Objectives: To summarize current knowledge about the health and social consequences of tobacco production and to outline research needed to better understand these effects.
Data sources: The literature documenting the effects of tobacco production is scattered, and not always published in peer-reviewed sources. We undertook a systematic search using (1) a literature file based on over a decade of research on the health effects of tobacco work, (2) searches of computerized data bases (Medline, Science Citation Index, Agricola), (3) a review of new sources cited in literature uncovered through data base searches, and (4) professional contacts with others working on the effects of tobacco production.
Data synthesis: The health effects of tobacco production include nicotine poisoning (green tobacco sickness), pesticide exposure, respiratory effects, musculoskeletal and other injuries. Most research has focused on nicotine poisoning. Social effects of tobacco production include social disruption for communities in which tobacco production is declining (unemployment, economic loss), and for communities in which tobacco production is being introduced (loss of local food production and local autonomy).
Conclusions: Research is needed on the effects of tobacco work on the health of women and children through exposure to nicotine and pesticides, the effects of chronic nicotine exposure on all tobacco workers, the neurotoxic effects of pesticide exposure and its relationship with mental health, and the effects of growing tobacco on using tobacco. Greater effort is needed to document the social disruption in communities that are economically dependent on tobacco production, particularly those in developing countries.