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Africa: Rwanda Hosts High Level Tobacco Taxation Meeting

Participants from all over Africa are meeting in Kigali for a 2-day meeting on tobacco taxation, during which they will analyze the policies of successful countries such as South Africa, the Gambia and Kenya.

The meeting will also identify challenges to tax policy change and recommend areas of technical assistance to overcome these challenges for the benefit of public health.

Marie Aimee Muhimpundu, the head of the Non-Communicable Diseases Unit at the ministry of health, said that tobacco is one of the most common risk factors for non-communicable diseases (NCD’s) such as heart disease, stroke, chronic lung disease, type 2 diabetes and many types of cancers.

A recent study conducted by Minisante shows that 14% of the population uses tobacco.

“We are convinced that higher taxation of tobacco products can lead to high prices, thus discourage consumption and reduce the health risks,”Muhimpundu said.

According to statistics from the ministry of finance, tobacco taxation has increased over time – from 60% in 2001-2006,to 120% in 2007- 2009 and 150% for 2009-2015 at 150 %.

Emmanuel Nkurunziza of Minecofin said that increased taxation has reduced tobacco consumption by 11%,which is hoped to further increase with higher taxation in the near future.

According to WHO, while tobacco use is falling in high income countries (HICs) and many lower and middle income countries(LMICs), mortality from tobacco use will continue to increase in the coming years, with over 175 million people expected to die from a tobacco-related disease by 2039.

Moreover, the WHO indicates that the burden of tobacco use continues to shift from HICs to LMICs as their share has increased to about 70% of global tobacco production and consumption.

Senegal to start enforcing anti-tobacco law

Senegal’s president Macky Sall has approved the enforcement of a law that prohibits tobacco consumption in public places as well as its sale to minors.

This means it is now illegal to sell cigarettes within 200 metres of an educational institution. The law also bans general advertisement of tobacco products.

Cigarette producers have been urged to include messages on the dangers of smoking to their packages.

The approval of the law passed by the country’s parliament two years ago , has been hailed by Senegal’s anti-tobacco programme officials who say tobacco consumption has led to many cases of cancer among Senegal’s youth.

The tobacco industry has been given a six month period to comply with the new rules and regulations.

Hotel and restaurant owners on their part have been given a 9-month deadline to stop accepting tobacco in their various work places.

Tobacco is the leading cause of dead across the world.

The WHO says close to 6 million people die each year as a result of direct and indirect consumption of tobacco.

According to the NGO Action on Smoking and Health, tobacco will kill one billion people in the 21st century if left unchecked.

Gambia to Embrace Plain Packaging of Tobacco Products

The Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Honourable Omar Sey, has stated that with strong multi-sectoral team and the efforts of the media, 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 counts on the continued support and collaboration from the media and the multisectoral team. He was speaking yesterday during a day-long media briefing on World No Tobacco Day, held at the Ministry in Banjul.

The theme for this year’s celebration advocates for the introduction of “Plain (Standardised) packaging” of tobacco products which was first introduced by Australia in 2012 and recently in the UK and France.

Dr. Omar Sey further said The Gambia will soon join other countries that have already passed laws to implement plain packaging, adding that, it is time to act. As countries seek to embrace the plain packaging of tobacco products, he noted, tobacco companies all over the world are on the fight against the initiative with massive misinformation campaigns.

“Plain packaging of tobacco products restricts or prohibits use of logos, colours, brand images and promotional information. It is part of an integrated approach to tobacco control that helps to reduce attractiveness of tobacco packaging,” he added.

Minister Sey disclosed that The Gambia has recently won two of the five awards for the World No Tobacco Day 2016 throughout the African region.

The Executive Director of RAID, The Gambia, Sambujang Conteh noted that this day is set aside by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to reflect on the past achievements, efforts and bottlenecks and also pave a way forward in protecting the present and future generation from risks associated with tobacco use.

“The Gambia has tremendous achievements in tobacco control but, we have a long way to go as we need a legal framework to pave us the way,” he affirmed.

He added that the stakeholders would soon table a bill before lawmakers for the control of tobacco use in the country. He said tobacco being one of the four risk factors of Non-communicable Diseases (NCSs) kills nearly six million people annually worldwide, noting that The Gambia is not an exception.

Bakary Gassama of the WHO thanked The Gambia Government for the wonderful strive towards the area of tobacco control in the country.

He said health is something that cannot be done by the government alone and thus called for the support of the general public and journalists to continue raising awareness on the dangers of tobacco.

