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Africa: Taxation Effective, But Not Enough, to Reduce Tobacco Consumption

By Diane Mushimiyimana

The ministry of health and the ministry of finance are planning to see how tobacco taxation can be further increased. This comes after an 11% reduction in consumption since the tobacco taxation policy was started.

Studies have shown that increasing tobacco prices by 10% will reduce consumption by 8%in low and middle income countries.

Figures from Minecofin indicate that basing on the selling price, tobacco taxation stood at 60% in 2001-2006 and at 120%in 2007- 2009. In 2009-2015, it was at 150%.

Based on retail price from 2015, the taxation now stands at 36% i.e. an extra Rwf 20 on each tobacco packet sold at the market.

While there are many varieties of tobacco products, the taxation only regards what is produced in industries.In Rwanda, there are two main products: Intore, the local brand which costs Rwf 1,000per packet, and Dunhill (imported) costs Rwf2,000.

Emmanuel Nkurunziza, the head of taxation department at Minecofin, says the ministry is yet to decide on how much tax should be added on tobacco products since it is a decision that needs consultations.

“People should understand that increasing tobacco taxation is not in the interest of increasing the country’s revenue. We get revenues but a considerable amount is spent on the expensive treatment of non-communicable diseases (NCDs)yet that money can be used for other development projects.Therefore, will encourage the population to quit smoking,” he said.

According to the NCD Risk Factor Survey 2013/14, the adult smoking prevalence stands at 14%. Dr. Marie Aimee Muhimpundu, the head of NCD Unit at the RBC, says measures to curb consumption are crucial considering that tobacco is one of the most common riskNCD factors such as heart disease, stroke, chronic lung disease, type 2 diabetes and many types of cancers.

“Research shows that tobacco increases the risks for NCDs by 80%. Therefore, we are convinced that high taxation on tobacco products can lead to high purchase and hence, discourage consumption which in the process reduces health risks,” she said.

Dr. Muhimpundu added that diseases linked to tobacco consumption are expensive to treat and advised people to quit consuming tobacco as prevention is better treatment.

She also mentioned that apart from increasing taxes, the ministry of health regularly reminds people of the consequences of smoking on occasions such as the world tobacco day. “We also work with different partners such as the police to reach the youth with anti-tobacco messages, mainly during anti-drugs campaigns,” she said.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), tobacco use was the second leading risk factor for all deaths worldwide in 2000. It is also a significant risk factor for six of the eight leading causes of death globally.

WHO reports indicate that tobacco consumption is reducing in high income countries and many lower and middle income countries. However, deaths from tobacco use will continue to increase in the coming years, with over 175 million people expected to die by 2039.

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