Rooting out tobacco

Following a national anti-smoking drive, the Malaysian government has decided to give US $2.76 million as interest-free loans and grants to help its nearly 100,000 citizens dependent on tobacco cultivation. The move aims to help them switch over to other crops. Malaysia's deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak recently said his government recognised the fact that these people have been hit hard by the increase in cigarette taxes and the fall in the number of smokers.

"The government has agreed to help increase their incomes through integrated farming. They will be allowed to grow other crops, apart from tobacco,' Razak said. Seventy per cent of the total amount will be given as interest-free loans and the rest as grants. About 60,000 people in Malaysia are involved in growing tobacco; others are with related industries. Over 14,200 hectares of land is under tobacco cultivation, according to estimates.