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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 October 2005, 07:00 GMT 08:00 UK
Vote threatens EU tobacco subsidy
Tobacco factory
Tobacco farming is an old way of life for some in Europe
A committee of the European Parliament has voted to scrap some $1bn (560m) of subsidies to tobacco farmers.

The panel wants the European Union to use extra funding from scrapping subsidies to pay for improved anti-smoking campaigns across the EU.

Remaining funds will be used to coax farmers to switch to alternate crops.

The proposal will be now debated by the full European Parliament. Governments will have the final say, and tobacco growers are expected to protest.

The EP budget committee voted for the measure, which was first mooted in early 2004.

Changing habits

The UK backs the change, but Mediterranean states say it will force many poor farmers to abandon the land.

Around 80,000 tobacco farmers, mostly in poor regions of Greece and Italy, receive about 20 times the subsidy paid to grain farmers.

There are concerns that tobacco farms use heavy amounts of fertiliser and can adversely affect wildlife.

The EU's total tobacco production is about 300,000 tonnes per year.

In the past, the EU has always refused to remove the subsidies.

Two years ago, there were angry protests in Brussels when farmers burnt tobacco leaves outside the offices of the European Commission.

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