Are holidaymakers from the UK still seeing EU-subsidised tobacco growing in Southern Europe?
The EU’s website states that “In the interest of public health, direct tobacco subsidies were phased out by 2010.” But in February this year, UK members of parliament expressed “disappointment at the continuing subsidy…to the tune of some £260 million each year”.
I can report seeing just as much of the large-leaved crop this year in the part of South-West France I have visited every August since 2007, although a friend who knows a different area well says tobacco planting is much reduced.
Readers may remember the EU tobacco subsidy being a big focus of campaigning throughout the 1990’s. It was said that much of the tobacco was too low-grade to be smoked by Europeans, so it was dumped on non-EU countries at a loss, encouraging people on low incomes to become nicotine-addicted. If that is true, then stopping (or greatly reducing) the subsidy has taken a long time.
Tobacco is linked to ADD / ADHD in two ways. Symptoms in teenagers predispose to starting smoking, and also to difficulty in giving up later. This is often said to be due to risk-taking, but some of my patients report big improvements in cognitive function when they smoke. As mentioned two weeks ago, the UK-licensed smoking cessation drug Zyban (bupropion) can be effective in reducing ADD / ADHD features.
Secondly, children of mothers who smoke during pregnancy go on to develop ADD / ADHD more frequently. A recent study suggests this is more of a genetic than a brain-toxicity mechanism (1), but there is a wide range of other evidence which strongly indicates maternal smoking to be bad for the developing foetal brain.
Many people find a Southern European field full of mature tobacco, with white trumpet-shaped flowers rising several feet above the leaves, to be a beautiful thing. But it is a deadly beauty which we seem to be in no hurry to get rid of.
This post appeared late due to problems with technology and organisation