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Expert wants increased tobacco tax to save lives

Oct 26, 2020

 Kenya is one of the highest consumers of tobacco in sub-Saharan Africa.


• Half of the tobacco-related deaths occur between the ages of 30 and 69


Increasing the excise tax on tobacco products could be the only way to save lives and reduce the consumption of the product, an expert has said.


Policy and governance expert Vincent Kimosop said taxation will be key because tobacco consumption is growing as the population also increases.


“Eight million people die from tobacco use each year. That is, seven million from direct smoke and one million from second-hand smokers, with the majority coming from low and middle-income areas,” Kimosop said.


He said that smokers die 15 years earlier than non-smokers on average. Half of the tobacco-related deaths occur between the ages of 30 and 69.


He spoke on Friday during a training workshop on Tobacco. The training was organised in partnership with the National Taxpayers Association.


A study conducted by NTA on the effects of taxation on tobacco consumption in Kenya shows the country is still grappling with coming up with an tax structure for cigarettes that does not negatively impact markets and revenues as well as public health objectives.


“This is evident from the numerous amendments to the Customs and Excise Act, following the annual budget statements causing changes in cigarette tax structure,” the study says.


“As examples, from 2008 to 2011, the criteria for excise tax were based on the physical characteristics of cigarette retail selling price.” 

It shows the cigarette tax structure changed in 2012 and Sh1,200 per mile or 35 per cent of the retail selling price was changed.

NTA says there is a need to include education and awareness campaigns to enable the country achieve its adoptive voluntary target to reduce tobacco use by 30 per cent by 2025.


That shall not be achieved if the current rates of decline in prevalence are maintained, it says.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says Kenya is one of the highest consumers of tobacco in sub-Saharan Africa.

The number of cigarettes sticks smoked per person per year was 257 in 2014 and rose to 264 in 2016.


These quantities were larger than those of most of Kenyan neighbours including Uganda and Tanzania.


According to World Tobacco Atlas, tobacco-caused diseases were estimated to kill more than 6,000 Kenyans in 2014, a figure three times greater than the reported deaths of 2,251 that resulted from road accidents in that year.


An estimate done by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows smoke increases the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke by two to four times.


Men develop lung cancer by 25 times while women develop it by 25.7 times if they smoke.


Source: The Star