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Sunday, March 27, 2011

More Tax = Less Smoking

DAR-ES-SALAAM - Taxation is the most powerful weapon governments have at their disposal to control cheap cigarettes consumption and ultimately decrease deaths, Dr Yussuf Saloojee of the National Council Against Smoking told the African Organisation for Research & Training in Cancer (AORTIC) conference.

South Africa showed decreases in tobacco consumption, but this was now leveling off as government ceases to drastically increase taxation on tobacco for fear of creating a market for illegal smuggling, something which Saloojee said was unfounded.

Saloojee presented evidence which showed that as the price of discount cigarettes goes up, consumption goes down.

Science has proven that at least 15 cancers are more commonly found in smokers. Currently there are around 1,3-billion smokers in the world with one out of every 10 deaths worldwide linked to tobacco-related illness.

Lekau Ayo-Yusuf of the University of Pretoria also presented evidence that the use of non-cigarette products such as snus was increasing with big tobacco companies Philip Morris and Swedish Match selling these products in Africa. Snus is a moist powder tobacco product that is consumed by placing it under the lip for extended periods of time.

Use of snus is more common in Africa compared to the rest of the world with Sudan estimated to have about six million users. The locally produced versions have been found to contain very high level of carcinogens and nicotine. Research was also showing that youngsters who start using snus often move to cigarettes.

Patricia Lambert of The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids said the equation was simple: "If we do what we know works we save lives and save governments money. It's as simple as that."

She presented evidence showing that while most African countries had ratified the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), many governments had to start using it to change their laws and control tobacco.

The FCTC is the first treaty negotiated under the auspices of the World Health Organisation and was developed in response to the globalisation of the tobacco epidemic.

"We need to hold governments accountable to deliver on the ratification of the FCTC," she said.

Rachel Kitanyo, a lawyer with the African Tobacco Control Alliance said there was no doubt that tobacco companies were targeting Africa. "In Africa they have a market and there is less regulation," she warned.

The core demand reduction provisions in the WHO FCTC are contained in articles 6-14:

d tax measures to reduce the demand for tobacco, and

Non-price measures to reduce the demand for tobacco, namely:

* Protection from exposure to tobacco smoke;

* Regulation of the contents of tobacco products;

* Regulation of tobacco product disclosures;

* Packaging and labelling of tobacco products;

* Education, communication, training and public awareness;

* Tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship; and,

* Demand reduction measures concerning tobacco dependence and cessation.

The core supply reduction provisions in the WHO FCTC are contained in articles 15-17:

* Illicit trade in tobacco products;

* Sales to and by minors; and,

* Provision of support for economically viable alternative activities.

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