The Programme Manager of NCDs, Omar Badjie, said nowadays there are many youth engaged in smoking cigarette, especially young boys and girls. He, therefore, called on the media to continue sensitising the general public on the dangers of smoking, especially in public places.

by Arfang MS Camara

Governments urged to hold tobacco companies accountable

The Vision for Alternative Development (VALD), a non-governmental organisation, has joined advocates from Africa, the United Kingdom and Latin America to call on governments to hold the British American Tobacco (BAT) accountable.

The advocates claim that the BAT had made profit from generations of addiction to tobacco around the world and, therefore, their governments should demand accountability from the tobacco industry.

The call comes as BAT convenes its annual general meeting in London.

Mr Labram Musah, the Programmes Director of VALD, in a statement copied to the Ghana News Agency, said at least it was undoubtedly clear that delays in adopting Tobacco Control laws was largely due to industry interference in public health policies.

The VALD called on Ghana Government and the world over to stand firm and resolute in the midst of tobacco industry interference and formulate lifesaving legislation that would protect present and future generations from the devastating effects of tobacco use and tobacco smoke.

“While BAT’s executives toast to deadly profits and generations of addiction, people and governments around the world are organising to hold them accountable for their abuses,” Mr John Stewart, the Deputy Director at the Corporate Accountability International, has said.

Tanzania: Tobacco Company Spends Sh103 Million On Education Projects

Tabora — The Japan Tobacco International (JTI) Leaf Tanzania has spent Sh103 million on refurbishing eight classrooms and building two teachers’ houses at Migungumalo School in Uyui District.

The JTI senior vice president for Global Leaf, Mr Paul Neumann, said at the handover ceremony at the weekend that the refurbishment of the classrooms and the construction of the teachers’ houses were part of the company’s programmes on supporting tobacco farmers and their communities to address the local needs of the communities in which the firm operates.

This is aimed at establishing long-term relationships by improving the quality of life.

Apart from education, the company also helps tobacco-growing communities with water whereby in 2015 it invested in drilling of boreholes — some as deep as 140 metres – to ensure that it provides access to clean and guaranteed supply of water throughout the year.

Tabora regional commissioner Aggrey Mwanri applauded the company for the support.

Zambia faces up to blight of child labor

Thirteen-year-old Wamundila Sibeso complains of nausea, headaches and dizziness – symptoms likely linked to her work picking tobacco on one of the many Zambian farms that rely on child labor.

“Every time I leave work, I feel nausea, which leads to vomiting sometimes,” she told Anadolu Agency. “The common problem I often feel is headaches, dizziness and lightheadedness.”

Wamundila, who was sent to work harvesting tobacco leaf at the age of 10, is among the hundreds of thousands of children working in Zambia, primarily in the agriculture and mining industries.

According to a report by the International Labor Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Bank, more than one in three children aged 7 to 14 were at work in 2008.

The 2012 report said that while the country had witnessed a substantial reduction in child labor, a best case scenario would still estimate just below one million children in employment in 2015.

“My work on the plantation involves collecting ripe tobacco leaves,” Raphael Mupinganjila, 15, said. “Sometimes we’re forced to work in tobacco fields while [pesticide] spraying is going on.”

It is not the hard work that preys most on Raphael’s mind but the education he is missing.

“I would love to go to school like other kids, but I’m from a poor family who can’t afford to send us to school,” he said. “Instead, my siblings and I have to join our parents to contribute a family income.

“I don’t like this job but I have to work to eat and help my parents.”

Zambia’s tobacco farms constitute an overwhelming 75 percent of the nation’s child labor problem, according to Chris Lunneta, Zambia’s UNICEF children’s rights ambassador.

Lunneta told Anadolu Agency that children working on tobacco farms are not only treated inhumanely but are also exposed to nicotine and toxic pesticides.

“Farm workers in Zambia face many challenges, including not only poverty and widespread health risks but also a high debt burden,” he said. “In order to supplement a living, parents engage their children in farm work, and this has perpetuated child labor in Zambia.

“In some cases, farm owners directly hire children to work on tobacco farms to work alongside their parents and [they] are paid slave wages.”

Dr. Mannesse Phiri, a medical researcher, said exposing children to tobacco leaves puts them at risk from a number of health issues.

“Exposing children to tobacco dust subjects them to hazardous diseases, like green tobacco sickness, including extreme coughing and other negative respiratory effects the children working on farms often face,” he said.

