Increase Tobacco Taxes To the WHO-recommended Level – Group Tells African GovernmentsACTA
The African Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA) in collaboration with the Africa Centre for Tobacco Industry Monitoring and Policy Research and the Global Centre for Good Governance in Tobacco Control (GGTC), in the 2023 Africa Tobacco Industry Interference Index has called on African Governments to increase tobacco taxes to the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended level.
The group made this demand as part of the recommendations of the 2023 Africa Tobacco Industry Interference Index, which measures how governments are responding to tobacco industry interference and protecting their public health policies from commercial and vested interests of the industry, as required by Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC).
During the launch of the index report, Pr. Olalekan Ayo-Yusuf, Director of ATIM, who commended the introduction of excise taxes on e-cigarettes in two countries, also called on African governments to increase tobacco taxes to the WHO-recommended level.
He urged stakeholders to remain focused on vital points like capacity in research and the use of research findings for effective tobacco control advocacy. He commended African countries, most of whom have a smoking rate of less than 10% according to the report, which, according to him, means Africa does not need the tobacco industry-pushed harm reduction argument.
Earlier, Dr. Arti Singh lead author of the report, highlighted the seven indicators used by the index to measure the degree of tobacco industry interference notably tobacco industry participation in policy development, tobacco industry Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives, benefits accorded the tobacco industry, unnecessary interactions with the tobacco industry, transparency when dealing with the tobacco industry, tobacco industry conflicts of interest, and preventive measures taken by governments to protect their public health policies from tobacco industry interference.
According to the report, Zambia, Tanzania, and Cameroon have the highest tobacco industry interference with Cameroon recording the worst performance, while Uganda, Ethiopia, and Botswana have the lowest rates of tobacco industry interference, with Botswana being the best-performing country.
Meanwhile, Dr. Mary Assunta, lead author of the Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index, said the Africa index exposes how major tobacco companies in the world push their selfish agenda in Africa, rather than support public health.
She pointed out that implementing tobacco control is possible and inexpensive, and the implementation of tobacco control laws greatly impacts public health.
She called on tobacco control advocates to use the index to show governments the identified loopholes, adding that governments ought to be held accountable for the non-respect of engagements they take when ratifying the WHO FCTC.
According to the statement issued by Caleb Ayong, “the Index recommended that governments should denormalize and ban ‘socially responsible’ activities by the tobacco industry, maintaining a strong stance against tobacco industry interference.
“Fast-tracking the passing of pending tobacco control laws, building the capacity of tobacco control stakeholders, generating evidence for knowledge transfer, promoting economically viable alternative livelihoods to tobacco farming, adopting a code of conduct for interacting with the tobacco industry, and banning the sale of single sticks and duty-free tobacco products, amongst others.”
The index can be downloaded online from the organization’s website.