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Sudan Scholars – ‘Tobacco Not Allowed in Islam’

Last week, the head of the Sudan Scholars Corporation issued a religious decree banning tobacco.

Sheikh Mohamed Osman Saleh, head of the Sudanese Scholars Corporation told the state-owned Sudan News Agency (SUNA) last week that tobacco is forbidden in Islam.

The use of tobacco is no less dangerous and evil than the use of drugs, Saleh said.

He demanded the Sudanese security apparatus to combat the cultivation, sale, and use of tobacco in all parts of the country.

Asked about the donation of the North Darfur government of 10,000 tons of tobacco in support of the ruling National Congress Party, the sheikh said that the gift consisted of various in-kind materials. He accused the Sudanese media of highlighting the tobacco item, “for the purpose of creating sensation and chaos”.

In response, former North Darfur government adviser on economic affairs Rashid Ismail told reporters in Khartoum that “the fierce attack against tobacco trade in the country has led to the idea that it is something abnormal”.

According to Ismail, “the recent campaign against tobacco is probably intended to hit the Darfur economy. It will put the livelihoods of 900,000 Darfuris at stake”.

The price of Africa’s puff

It is still one of the biggest businesses in Africa despite all the efforts from the government trying to stamp it out. The tobacco industry makes over $700 billion a year and seems to survive advertising bans and restrictions. Part of this business is African children who work for a dollar a day. The article below first appeared in Forbes Africa and is republished with its permission. Subscribe today by contacting Shanna Jacobsen

It’s 5am in the northern hills of Malawi where its tobacco is grown. Chifundo Ndilowe is awake and ready for the day. Dressed in grey shorts and a blue NBA vest, still filthy from yesterday’s long day on the farm, Ndilowe has hours of hard labour ahead. He is just 15 years old and has been planting and picking tobacco since he was 10.

“I came here in 2011 because rural life is hard. We were battling at home and I had to start contributing for us to survive. I stopped going to school to work. It is very tough working under these conditions because it is hot and we easily get tired and I am often sick,” he says.

Ndilowe moved 567 kilometres from Mulanje to Mpherembe, 300 kilometres north of Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe, to work in a tobacco farm five years ago. It means long hours, missing school and breaking the law for little pay. He earns a little more than $140 and $280 a year depending on the harvest. That’s less than $1 a day.

“We work for the year and only get paid after harvest. During the year, we get 20 kilograms of maize for 12 days because we don’t grow crops for consumption. They also give us salt and then we have to figure out the rest ourselves. I get to eat once a day and I take whatever is there,” he says.

Ndilowe is just one of an estimated 800,000 youngsters in the tobacco fields; voices that are seldom heard. One of an army of children who sweat for millions of cigarettes lit all over Africa.

A study on child labour in the tobacco industry in two areas of Malawi, Suza in the Kasungu district and Katalima in the Dowa district, found 57% of all children were being used as child labour in the tobacco fields.

George Kube, an adult tobacco worker, works with Ndilowe and two other children.

“There is no money for the children to go to school and if they don’t work to help we wouldn’t survive. We farm on two acres of land and the produce is auctioned to tobacco companies. You have to be very strong if you are going to do this job because sometimes we have to cut down trees and look for water,” says Kube.

A study, published by the British Medical Association, says contract farmers, like Kube and Ndilowe, cultivating tobacco in Malawi, live below national poverty lines, while independent farmers operate at a loss.

“Even when labour is excluded from the calculation of income less costs, farmers’ gross margins place most households in the bottom income [groups] of the overall population. Tobacco farmers appear to contract principally as a means to obtain credit, which is consistently reported to be difficult to obtain,” says the study.

Tobacco farmers may struggle to make a living but tobacco manufacturers thrive. The world tobacco industry is worth billions of dollars. Cigarette retail values in 2014 were worth US$744 billion and over 5.6 trillion cigarettes were sold to more than one billion smokers according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. But, very few farmers make money from it.

The market is controlled by a few international companies; China National Tobacco Corporation, Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco, Japan Tobacco International and Imperial Brands. They buy tobacco from cheap emerging markets, like Malawi, for profit.