“Nicotine causes nausea, vomiting, headaches, dizziness and difficulty breathing, including fluctuations in blood pressure.”

Phiri said although the law prohibits the sale of tobacco to under-16s, children work on tobacco farms without protective clothes, exposing them to toxic chemicals.

He suggested the urgent replacement of unsustainable tobacco production with healthy food systems and strengthening collective action among tenant farmers to resolve the health issues facing tobacco workers, as well as strengthening tobacco control policies.

“Extending protection to farmers is a key to the tobacco supply chain and will provide an essential component which will allow farmers to exert greater control over production practices while minimizing the influence of tobacco industry initiatives meant to disrupt tobacco control,” he told Anadolu Agency.

“Accordingly, this could be greatly improved by giving tobacco workers access to alternative sustainable livelihoods and by enforcing international labor standards, such as freedom from debt servitude, the right to collectively bargain and the elimination of the worst forms of child labor.”

– Cheaper, more docile

If farmers are able to bargain collectively without fear of retribution, Phiri said, tobacco farm workers would be able to create better livelihoods for themselves and their families.

Zambia’s Labor and Social Security Minister Fackson Shamenda said tobacco farmers employed children because they are cheaper and more docile.

“This is despite the existence of prohibitions on employing children in laborious work, which subject children to all forms of abuses during the course of duty,” he said. “Sometimes children develop habits such as taking drugs or smoking.”

Zambia’s Central Statistics Office shows that child labor is still rife in rural areas of Zambia – as high as 45 percent. This is due to the high levels of poverty among rural families, although in recent times the trend has been slowly shifting to towns, where many households are headed by children due to the rise in HIV/AIDS.

Last month, the government launched an initiative to cut child labor.

The Achieving Reduction of Child Labor in Supply of Education (ARISE) scheme reported that more than 1,000 children had been taken out of work and sent to school in Zambia’s Western province.

Among the initiative’s sponsors is Japan Tobacco International (JIT), the world’s third-largest tobacco company.

Since entering the Zambian market in 2011, the company has employed more than 7,000 farmers in the Eastern and Western provinces and plans on investing more than $12 million in the local tobacco industry.

Speaking at the launch, Western Province Permanent Secretary Mwangala Liomba welcomed the involvement of tobacco companies in the fight against child labor.

Mike Roach, the managing director of JTI-Zambia, said the company was committed to eradicating child poverty. “With the help of cooperating partners, JTI-Zambia will provide resources aimed at supporting the fight against all forms of child labor in Zambia,” he told Anadolu Agency.

By Francis Maingaila

Tobacco firm ‘paid bribes’ to wreck health treaty

THE Serious Fraud Office is investigating British American Tobacco (BAT) over alleged corruption after documents and secret tape recordings were passed to its staff in Kenya and South Africa.

The company, whose brands include Benson & Hedges, Dunhill and Lucky Strike, was allegedly involved in bribing politicians and government officials from at least five African nations in a covert campaign to undermine a United Nations public health treaty.

Kenya’s anti-corruption commission said last week it was working with the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and Britain’s National Crime Agency to investigate alleged “bribery and tax evasion”.

It is understood that officials are also examining claims that payments were made by a BAT intelligence unit in London to a network of people in Africa, including police officers, to disrupt the activities of commercial rivals

Experts Speak Out On Tobacco Industry Bribery Claims

In a BBC investigation, it is alleged that Bugangaizi West MP Kasirivu-Atwooki took $20,000 from BAT as an inducement to doctor a parliamentary report

THE war against smoking will still be won, despite recent revelations that the tobacco industry has been using bribes to influence policy, experts have said.

According to a recent BBC investigation, British American Tobacco (BAT) paid bribes to officials in East Africa, including two members of a convention created under the World Health Organization (WHO) to combat smoking.

However, experts are still confident that the battle against tobacco will be accomplished.

In an interview with New Vision, Anna Gilmore, a professor of Public Health and Director of the Tobacco Control Research Group at the University of Bath, UK stated: “We can absolutely win the anti-tobacco war and we are winning. We have a global tobacco control treaty that looked impossible to achieve at the time; this treaty is now being implemented – more and more tobacco control policies are being implemented globally.”

Gilmore particularly noted that Uganda has recently passed strong tobacco control legislation, which was a big step forward.

“This was achieved despite enormous opposition from the tobacco industry,” observes Gilmore.

