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WHO Pushes For Tax Raise To Reduce Tobacco Consumption In Africa

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The World Health Organization (WHO) is pushing for higher taxes and prices on tobacco to reduce its consumption in African countries.

Speaking at a meeting on tobacco taxation in Kigali on Tuesday, Olushayo Olu, WHO country representative in Rwanda, said serious tobacco control measures are needed now in Africa to prevent the growing consumption of tobacco.

Tobacco products, he noted, cause a lot of deaths globally. He said Africa is grappling with high tobacco consumption unlike before when it was experienced in developed countries.

Africa represents 70 percent of tobacco production and consumption.

“Tobacco kills over 6 million people every year globally, meaning we have to take serious action. It has been proven that increasing tobacco prices and taxes is one of the cost effective interventions to cut tobacco use, methods of reducing tobacco consumption,” Olu said.

In Rwanda, adult smoking prevalence stands at 13 percent, according to the latest Non Communicable Diseases Risk Factor Survey.

The total sale of cigarettes in Rwanda in 2014 was 46.5 million packs, 71.5 percent of which came from imports.

Emmanuel Nkurunziza, the head of Taxation Department Rwanda’s ministry of Finance said pushing through tax raise on tobacco products could impact on its consumption.

He cited studies indicating that increasing tobacco prices by 10 percent could cut consumption by 8 percent in low and middle income countries.

He, however, called for more sensitization to complement other policy measures.

The two-day meeting was organized by the WHO to raise awareness on the role of tax and price measures in meeting public health objectives, while improving the understanding of the development of effective tobacco tax policies.

It attracted over 50 participants from Tanzania, Uganda, Ivory Coast, Gambia, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, and Sierra Leone.

Participants shared best practices from model countries on effective tobacco tax policies and explored specific challenges to tax policy.

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