For years, governments around the world have been trying to clamp down on smoking because of its health implications, through stringent laws and higher taxes, yet tobacco use is increasing in some countries, says Zambian economist Grieve Chelwa.

“African incomes have been rising over the last couple of years and we know that tobacco consumption responds to rising incomes. Further, tobacco companies have put in place strategies (subtle advertising) to take advantage of rising incomes.”

And they flourish.

In 2016, British American Tobacco (BAT) announced its revenue went up 8.1% at constant rates of exchange, cigarette volume from subsidiaries was 497 billion, up by 2.2%, cigarette market share in key markets increased by 40 basis points and its brands performed exceptionally well with cigarette volume up 9.8% year ending September 30.

BAT plans to merge with its US partner R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, the company behind the famous camel cigarette brand, in a deal valued at $47 billion. It hopes to create a stronger global presence and move into new ventures like e-cigarettes.

In its third quarter, Philip Morris International reported net revenues of $19.9 billion, up by 2.6%, net revenues, excluding excise taxes, of $7 billion, up by 0.8%, operating income of $3 billion, up by 0.6%, and operating company’s income of $3.1 billion, up by 1.2%. In Africa, companies thrive because of weak regulation.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has a 75% benchmark of tax on the retail price, yet the African average is way below. Nigeria taxes cigarettes at only 20% of the retail price. Chelwa says ideally increasing taxes to reduce tobacco use should work anywhere because of the law of demand, increasing price reduces demand.

“But, the important point is the increases have to be real-inflation adjusted increments,” he says.

In Africa, high tobacco taxes are rare. WHO says only 33 countries, with 10% of the world’s population, have introduced taxes on tobacco products of more than 75%.

Tobacco tax revenues are on average 269 times higher than spending on tobacco control.

Tobacco companies are also good at finding new markets, with new smokers and weak regulations. According to an article published by The Lancet, a UK medical journal, tobacco use is declining in higher income countries, but nearly 80% of the world’s smokers live in low and middle income countries.

“Tobacco control regulations are not strong across most of the continent. Countries have ratified the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) but that’s all they have done. And sadly the tobacco industry is an important player in the setting of tobacco control policy in most African countries,” says Chelwa.

For years, tobacco companies argue they market merely to convince smokers to switch brands, but evidence published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information shows advertising drives smoking.

According to a WHO study, smoking has increased in 27 countries over the past 15 years. Seventeen of these are in Africa. In Cameroon, smokers more than doubled from 7% in 2000 to 22% last year. Congo-Brazzaville has seen the biggest spike. Nearly half of Congolese men smoke. Last year, 22% of its people admitted to smoking regularly, up from 6% in 2000.

“Only 42 countries, representing 19% of the world’s population, meet the best practice for pictorial warnings, which includes the warnings in the local language and cover an average of at least half of the front and back of cigarette packs,” says WHO.

In South Africa, cigarette advertising is banned. There are also restrictions on point of sale product display, vending machines and sponsorship of events, activities, individuals, organizations or governments. Now, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has pledged to take it further by strengthening the Tobacco Products Control Act.

Motsoaledi says there should be no branding, no logos and no colors on cigarettes to discourage smoking. If the law is introduced, all cigarettes will be in a brown package with graphics that show the damage they can cause.

This is worrying for the tobacco industry. Christo van Staden heads the only primary tobacco processing factory in South Africa, Limpopo Tobacco Processors, that processes 12 million kilograms of tobacco. He says the effects could be catastrophic.

“The biggest impact [of tougher regulations] is the increase in illicit cigarettes which is a huge dent in the business of BAT and in the whole market. About 20 to 30 percent of cigarettes in Gauteng are illicit and they are paid way below the price,” he says.

As we meet, in Rustenburg, a two-hour drive from Johannesburg, Van Staden’s farmers have lost 30 hectors of tobacco to a passing storm. On this day, the sun blazes down from a cloudless azure sky. A sprinkler keeps the glossy lawns and flowers alive. Inside the factory, it is dark and you can hear a pin drop. The silence is almost tangible. There is no bustle and machines that usually crackle stand still. It is not tobacco season. All employees are upstairs in the offices working. Dressed in khaki shorts and shirt, Van Staden says tobacco farming is hard.