However, she stressed that this progress was only possible “if everyone stands up to the tobacco industry and hold it accountable.”

“Tobacco companies are like cockroaches, they thrive in the dark. Progress is only possible if we shine a light on their corrupt activities and expose their lies. This is starting to happen in Uganda and it was key to getting the Tobacco Control Bill passed. But the bill must now be gazetted and we need to keep shining that light.”

She called for the need for BAT to be held accountable over the bribery claims.

“No company should be allowed to put their profits above the health and economic well-being of states.”

“We need to remember that tobacco kills one in two of its long-term users, that tobacco control policies save lives and enable economic development. That means that every one of these payments that leads to a tobacco control policy being weakened, delayed or blocked causes unnecessary deaths. In other words, these payments have a death count attached to them,” she said.

“It is essential therefore that BAT is held to account. Bribery is illegal under the 2010 UK Bribery Act & under the Anti-Corruption Act, 2009 (Uganda). We now need a series of full and public inquiries into BAT’s conduct. We need to know who else has been bribed, where else is this happening, what else is the company up to, what did those at the highest level know?” Gilmore added.

However in a separate interview with New Vision, Dr. Sheila Ndyanabangi, the principal medical officer and anti-tobacco activist described the evidence in the report were hugely biased.

In the BBC investigation, it is alleged that Bugangaizi West MP Kasirivu-Atwooki took $20,000 (about sh67m) from BAT as an inducement to doctor a parliamentary report.

But Ndyananagi stated: “Our problem is that the Ugandan people implicated in that report are people who helped us come up with a bill. We took the findings with mixed feelings. When it comes to implementation those people may not help us at the time we need them.”

Kenya: Lighting Up

Last year, the British parliament, despite fierce lobbying from tobacco companies, decided that from May 2016 cigarettes would be sold only in plain packaging in the UK.

Anti-smoking campaigners in that country were quick to declare it as the latest nail in the coffin of an industry that has seen consumption of its products shrink inexorably in the West over the past three decades.

But while it is true that health concerns, public education, and increasingly stringent controls on the advertising, sale and use of tobacco have brought about that decline in North America and Europe, anyone thinking to write the obituary of Big Tobacco had better think again, because elsewhere in the world, especially in the developing world, smoking is increasing dramatically.

Nearly 80 percent of the world’s one billion smokers now live in low- and middle-income countries, a figure that continues to rise year on year. In China, for example, an estimated 350 million adults are hooked on tobacco; smoking in Indonesia has more than quadrupled in the past four decades; and in Russia around a third of all teenagers will have tried their first cigarette by age 12.

But it is Africa that is probably most critical to the long-term future of the multinational tobacco firms, because it is relatively unexploited. For all the continent’s other woes, Africa has traditionally had some of the lowest smoking rates in the world, largely because most people can’t afford it. That, though, is now changing as parts of the continent become more prosperous, disposable incomes increase and populations mushroom.

It has become an enticing target for a profit-hungry industry as other routes to growth have been closed off by rules, directives and worries about life-threatening diseases.

With the most smokers in sub-Saharan Africa, Kenya is one of the biggest prizes on offer.

The problem for the industry is that Kenyan health officials are as aware as anyone else about the dreadful menace smoking poses to their nation’s health. Kenya was the first African nation to ratify the World Health Organization’s Convention on Tobacco Control. One of its key sections, Article 5.3, says that countries must “protect their tobacco control and public health policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry”.

It gave officials the impetus to work with legislators on drafting strict regulations. These include putting graphic images on cigarette packets, banning advertising, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco and the imposition of a 2 percent health tax on every packet.

Professor Peter Odhiambo, chairman of the Tobacco Control Board, said: “We are already sitting on an epidemic of the cancers from tobacco. The tobacco problem is the most silent undeclared disaster in Kenya and therefore the more we delay the more we will see Kenyans dying.”

But as investigative journalist Purity Mwambia and filmmaker Giovanni Ulleri have been finding out, the industry hasn’t been slow to fight back, going to court in Kenya to argue about the legality of the rules and the proposed timetable for their introduction.

And now, most recently, disturbing allegations about the bribery of government figures have begun to emerge.


By Giovanni Ulleri

Around the town of Migori, beside the dusty country roads, you’ll find them: groups of farmers sharing a social moment away from their football pitch-sized plots of tobacco. Here, in one of the most important agricultural regions in Kenya, tobacco is king but, as I discovered in making Lighting Up, this is a crop that demands a high price from those who grow it and those who smoke it.

