The European Commission yesterday decided to give tobacco farmers up to 300,000 euros each to switch to other crops or to take up other activities. This is likely to have a strong effect in Greece, whose tobacco farmers, along with Italy’s, produce most of the EU’s crop of raw tobacco, which in 2000 was 338,658 tons, according to Commission figures. «From 2003 onward, tobacco producers who wish to withdraw from tobacco growing will be eligible for assistance from the Community Tobacco Fund for investment measures designed to create new activities and generate employment. These measures will be eligible for public assistance of between 75 percent and 100 percent of the cost of the measure, up to a maximum 300,000 euros,» an EU press release said. «To benefit from this assistance, producers must withdraw permanently from tobacco production and relinquish their quota,» it said. «Tobacco-producing member states are to set up the programs connected with these measures and adopt the necessary national provisions to implement them.» The regulation is aimed at raising public awareness of the harmful effects of tobacco, «with particular emphasis on encouraging people to stop smoking,» the announcement said. Tobacco-related diseases kill more than 500,000 Europeans each year. Gregor Kreuzhuber, spokesman for the EU’s Farm Commissioner Franz Fischler, said the new law would effect some 130,000 jobs involved in growing and processing tobacco in Europe, Reuters reported. «In some tobacco-growing regions, such as Greece, there are not a lot of alternatives for farmers so a removal of farm subsidies there would lead to poverty and that is why we want to help them to find other jobs outside agriculture,» he said.