Prospects for tobacco control in Zimbabwe: a historical perspective

Health Policy. 2001 Sep;57(3):179-92. doi: 10.1016/s0168-8510(01)00126-9.


Using a historical and political economy perspective, this paper explores the prospects for tobacco control in Zimbabwe, the world's sixth largest producer and third largest tobacco exporter. Tobacco production, which first began in the former Rhodesia in the early 1900s, is closely associated with colonial history and land occupation by white settlers. The Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) Tobacco Association was formed in 1928 and soon became a powerful political force. Although land redistribution has always been a central issue, it was not adequately addressed after independence in 1980, largely due to the need for Zimbabwe to gain foreign currency and safeguard employment. However, by the mid-1990s political pressures forced the government to confront the mainly white, commercial farmers with a new land acquisition policy, but intense national and international lobbying prevented its implementation. With advent of global economic changes, and following the start of a structural adjustment programme in 1991, manufacturing began to decline and the government relied even more on the earnings from tobacco exports. Thus strengthening tobacco control policies has always had a low national and public health priority. Recent illegal occupation of predominantly white owned farms, under the guise of implementing the former land redistribution policy, was politically motivated as the government faced its first major challenge at the general elections in June 2000. It remains unclear whether this will lead to long term reductions in tobacco production, although future global declines in demand could weaken the tobacco lobby. However, since Zimbabwe is only a minor consumer of tobacco, a unique opportunity does exist to develop controls on domestic cigarette consumption. To achieve this the isolated ministry of health would need considerable support from international agencies, such as the World Health Organisation and World Bank.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture
  • Colonialism
  • Commerce
  • Developing Countries
  • Government Agencies
  • Health Policy / economics
  • Health Policy / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Humans
  • International Cooperation
  • Lobbying
  • Politics*
  • Smoking Prevention*
  • Social Control Policies / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Tobacco Industry / economics*
  • Tobacco Industry / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Zimbabwe