UGANDA: Tax Tobacco Companies to Fund Tobacco Control Programs

Edited by Admin

This 31st of May 2020, Uganda joins the World Health Organisation (WHO) to celebrate World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) under the theme “Protecting youth from industry manipulation and preventing them from tobacco and nicotine use’’. While the WNTD marks 33 years, Uganda’s Tobacco Control Act (TCA) turns 5 years this 2020.


As witnessed first reading of the Tobacco Control Bill in parliament; attended all public consultations by health committee; sat in parliamentary gallery at its second reading; sat in gallery at its bipartisan passing by Parliament. I publicly advocated for its presidential assent, monitored its gazette. I saw Uganda Police Force pioneer TCA enforcement in 2016 to date; attended Constitutional court judgement pronouncing all sections of TCA constitutional 2017; followed up East African Court of Justice ruling against 2017 Excise duty Amendment Act. I continue to call for stringent taxes on cigarettes; popularize TCA to law enforcers; I am in the know of the current status of 2019 TCA implementing regulations.  I am glad to have supported proposals to the finance committee of parliament on 2020 TCA amendment that repealed section 7 of the Finance Act of 2014 that levied 0.2 USD of processed and unprocessed tobacco consigned out of Uganda replacing it with 0.8 USD.  I am enlivened by Uganda’s TCA fifth anniversary and its fraction on the 33 years of the WNTD.   


In consonance with the WNTD theme section 17 of the TCA prohibits persons below 21 years participating in tobacco activities and section 16 bans electronic nicotine tobacco delivery devices plying the Ugandan market, including smokeless, flavored and the notorious water pipe tobacco delivery system (Shisha).  


As we celebrate, government of Uganda is defending a Judicial review court case Tobacco Industry filed in the High court challenging the 2019 Tobacco control regulations that were to enter into force on the 1st of February 2020. This is the third in a row of cases including the 2017 Constitutional petition against the Constitutionality of sections of the Tobacco Control Act which government won.  The second law suit was in 2017 in the East African Court of Justice against the Excise duty Amendment Act of 2017 that amended the Excise duty of 2014 whose amendment gave preferential treatment to Ugandan cigarette manufactures against their counterparts in the East African Community (EAC) contrary to EAC treaty and attendant protocols.


Uganda’s tobacco product taxes are far below the 75% minimum sealing advised by the WHO, the excise duties and like taxes on cigarettes are behind schedule to conform to article 6 of the WHO Framework Convention of tobacco control that guide on Price and tax measures to reduce the demand for tobacco. Cigarettes in Uganda are still being taxed at every 1000 cigarette sticks of soft cap and Hinge Lid.  This has kept cigarettes cheap, enabling switching to cheaper brands a component that has failed those in need of quitting.


Whereas the 2015 Addis Ababa Agenda for financing for development action area 32 notes the burden non-communicable diseases place on countries, it proposes, as part of a comprehensive strategy of prevention and control, price and tax measures on tobacco can be an effective and important means to reduce tobacco consumption and health-care costs, and represent a revenue stream for financing for development.


Commendably, the Ministry of Finance adopted the domestic revenue mobilization strategy of 2019, tobacco products ought to top the taxation list given their potential to bankrupt Uganda’s health financing, yet earmarking introduced by the HIV and Aids prevention and control Act of 2014 in section 27 (1) (a) affects 2% of total revenues from beers, spirits, waragi, soft drinks and bottled water, paragraph (b) allows the Minister for Finance to identify tax revenues from any other taxable item. I implore the Minister for finance to tax cigarettes/ tobacco products and earmark those revenues to tobacco control programs. It is also imperative that the minister for health expedites regulations for administration of the Fund, because section 28 (2) imposed a timeline of within 6 months of commencement of the HIV and Aids prevention and control Act of 2014, I am afraid we have lost 6 years already.   

Delay to accede to the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products a 2012 WHO treaty designed to combat worldwide illicit tobacco trade expose youth to banned tobacco products. Granted the Protocol promotes international co-operation in information sharing, mutual legal assistance, and extradition of persons suspected of involvement in the illicit tobacco trade. Enforcing TCA banned products in section 16 including: electronic cigarettes, Shisha smokeless cigarettes, online advertising of tobacco products finding their way on to Ugandan market where there youth are largely active is far from benefiting Uganda yet.


Budget vote allocation to tobacco control programming a missed target that we implore the depart of planning at the Ministry of health (MoH) must factor into, further more we thank MoH for elevating tobacco control programming from a unit to a division, we call for more resources to be added to tobacco control for it to roll out nationwide to promote health and well being. 


Tobacco Control prosecution rate has increased with sentences having been secured in magistrate court of Mukono, Makindye, and the City hall court, while there as cases pending in Nakawa and Jinja magistrates court of suspects for shisha smoking, advertising tobacco products, selling of cigarettes in places prohibited by the TCA. It goes without saying that, Kampala Capital City Authority, Entebbe Municipality and Mukono municipality have ever since declared themselves as tobacco smoke free zones. It is unfortunate; Jinja Municipality has a road called Tobacco Road, this defeats, tobacco control programs.


The Center for Tobacco Control Africa (2017) in its Tobacco Health Costs study found: The total health cost of tobacco use including the direct cost of treatment and the indirect costs of loss of income and productivity from death and disability in Uganda is UGX 328.82 billion, which is equivalent to US$126.48 million. The total health cost outweighs the market value UGX 211.15 billion (USD 81.22M) of tobacco products or the assumed benefits of tobacco use in Uganda.


Celebrating tobacco control law’s 5th and 33 years of World No Tobacco Day ought to embolden to establish a budget allocation to tobacco control programming deriving this from tough tax and price measures for tobacco products, ratifying the protocol to eliminate illicit trade in tobacco products and enforcement that cause prosecution success of TCA.


Level 3 (XP: 850)
#WNTD2020 #WNTD #TobaccoExposed #WNTDChat In the bid to protect the young from the debilitating effects of tobacco, implement the Domestic Revenue Mobilisation strategy of 2019 of Uganda's Ministry of Finance Planning and Economic Development and the Addis Ababa Agenda for Financing for Development given that Tobacco is a risk factor for NCDs, Uganda must tax more tobacco products, ratify the Protocol eliminate trade in illicit tobacco products, granted the Protocol promotes international co-operation in information sharing, mutual legal assistance, and extradition of persons suspected of involvement in the illicit tobacco trade.

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