“For every hector, you need two people to work there and pick it by hand, it is very expensive. One hector costs about R130,000 ($9,500) to plant and the farmer needs to make at least 20 to 25 percent profit. Last year was a very tough year. There were very tough conditions and an average farmer did not make any profit at all.”

“Now they are supporting the local market but if they don’t get any benefit out of that, they have to compete with everyone else in plain packaging, then there is no reason for them to buy South African tobacco, they will literally walk out of here overnight and source their product from Brazil, India and China where they can buy a lot cheaper.

We are not ready for that. We would close these doors,” he says.

For Van Staden, closing doors means 10,000 farmers lose their income. He thinks there should be more education about the dangers of tobacco and efforts to keep youngsters away from smoking.

“I am a non-smoker and will not advise anyone to smoke. Most of my staff members don’t smoke. Unfortunately, people smoke everyday but see the warning on the packets and turn a blind eye. Because it’s such an unhealthy product, the governments around the world will try and eradicate it but I don’t think it will happen in the next 20 years. There are laws in this country that allow people to smoke and to close down the primary sector is not going to stop smoking overnight,” adds Van Staden.

South Africa will follow the UK, Ireland, Australia and France in banning branded packaging.

In Uganda, 4,800 kilometres from South Africa, it’s even tougher. If you light up in bars, restaurants or hotels, you will be fined $60 or jailed for up to two months.

Smokers must be at least 50 meters away from public spaces, such as schools, hospitals and taxi ranks.

Uganda’s new laws also ban the sale of electronic cigarettes, flavoured tobacco for water pipes, the sale of single cigarettes and tightened rules on labelling, advertising and selling tobacco to under-21s.

“We are strongly opposed to plain packing as we feel that there hasn’t been enough consultation and research on it. Our concern is the serious adverse consequences that it will have on the economy, jobs and investment; as well as potentially making counterfeit easier. It trounces fundamental intellectual property rights and freedoms guaranteed by the constitution,” says Joe Heshu, Acting Head of External Affairs at BAT.

According to Heshu, counterfeit cigarettes are a bigger issue. In 2015, South Africa’s Treasury lost R5.1 billion ($373 million) due to illicit trade. The trade accounts for about 24% of the market.

South Africa has been increasing tobacco taxes since 1994 and the big impact has been the reduction in consumption and prevalence, but Chelwa agrees there has been a minimal impact of the taxes on illicit trade.

“Illicit trade often has to do with tax administration and not taxes. Even if taxes were a cent, you’d still have illicit trade showing that it is not a tax level or tax rate issue but a tax administration issue,” he says.

On jobs, Chelwa argues “there are very few tobacco manufacturing jobs, very few given how mechanized manufacturing of cigarettes is.”

The big worry he says is in the field.

“Governments have to consciously find ways of transitioning tobacco farmers into growing other types of crops. This will require a lot of work,” says Chelwa.

Asked if he thinks cigarettes are killers, Heshu argues his company has launched e-cigarettes, which are supposedly less harmful products, in the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Poland.

“We are committed to the research and development of Next Generation Products (NGPs) and globally have invested over half a billion pounds during the past five years.

There is a growing body of evidence that NGPs do pose significantly fewer risks than cigarettes.”

For now, tobacco companies continue to thrive. Only 29 countries, representing 12% of the world’s population, have completely banned all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, according to WHO.

Some of Malawi’s tobacco, grown by the likes of Ndilowe and Kube, is shipped 2,000 kilometers south of Mpherembe. In South Africa, 19% of the population, over the age of 15, smokes according to the World Bank. That’s almost one in five people and it is dangerous.

Tobacco is responsible for six million deaths each year. Of those, 600,000 die from the effects of second-hand smoke. This number is expected to increase to eight million by 2030 if current trends continue, says WHO.

