The Philippines has launched a new campaign promoting tobacco -- not for smoking but for fish farming, a government tobacco agency official said Thursday.
Over six months, about 400 fish-farmers in the northern coastal province of La Union will be using "tobacco dust" to kill mollusks and other predators that prey on fish, said Rex Teoxon of the National Tobacco Administration.
"We are going to train the fisher folk and the whole community on sustainable aqua culture using the tobacco dust," said Teoxon, head of the agency's corporate planning department.
The drive is part of an effort to find alternative uses for the crop in the face of the global anti-smoking campaign.
The dust, made of pulverised and processed waste tobacco leaves, is a safer alternative to the "long-banned, highly-toxic chemicals" that the fish farmers have been using, Teoxon said.
Tests have found the tobacco dust kills the predators but does not affect the fish raised in the farms, with the active ingredient nicotine evaporating in two to three days, he said.
Additionally, it helps fertilise the waters, promoting the growth of algae that the farmed fish feed upon, he added.
The tobacco dust will be provided free to the fish-farmers but if proved to be effective, it will be marketed commercially, said the tobacco official.
In the past, the agency has experimented with using tobacco seeds for human and animal food and it still promotes the use of tobacco stalks for paper and particle boards.
Although the Philippine government has imposed strict controls on smoking and cigarette advertising, the tobacco industry still plays a huge part in the economy and the livelihood of thousands.
Teoxon said that a government survey found that in 2010, as many as 2.9 million people were dependent on the tobacco industry including 680,000 farmers and their family members.
Explore further: New model helps explain how provisions promote or reduce wildlife disease