On the occasion of the International Human Rights Day on 10th of December 2020, we present two short films on how the tobacco industry violates human rights: In Indonesia, our cooperation partner Katarana Productions spoke with young people who smoke. In Zambia, our partner organisation TOFAZA interviewed children who work in tobacco cultivation.

Tobacco violates several basic human rights, especially the right to health. Moreover, women’s rights are violated, because smoking and passive smoking as well as the lack of protective clothing in tobacco cultivation harm women, especially during pregnancy. All too often children have to work in tobacco cultivation. 1.3 million children work on tobacco plantations worldwide.

The tobacco industry is responsible for this. Unfortunately, the undignified working conditions of workers in the Global South are still part of the economic growth strategy of many companies. The tobacco industry tries to make the maximum profit at the expense of those people who work in tobacco cultivation. German tobacco companies are also responsible for this, as Germany imports around 150,000 tonnes of raw tobacco annually.

Youth Smoking and the Right to Health in Indonesia

Indonesia has the highest rate of adult smokers in the world, 76.2%. The social acceptance of smoking is very high in Indonesia. The percentage of boys and girls between 13 and 15 years of age who smoke is 19.4%. Tobacco companies address children and adolescents directly with their advertising campaigns. In doing so, they violate children’s right to information or protection from misinformation – and consequently their right to health.

Indonesia imports cigarettes worth approximately US$11 million from Germany – equivalent to just under 20% of Indonesia’s cigarette imports. Germany is thus Indonesia’s third-largest partner for its cigarette imports.

The impact of tobacco production on children´s rights in Zambia

In Zambia tobacco is one of the most important export goods. However, tobacco farmers earn little from their hard work. Far too often, children have to help with the work to finance their own schooling. They risk their health, have no time for education and a carefree life. This violates basic children’s rights.

What can Germany do?

Tobacco companies have been profiting from human rights violations for too long. Germany is obliged to demand human rights standards from their businesses and to monitor if the tobacco industry violates human rights. So far, however, there is no law that would guarantee transparency and human rights due diligence for companies based in Germany. We therefore call for a supply chain law.