Alexandra chain smoker, Mpho Ndlovu, knows this, yet he goes through three packs of cigarettes a day.

“I have been smoking since I was 15. It started as just playing with friends at school because we knew we weren’t allowed to. It was a way of being cool. I got hooked and have been smoking for 40 years,” says Ndlovu.

What started as a game became a habit and then an addiction.

“Smoking helps me when I’m nervous and I just enjoy it. I have tried to stop many times but have failed. I know this might one day kill me but, at this point, there is nothing I can do.”

Ndlovu spends R110.50 ($8) per day on cigarettes. That’s R766.50 ($56) per week and R3,066 ($225) per month and R36,792 ($2,700) per year and R183,960 ($13,500) in five years. If he continues smoking the same number of cigarettes per day for another 40 years, at this current price, he will spend around $100,000 on cigarettes. If invested, he could buy a house.

Ndlovu spends close to half of his R7,000 ($500) salary he makes working as a driver for a logistics company in Sandton.

“By the last week of the month, I would be out of money and sometimes I have to ask people if I can borrow or take some on credit from the spaza shop,” he says.

“When I smoke, especially on weekends, I drink as well. So the money I earn is never enough. My children get angry because they think I should be using the money on them. I don’t know how to stop.”

Ndlovu buys his cigarettes from Ntando Debeza, a hundred metres from his home.

Debeza’s spaza shop sells cigarettes, pipe tobacco, snuff, chewing tobacco, hookah and shisha.

“I make about R6,000 ($440) a month from this small shop. Most of the money comes from tobacco sales but I also sell other day-to-day products like bread and milk.

People come to buy and sometimes on credit and I collect money at the end of the month,” says Debeza.

This means Ndlovu’s debt grows. But, that’s not all. Smoking does not only affect the smoker. High levels of nicotine exposure from handling tobacco leaves may cause nicotine poisoning called Green Tobacco Sickness, with symptoms including nausea and vomiting.

Back in Mpherembe in Malawi, Kube says he is aware of the dangers of working in a tobacco field without protective clothing, and mostly its effects on minors. “I know children can get sick but what can we do? We need a lot of hands on the farm because this isn’t an easy crop to plant and prepare. It needs three times more people than corn but we don’t make enough money at all,” says Kube.

He is one of the few rural farmers who know this. And it gets worse. A 2009 survey in China revealed that only 38% of smokers knew that smoking causes coronary heart disease and only 27% knew that it can cause strokes.

“Among smokers who are aware of the dangers of tobacco, most want to quit. Counselling and medication can more than double the chance that a smoker who tries to quit will succeed. National comprehensive cessation services with full or partial cost coverage are available to assist tobacco users to quit in only 24 countries, representing 15% of the world’s population,” says WHO.

Cape Town-based entrepreneur Gareth Carter saw this crisis as an opportunity. He founded WeDoRecover, a company that helps patients who suffer from psychiatric and addiction problems.

“Finding the right addiction programme to meet someone’s specific needs is a complex process. The crisis and chaos synonymous with active addiction are overwhelming and the multitude of choices in the marketplace adds to the confusion,” says Carter.

According to Carter, people who smoke are more likely to drink alcohol and vice versa. He says alcoholics frequently present with a co-morbid nicotine addiction.

“As many as 80 percent of people addicted to alcohol and other drugs are frequent smokers, but the bulk will die of smoking-related disease rather than alcohol and drug-related disease…”

The damage doesn’t stop there. Carter adds that major depressive episodes among adults are highest in those addicted to nicotine and lowest in those who have quit or never started smoking.

“With nearly 80 percent of the world’s one billion smokers living in low- and middle-income countries, this is a very real public health care problem for us in Africa.

Making nicotine addiction prevention and treatment readily accessible to the youth counteracts a wide range of potential mental, physical and mood-disorder problems with far-reaching ramifications to families, communities and our economy,” he says.

Carter thinks if tobacco was “invented” today it would be classed with other illegal drugs. That’s not the case. The lucrative industry in Africa puffs on unfettered.

