Gov’t should implement Tobacco Tax Policy – VALD

The Vision for Alternative Development (VALD), a non-governmental organisation, has appealed to President John Dramani Mahama to reject tobacco industry interferences in developing national Tobacco Tax Policy.

“The recent proposal from the Ministry of Finance … on 50 per cent Tobacco Tax increment is indeed a call in the right direction as raising the price of cigarettes is the principal measure for discouraging consumption and avoiding the initiation of tobacco use among children and youth.

“Reduced tobacco consumption will result in a healthier and more productive workforce, which will help boost the economy,” a statement signed by Mr Labram Musah, Programmes Director of VALD and copied to Ghana News Agency has said.

“We are humbly and urgently calling on the President of Ghana not to regard British American Tobacco and their allies in attempting to interfere with government commitments regarding tax measures to reduce the demand for tobacco products under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

“We want government to stay focus and remain resolute in this bold initiative to protect its citizens from deadly tobacco products.”

Mr Musah said the FCTC had been ratified by 179 countries including Ghana to protect more than 88 per cent of the world population from the harmful effects of tobacco use.

“We want to urge government to constantly keep in mind the first guiding principle of the FCTC Article 5.3 that states: ‘There is a fundamental and irreconcilable conflict between the interests of tobacco industry and those of public health.”

Mr Musah said the FCTC has clearly stated that, while “setting and implementing their public health policies with respect to tobacco control,” countries are legally obligated to “protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry”.

He said this principle was endorsed by all United Nations Member States during the September 2011 adoption of the Political Declaration of the High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases, wherein they acknowledged that “there is a fundamental conflict of interests between the tobacco industry and public health.” (Political Declaration, Point 38)

At the just ended FCTC Sixth Conference of the Parties (COP6) in Russia Federation-Moscow in October, 2014, one big good news was the adoption of guidelines on FCTC Article 6 (price and tax measures to reduce tobacco use.

The Tobacco Industry, via the International Tax and Investment Centre and various pro-industry delegates, made an attempt to stop the adoption, but in the end this merely stiffened the resolve of most Parties including Ghana.

The guidelines passed without change was to serve as a key tool and resource for tax administration and policy developments.

Mr Musah said: “We are not surprise that the Tobacco Industry and its allies are making attempt to thwart this noble efforts of government to protect its citizens from the deadly tobacco product by continuing to provide their baseless arguments that they create employment and also generates revenue for government forgetting that governments all over the world spend a lot of money to treat tobacco diseases such as lung cancer, oral cancer, neck cancer, heart diseases, stroke and extreme poverty among others.

“Ghana is already over- burdened with numerous communicable and non-communicable diseases and cannot afford a double burden to include other non-communicable diseases such as tobacco related disease.

Tobacco use is destroying the youth as such tough measures such as high tax increment and innovative tax regime must be put in place to curb the alarming situation.

He said cigarettes products are the cheapest commodity one could find in the market and the price is as low as 10 Ghana pesewas per stick.

Multiple studies from around the world confirm that higher taxes on cigarettes would prevent people from starting to smoke, encourage them to quit, and reduce the quantity of cigarettes smoked.

Tobacco use currently costs the world hundreds of billions of dollars each year.

Healthcare costs associated with tobacco related illnesses are extremely high.

In the United States, annual tobacco-related healthcare costs amount to 96 billion dollars; in Germany, seven billion dollars; in Australia, one billion dollars.

Tobacco-related illnesses and premature mortality impose high productivity costs to the economy because of sick workers and those who die prematurely during their working years.

“While we are calling on government to be resolute in its decision to increase tobacco taxation we are also appealing to government to direct the Attorney General’s Department to urgently complete the Tobacco Control Legislative Instrument for Parliamentary adoption to effectively implement the Tobacco Control Measures of the ACT 851 to reduce the tobacco related deaths.

The VALD also cautioned the Tobacco industry and their affiliates to desist from interfering in public health policy decisions that are aimed at reducing the incidence of tobacco use and exposure and to minimise tobacco related deaths and diseases.

source : GNA