When I got a phone call from my former boss over the summer about me directing a film on tobacco in Kenya, I hesitated before saying yes. Not because I didn’t want to do it, but because of a potential conflict of interest; I was a former smoker – and in my eyes, once a smoker, always a smoker.

I was fully aware of all the known cancer risks of smoking and I had tried to quit many times over the years, but like most addicts I kept falling off the wagon and stealing a cigarette from friends. I had starting smoking as a stupid act of rebellion as a teenager behind the bike sheds at school and here I was heading off to Kenya to see how they have been trying to prevent other youngsters from doing what I did – lighting their first cigarette and starting down a path that could eventually lead to an untimely death.

On arriving in Nairobi and meeting up with my colleague Purity Mwambia, the first thing I noticed walking around the streets was how few people smoked in public.

Unlike any high street in the UK, where you see smokers huddled up in doorways of offices and in the cold and rain trying to light up, here in Kenya you are allowed to smoke only in designated smoking zones which, I imagine, makes the city centre of Nairobi one of the largest no-smoking zones in the world.

There’s even a 50,000 Kenyan shilling ($490) fine if you are caught smoking outside these zones. But despite this, eight billion cigarettes are smoked in Kenya every year and the government is trying to introduce new regulations to try to prevent what it fears is just around the corner: a veritable host of tobacco-related diseases.

However tobacco companies view Africa as one of their largest growing markets.

They are eager to keep their market share and to persuade policymakers, not to penalise them. We spoke to a young MP, Stephen Mule, who sits on the Kenyan parliamentary health committee. He told us that he was offered an expenses-paid fact-finding trip to the UK from Kenya’s largest tobacco manufacturer, British American Tobacco. What BAT didn’t know was that Mule’s father had died of a tobacco-related disease and nothing would ever weaken his resolve to introduce strict tobacco control regulations back home.

I also met his mother, who told me how she looked after her dying husband and how she tried to get him to stop smoking. She is rightly proud of her son, whose aim is to stop other Kenyan families from suffering the way his family did caring for a smoker.

But everyone involved in tobacco regulation in Kenya knows they have a fight on their hands. They are up against a rich and powerful industry, battle-scarred from years of similar confrontations in Europe and the US and determined to protect its burgeoning African businesses from government interference.

The more we began to look into this story, the more we began to realise exactly what that determination meant in practice.

Kenya: BAT Scandal – Raila Tried to Stop KRA From Freezing Mastermind Tobacco Accounts

Raila Odinga “intervened” to stop Kenya Revenue Authority from freezing Mastermind Tobacco Kenya’s accounts over non payment of taxes amounting to billions.

In the letter dated May 4, 2010, the office of the Prime Minister wrote to then KRA boss Michael Waweru to “immediately suspend notices issued to Mastermind Kenya asking for payment within 50 days”.

Raila was Prime Minister at the time.

“You are requested to put on hold the enforcement action you have instituted against Mastermind Tobacco Kenya Limited in order to facilitate further review of the matter,” read the letter signed by acting PS Andrew Mondoh.

“Meanwhile, a meeting to discuss is scheduled to be held on May 12, 2010, at 10am, between your office, Treasury and Mastermind Kenya Limited on the 14th floor boardroom, Treasury building.”

This comes after former BAT employee Paul Hopkins admitted offering KRA officials hefty bribes for access to rival Mastermind’s tax files and directing the taxman to demand the amounts due.

The Independent reported Hopkins, who headed the Anti-illicit Trade team, ran a “sophisticated corporate spying operation involving “black ops” to put rival cigarette makers out of business”.

Early Tuesday, Kenya Revenue Authority said it will work with the anti-graft agency to ensure full and proper details are availed in a probe into the BAT scandal.

KRA was mentioned in the controversial BAT scam after one of its employees, Mary M’Mukindia, was alleged to have been the conduit for a Sh7.5 million alleged bribe paid to Narc-Kenya leader Martha Karua presidential campaign.

Karua denied the allegations while the Authority refuted claims M’Mukindia was their employee.

Commissioner general John Njiraini said the Authority held discussions with EACC after media reports highlighted “alleged unethical relations between staff of BAT and unspecified staff at KRA”.

In regard to allegations that BAT sought “to obtain confidential KRA tender documents to assist in their bidding”, Njiraini said the Authority was “not aware of any attempts made by BAT to influence past tendering processes”.