Tobacco companies are making frantic efforts to win the fight against their products.
Consequently, they have turned to the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to get the toxins out of their raw material, tobacco, to make it less harmful for people who patronise their product.
The Operations and Marketing Manager of the National Institute of Agricultural (NIAB) Innovation Farm in North Cambridge, UK, Ms Claire Pumfrey, told media fellows of the Biosciences for Farming in Africa (B4FA) on April 10 that studies were currently in progress to ensure that the toxins in the tobacco were either removed or drastically reduced.
“Once that is done and we are successful, we believe that the harm caused to people who smoke tobacco will be drastically reduced,” she said.
NIAB aims to improve knowledge transfer and uptake of crop genetic innovation among science, academics and industry and to increase awareness and understanding of the enormous benefits on offer from harnessing the genetic potential of plants.
It addresses the four key challenges of 'health and nutrition', 'sustainable resources', 'climate change' and 'food security.'
But it is not yet clear what the responses from advocates against the smoking of tobacco will be about this turn of events.
Already, many are kicking against the use of GM in crop cultivation and coupled with the fight against tobacco itself, the direction of the next debate on tobacco will be obvious.
In Ghana, there is a ban on smoking in open places, although the law is awaiting presidential assent to have full legal backing.
Tobacco is a plant within the genus Nicotiana of the Solanaceae (nightshade) family. There are more than 70 species of tobacco.
Products manufactured from dried tobacco leaves include cigars, cigarettes, snuff, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco and flavoured shisha tobacco. Other uses of tobacco include plant bioengineering and ornamentals, while chemical components of tobacco are used in some pesticides and medications.
The chief commercial species, N. tabacum, is believed to have been native to tropical America, like most nicotiana plants, but has been so long cultivated that it is no longer known in the wild.
The tobacco industry comprises those persons and companies engaged in the growth, preparation for sale, shipment, advertisement, and distribution of tobacco and tobacco-related products. It is a global industry. Tobacco can grow in any warm, moist environment, which means it can be farmed on all continents except Antarctica.