Knowledge, attitudes, and practices of women farmers concerning tobacco agriculture in a municipality in Southern Brazil

Abstract: The study aimed to explore the knowledge, attitudes, and practices of women farmers working in tobacco production concerning the social, environmental, and health impacts of this economic activity. Focus groups were used in this qualitative study, and themes were explored until reaching saturation. The study was conducted in a municipality (county) in southern Brazil in 2013 and included 64 women farmers. The discussions revealed participants’ familiarity with health problems associated with workloads in tobacco production: green tobacco sickness, pesticide poisoning, musculoskeletal disorders, and others. The discussions also revealed a concern with the negative impacts of tobacco agriculture on the environment. They also revealed apprehension concerning decisions on switching to alternatives for sustainable agricultural production, emphasizing that on-going and systematic government support would be necessary for such a transition. Women farmers identified various factors that contribute to the persistence of tobacco farming: small holdings for cultivation, lack of guarantees for marketing crops, and indebtedness to tobacco companies. The study showed that an integrated approach is needed to deal with tobacco farmers’ problems, considering a balance between farmers’ beliefs and government decisions. This approach, in keeping with the recommendations of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, may help strengthen policies and measures to promote health and sustainable local development.