Economic "myths" about the role of tobacco production in Argentina have been promoted by the tobacco industry for decades and as a result they have successfully undermined tobacco control in Argentina. This situation has led to the establishment of a strong legal system to protect tobacco production. Also, tobacco price in Argentina is one of the lowest of the region, while the country presents one of the highest levels of tobacco use in America. This project seeks to generate a body of local evidence to counteract these economic myths and promote effective tax policies to reduce tobacco consumption. The specific research objectives are: 1) to characterize the situation of tobacco production in Argentina from the legal, economic, social, and political perspectives;2) to evaluate the viabilit of a tobacco tax and price increase policy and its potential impacts on tobacco production, tobacco use, and tax revenue;3) to evaluate the viability of tobacco crop substitution in Argentina;and 4) to build capacity in tobacco economy research with a tobacco control perspective. We will develop multiple research strategies with quantitative and qualitative designs to meet the first three objectives: review and analysis of the legal framework for tobacco production, identification and in-depth interviews with the key stakeholders of the tobacco production chain, evaluation of the impact of tobacco production on the generation of employment through the analysis of data panels, and the analysis of tobacco industry strategies related to tobacco tax and price policy through the review of internal industry documents and media communications. We will also evaluate tobacco price-elasticity and the impact of tobacco tax and price increase on tobacco tax revenue, consumption, subsidies to tobacco production, and in the tobacco leaf growing economies. The social acceptance of a tobacco price increase policy will be assessed through an opinion poll. Last, we will develop a randomized cross-sectional survey to evaluate the life conditions of small tobacco growers in two Argentinean tobacco- growing provinces and we will assess the agronomical and economic viability of tobacco crop substitution. This project is also oriented to building research and advocacy capacity for dealing with tobacco economy issues, which will be essential to promote effective tobacco tax and price policy change. It will also facilitate the search for sustainable alternative to tobacco for small tobacco farmers.
The tobacco industry has long sustained the notion that the implementation of effective tobacco control policies such as tobacco tax and price increases would negatively impact tobacco production and cause the collapse of regional tobacco grower economies, with the expected negative impact on jobs and poverty levels. Argentina presents one of the highest tobacco use levels in the Americas and it is also one of the countries where cigarettes are most affordable in the region, and the connection between these two factors has been proven, since previous research indicates that increasing tobacco tax and prices is one of the most effective measures to reduce tobacco use among the population, especially children and vulnerable groups. In this project we aim to generate evidence that will be useful to debunk these tobacco economy myths, promote sustainable alternatives to tobacco for the small tobacco farmers that live in extreme poverty, and facilitate the development of effective tobacco tax and price increases in Argentina, which could save thousands of lives every year.