Health hazards of tobacco curing: A study in Bangladesh
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Khulna University, Khulna, Bangladesh
Lingnan University, Tuen Mun, Hong Kong
Publication date: 2020-10-22
Tob. Prev. Cessation 2020;6(Supplement):A17
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Tobacco is being cultivated in selective regions of Bangladesh. Some tobacco companies patronize tobacco cultivation.

The study attempted to identify the health hazard of tobacco curing. The study surveyed 285 tobacco households to explore particulars of tobacco curing and measure health cost. For comparing annual health cost, in addition, 174 general crop-producing households were also surveyed. All households were selected randomly from Kushtia, Chuadanga, and Jhenaidah districts of Bangladesh.

Result showed that all farmers in the region cure tobacco through fire heating in an airtight curing house. In about 98 per cent of cases, the farmer’s curing house is located at the homestead within 32 meters mean distance from their home. One shift of curing requires 72 hours of non-stop firing. Family members cannot sleep well because of the continuous adding of firewood, checking the temperature and the leaves’ condition through the night. When green leaves are burnt, strong odour and gases are emitted. Ninety-six per cent of farmers store cured tobacco in their house, including the sleeping room. On average, curing lasts for 54 days, for an average cured tobacco weight of 992 kg. Field experience shows that almost no family members adopt any safety measure. Through inhaling gases and restless work for long days, tobacco family members get sick during and after the curing period. Dizziness, vomiting, insomnia, green tobacco sickness (GTS) etc. were commonly reported by tobacco households. Dried leaves become so thin that sometimes get mixed with food. The yearly average cost of illness and medication for tobacco-growing households was higher than that of general households; by combining both, average annual health costs were 14024 BDT and 9483 BDT (84 BDT about 1 US$), respectively. So, tobacco growing households incurred 4540 BDT more cost than general crop producers, and it is statistically significant.

Appropriate safety measures need to be ensured by tobacco companies and/or government for tobacco growing households.

The research was funded by Institute for Global Tobacco Control (IGTC) based at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, USA, and managed by Bangladesh Center for Communication Programs (BCCP), Dhaka, Bangladesh.