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Uganda: Gov't Asked To Raise Taxes On Tobacco Products Above 75%

 June 23, 2020

The Government has been asked to consider raising taxes on tobacco products, beyond 75% World Health Organization Standards, to finance realization of Universal health care or the National Health Insurance.

According to tobacco control activists; there is also need by the government to create within the national budget, a vote to finance implementation of nationwide tobacco control programming.

"We are asking the government to create a line vote to control tobacco use. The tobacco control program vote could stop over 29,000 children below 15 years that are exposed to tobacco use daily," Moses Tilibita, a legal officer at the Uganda National Health Consumers' Organization (UNHCO) said.

Section 17 of Uganda's Tobacco Control Act, bans persons below 21 years, from engaging in any tobacco crop or product activities.

It is reinforced by section 16 that bans sale of shisha, electronic cigarettes, smokeless such as Mijaj or Kubar, and flavored tobacco in Uganda and display of all tobacco products at points of sale.

The activists implored the government to increase taxes on all tobacco products, to be able to control tobacco use but most importantly tap into tobacco revenue to support the health sector.

"To protect our people from the effects of tobacco use and the money government spends on the treatment of people that have been affected by the use of tobacco, we must increase taxes on tobacco products," Robinah Kaitiritimba, the Executive Director UNHCO said.

Speaking in Kampala, Kaitiritimba who recently won an international award on tobacco control said increasing taxes on tobacco products, is the only sure way, the government can protect its citizens from the effects of tobacco since its consumption will be reduced.

Statistics by UNHCO indicate that the cost of tobacco use constituted 0.5% of Gross Domestic Product, while the health care expenditure for treating tobacco-induced diseases accounted for 2% of the national health expenditure.

Kenneth Mwehonge, the program manager health policy advocacy HEPS- Uganda said Uganda spends a lot of money on the treatment of tobacco-related diseases such as cancer, more than the tax generated from tobacco products.

"We are having a huge funding gap for medicines used in the treatment of these diseases including non-communicable diseases. We are losing a lot of money spent on such diseases than what we get in terms of revenue," Mwehonge said.

On his part, Christopher Mayoola a public health economist said for the government to boost Uganda's economic growth, it must protect its population from diseases occasioned by tobacco consumption, for improved productivity.

He noted that the only way to protect Ugandans from the dangers associated with tobacco use is to increase taxes on tobacco products.

"If you want to raise the GDP, tax tobacco use. It is easier to raise money from tobacco if we raised the tax on tobacco, the government can be able to get a lot of money," Mayoola said.

The tobacco activists want the government to fast track the ratification of the protocol on elimination on trade in illicit tobacco products and also establish a tobacco control fund which sources funds from development partners and taxes from the tobacco industry.

They also appealed to the ministry of health, in light of section 26 (1) of the tobacco control Act, to by notice in gazette appoint Civil Society Organizations' or individuals involved in tobacco control as authorized persons to enforce the Act.