Tobacco corporations target Africa’s children

Children in Africa have become a target for tobacco companies‚ research by the African Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA) has found.

The survey looked at the way in which tobacco companies in five African countries– Burkina Faso‚ Cameroon‚ Benin and Nigeria – get consumers to keep using their product.

It found tobacco use caused about six million deaths yearly‚ with 80% of them occurring in low- and middle-income countries.

Findings show that in Africa‚ smoking prevalence is about 21% among adult men and 3% among women.

About 21% of young boys and 13% of young girls use tobacco products.

“The aggressive sale and marketing strategies of the tobacco industry targeting young people will be among the key contributing factors to the growing epidemic of tobacco use in Africa‚” the report said.

Four strategies were identified as being used to lure children to smoke‚ a concern that was highlighted at the launch of the report in Johannesburg recently.

Advertising and promotion, the sale of single cigarettes, child-friendly flavoured cigarettes and noncompliance with existing tobacco control laws were the main causes for an increase in young children’s interest in smoking.

Sales of single cigarettes were found to be widespread near schools.

Global anti-tobacco conference to see 50% decline in deliveries

Zimbabwe’s money spinning tobacco sector, one of the main sources of liquidity in the country, could suffer a huge blow with seasonal deliveries seen declining by 50% if the ongoing global anti-tobacco conference in India endorses the mandatory reduction of nicotine levels in cigarettes, it has emerged.

By Fidelity Mhlanga

The conference, from November 8-12, seeks to reduce nicotine down to a maximum of 0,4 miligrammes, which is 10% of current levels.

Delegates are intent on reviewing the implementation of the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) and the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products. The meeting comes amid a global lobby against smoking in public places due to rising cases of cancer.

Statistics from Treasury show tobacco exports were only second to gold, valued at US$481 million and constituting 23% of all exports from January to October 2015. Gold exports were valued at US$503 million, indicating the importance of the golden leaf to Zimbabwe’s economic survival.

As at September 2 this year, tobacco weighing 201 million kilogrammes and valued at US$592,5 million was sold, at the average price of US$2,94 per kg.

Office of the President and Cabinet deputy chief secretary Christian Katsande, executive secretary of the National Economic Consultative Forum Norman Chakanetsa and officials from the ministries of Health and Industry and Commerce are currently attending the global conference in India.

Tobacco Industry Marketing Board Chief executive officer Andrew Matibiri said the endorsement of the reduction of nicotine in tobacco would affect tobacco deliveries that have been on an upward trend in recent years.

“Anything that amounts to the reduction of nicotine in tobacco means we will not be able to produce tobacco in the same level,” he said.

Matibiri said tobacco producers could, however, lobby for the use of genetic modification to neutralise nicotine levels in tobacco despite global resistance to the method.

Conference of the Parties (COP7) to WHO FCTC are lobbying for total exclusion, or market access exclusion or differential treatment (punitive taxes, duties, etc) of tobacco and its products on the world trade platform.

Experts say should the regulation sail through, demand for tobacco will decline drastically, by up to 50%, as low-value tobacco will be required by cigarette manufacturers.

Zimbabwe Tobacco Association chief executive Rodney Ambrose said if the regulation is endorsed this will result in tobacco being untradeable on world markets and would make tobacco growing valueless and affect Zimbabwe which exports over 95% of its tobacco.

“We will see tobacco production in Zimbabwe drop by at least 50% along with US dollar earnings, growers’ livelihoods and dependents along with all downstream industries that support two million people will all be at risk,” he said.

“This will negatively impact on yields and growers’ returns, resulting in poor viability of tobacco farmers, forcing millions of Zimbabwe farmers out of tobacco production.”

Only government officials are allowed to attend the global convention. The WHO FCTC refuses to entertain any dialogue with the tobacco industry.

“I am sure you appreciate from the above the devastating impact such regulations could have on our industry if the WHO FCTC is not stopped from making unreasonable, non-consultative proposals. The WHO FCTC should concentrate on health issues, not trade, as there are arms of the UN that regulate trade, ie WTO, who have shown no objection to the trading of tobacco,” Ambrose said.


