Business News of 2014-06-02

‘Impose high taxes on tobacco to reduce consumption’

The 2014 “World No Tobacco Day” has been commemorated with a call on African leaders to adopt high taxation on tobacco as a major option to reduce the high demand for tobacco on the continent.

Commemorated every year globally on May 31, the theme for this year’s celebration in Ghana was: “Raise Tobacco Taxes.”

The programme, organised by the Ministry of Health and the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences (GAAS), brought together students from some second cycle institutions in Accra, health professionals and representatives of institutions in the country. At the event, the Network of African Science Academic Report on “Preventing a Tobacco epidemic in Africa,” was launched.

Addressing participants, the Minister of Health, Ms Sherry Ayittey, said the high rate of tobacco consumption in Ghana and across Africa was worrisome. She observed that in Ghana the prevalence of smoking was among adults and junior high school students (JHS).

Ms Ayittey noted that about five million people die from tobacco-related diseases worldwide every year, with two million of these occurring in Africa. She stated that reports suggested that if tobacco smoking was not checked, it could escalate, and added: “By 2030, tobacco-related deaths will reach 10 million, with 70 per cent taking place in developing countries.”

The Health Minister further added that tobacco was more expensive in countries with high income levels, while in low income level countries it was relatively cheaper. Ms Ayittey advocated high taxation on tobacco in the country to discourage its importation and high consumption.

She said illicit trade of tobacco into the country was as a result of the porous nature of the Ghanaian boarders. According to her, “It is important to take a second look at the Free-Zone Act to ensure that all tobacco products are subjected to a single customs duty rate and also remove duty exemptions on tobacco products regardless of their origin.”

She said a tobacco cessation guidelines preparation was underway to be finalised soon by the ministry to combat the menace. She advised that there was the need to report those who smoke in public places to the appropriate authorities since that was against the laws of the land.

The President of GAAS, Prof. Francis K.A. Allotey, urged African policy makers, leaders and governments to use evidences in the report to design a tobacco prevention control strategies before the situation got out of hand. He implored the media to give much prominence to tobacco-related issues to keep a lot of the citizens informed about the adverse effects of tobacco.

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