An increasing number of studies provide evidence on the serious negative consequences of tobacco farming on economic livelihoods, human health and the environment. There is, however, only limited research on tobacco farming in Bangladesh, a significant producer of tobacco leaf. It is not yet well understood why many farmers choose to grow tobacco considering the challenging context. Accordingly, this study examines the factors that influence farmers’ decisions to grow tobacco in Bangladesh. Socio-demographic and economic information was collected from 220 tobacco farmers and 117 non-tobacco farmers from the major tobacco-growing district of Kushtia, for a total sample of 337. These farmers were recruited from two sub-districts (or upazilla
—Daulatpur and Mirpur) using a stratified random sampling. A two-level logistic regression model was applied for the identification of the variables that condition farmers’ decisions to cultivate tobacco leaf. Almost two-thirds of the sampled farmers (65.3%) chose to farm tobacco. The results demonstrate that the following variables shape most farmers’ decisions to cultivate tobacco: older age, less education, tobacco firms’ short-term financial support of growing tobacco, greater ease of selling tobacco products at market, better access to credit (also provided by the tobacco companies), and farmer’s perception about higher profits from tobacco cultivation compared to other crops. This study strongly suggests that the government and others working on tobacco control should consider engaging in initiatives to increase farmers’ education, perhaps particularly for older farmers, and provide meaningful financial support in part by helping to increase access to credit and ensuring a better market facility to sell their other healthier agricultural crops, goods and services.
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