inequities by applying our Health Equity Framework to address health and education outcomes considering complex interactions between individuals and their environments.

We have expanded our work and are investing in Tribal communities, through our continued work in the Tribal Community Coordinating Center and California’s Clean Air Project. To learn more about this work, check out our TCCC Policy Platform. Through this document, we have identified the most important policies to reduce and eliminate commercial tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure in California Tribal communities.

ETR’s Commitment to Tobacco Prevention and Education

The continuation of the commercial tobacco use epidemic brings to light the importance of continuing our work. ETR has partnered with organizations, governmental entities, and individuals in the state of California and nationally to provide resources and services that improve the health of youth, adults, and communities impacted by tobacco.

We offer evidence- and science-based prevention programs that target tobacco prevention and give youth skills to avoid drug use and resist pressure. Our award-winning resources offer guidance and techniques that help people evaluate their tobacco use while encouraging them to create a plan to quit. The fight against commercial tobacco is still not finished, and ETR will provide support until the very end. 

Check out our assortment of tobacco education materials in our ETR Store.


Nasbah Ben (she/her/hers) is the Director of Tribal Projects at ETR. She is from northeastern Arizona and a member of the Navajo Nation. Her work has focused on ensuring representation from Tribal communities in material and content development, curriculum development, strategic planning and organizing, as well as program building. Nasbah can be reached at nasbah.ben@etr.org


1: https://www.who.int/campaigns/world-no-tobacco-day/2023

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