The ball is rolling internationally as more countries ban menthol cigarettes, including flavour capsules, as well as other flavoured tobacco products.

The rationale to ban menthol is clear and compelling.

Menthol soothes the throat making it easier to smoke, and makes it easier for kids to experiment and get addicted.

Menthol also discourages adults from quitting.

On 31 May 2015, the Canadian province of Nova Scotia became the first place in the world to implement a menthol cigarette ban. The menthol ban applies to all tobacco products. 7 out of 10 Canadian provinces have adopted menthol bans as part of broader flavoured tobacco bans.

The Canadian government is preparing a national menthol cigarette ban.

In the European Union (EU), a menthol cigarette ban will come into force 20 May 2020 for all 28 EU countries. Turkey and Moldova will do likewise on 20 May 2020. In Africa, Ethiopia and Uganda have adopted legislation banning flavours including menthol.

In recent years, a major tobacco industry strategy has been the marketing of cigarettes with squeezable flavour capsules. Sales of capsule cigarettes are significant and growing in many countries. While menthol is the most common flavour in capsules, other flavours are also being used.

In the EU, a ban on flavoured capsules came into force at the manufacturer level on 20 May 2016. Germany and Belgium were the first countries with cigarette capsule bans, prior to the EU requirement. Canadian provincial legislation banning menthol includes a capsule ban.

There is a positive, accelerating international trend to ban menthol, capsules and flavours in tobacco products, and thus respond to industry practices to increase tobacco product attractiveness and sales.

Rob Cunningham
Canadian Cancer Society

Tobacco-control groups turn to billboard messages

Anti-tobacco groups in Nigeria Thursday unveiled a billboard in Abuja to press home demands for the adoption of Regulations for Implementation of the National Tobacco Control Act 2015 by the Nigerian government.

The unveiling came as the Federal Ministry of Health begins deliberations on regulations for the effective implementation of the Act which will be transmitted to the National Assembly for approval.

“Why are we putting up this billboard? And why this location? For us, the unveiling of this billboard is not the mere ceremony of a big and colourful advertisement,” said Akinbode Oluwafemi, Deputy Executive Director, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria.

“It is not competition over a product. This is an innovation in getting our advocacy messages on public health to our esteemed lawmakers who have the onerous task of approving the tobacco control regulations for effective implementation of the NTC Act. The message we have on the board is also intended to resonate with our kids who are intelligent and will ask their parents what the issues are. They will ask questions and we will have to answer them.

“For the wider public, the billboard is like a television set that you cannot switch off. It is always there, they will always see it. Unlike television or magazine adverts, you cannot flip the channel or turn the page. So, for our lawmakers who traverse this route daily, they cannot miss it and the message will stick. Most importantly we want it to galvanise them to action.”

Nigeria’s Tobacco Control Bill was signed into law by former President Goodluck Jonathan in May 2015.

But its implementation has continued to throw up a challenge for the government.

Anti-tobacco advocate groups say between the period the bill was signed into law and July this year when the Health Minister, Isaac Adewole, inuagurated the National Tobacco Control Committee, the tobacco industry had fought relentlessly to sabotage implementation.

Mr. Oluwafemi said a lot of “shocking developments” spearheaded by tobacco companies had demanded an expedited action on tobacco control regulations in the country.

“We have recorded among others, Philip Morris International Nigeria Limited (PMINTL) illicit cigarette imports from Senegal; an unwarranted aspersion on the integrity of NATOCC members by the Initiative for Public Policy Analysis (IPPA) – a group that was in the fore of British America Tobacco Nigeria (BATN) campaign for a sufficiently weakened tobacco law in Nigeria; and now the unrelenting marketing gimmicks targeted at our kids,” Mr. Oluwafemi said..

“The attempt to get our kids hooked through kiosks and other Point of Sale (POS) near schools is now a big issue not only in Nigeria but across Africa. In Cameroun, Togo, Uganda to list a few countries, these things are happening. Our concern, however, is that Nigeria still remains the biggest market for the tobacco industry on the African continent because of its teeming population of vibrant youths.

“In virtually all the states of the federation, street corners and around schools have been targeted by the tobacco death merchants to market new flavours of cigarettes. Is it not very disturbing to know that there are orange, vanilla and Amarula flavours of cigarettes now being openly displayed and sold to capture the attention of our kids and addict them to smoking?”

Mr. Oluwafemi said the billboard message would go hand in hand with their push for the Health Ministry to expedite action on the Nigeria Tobacco Control regulations for the full implementation of the Act.

“We have said it time and again, delay is dangerous. The time to Act is now.”

Tobacco Industry Targets Schools in Africa

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Botswana: Tobacco levy to fund anti-smoking initiatives

The Ministry of Health and Wellness has set up a task team to consider how the tobacco levy could be channelled towards funding tobacco control activities, a senior health official has said.

Chief health officer, Setshwano Mokgweetsinyana told participants at the inaugural Anti-Tobacco Network (ATN) public lecture at the University of Botswana recently that communication would soon be issued detailing the criteria to access the funds.

The Government introduced the levy in 2014 with the objective of funding anti-tobacco initiatives and other related activities.  The health ministry explained the development was in recognition of the contribution of tobacco as the main risk factor for a number of chronic diseases, including cancer, lung diseases and cardiovascular diseases.

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.

Gambia to Implement Plain Packaging Law

The Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Dr. Omar Sey, has stated that The Gambia will soon join other World Health Organisation Member States that have already passed laws to implement plain packaging of tobacco products. He said it is time to act and they are ready to act now.

He was speaking on Monday during the commemoration of the World No Tobacco Day held in Banjul. The theme for this year’s celebration advocates for the introduction of “Plain (standardised) packaging” of tobacco products. The plain packaging was first introduced in Australia in 2012 and recently in the United Kingdom, France which was followed by other countries.

As part of the celebration, The Gambia has also won two of the five awards for the World No Tobacco Day 2016 throughout the African region. The WHO presents these prestigious awards to individuals, organisations, and institutions all over the world for their outstanding contributions to tobacco control.

Dr. Sey further said the World No Tobacco Day is commemorated internationally every year on the 31st May in order to underline the risks associated with tobacco use and to advocate for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption.

According to him, plain packing of tobacco products restricts or prohibits use of logos, colours, brand images and promotional information, noting that it is part of an integrated approach to tobacco control that helps reduce attractiveness of tobacco packaging and eliminate tobacco advertising and promotion.

“As countries seek to embrace the plain packaging of tobacco products, tobacco companies all over the world are on the fight against this great initiative with massive misinformation campaigns,” he added.

“With the strong multi-sectorol team and media houses we have in The Gambia, I have the full assurance that The Gambia can effectively implement the promotion of plain packaging of tobacco products.’’

He added that his Ministry is in full support of the plain packaging and therefore, count on the continued support and collaboration from the media and the multi-sectoral team.

For his part, the WHO Country Representative, Dr. Charles Sagoe-Moses said this annual event is part of the WHO’s global efforts to recognise and honour individuals, organisations and institutions from around the world for their outstanding contributions to tobacco control.

According to him, 28 recipients of this year’s awards consist of individuals, institutions and organisations from the six regions of the WHO, adding that The Gambia alone has won two out of the five awards dedicated to the African region. He noted that the other winners came from Rwanda, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

He described the award as a great achievement but hastened to add that they were not surprise as a lot of good work had been done and continues to be done in various aspects of tobacco control (policy formulation and implementation, taxation, legislation, public awareness and action, surveillance and multi-sectoral action) in The Gambia.

He revealed that their records show that The Gambia is indeed a great and widely recognised champion of global tobacco control efforts, having been among winners of this prestigious award since 2000.

Sambujang Conteh, the Executive Director of RAID-The Gambia, said that the country has registered tremendous achievements on tobacco control. He noted that the WHO’s prestigious award is a clear manifestation of the commitment and dedication of both the Honourable Minister and the inter-ministerial committee on tobacco control. He noted that tobacco use cannot be addressed in isolation.

by Arfang MS Camara