Wednesday June 4 2014

Increase tobacco taxes by 50%, health groups tell government

A tobacco farmer shows off his harvest. The

A tobacco farmer shows off his harvest. The president recently advised tobacco farmers to adopt alternative crops. FILE Photo 



Health advocacy organisations want tobacco taxes increased by 50 per cent in the forthcoming National Budget.
Besides the Tobacco Control Bill currently in Parliament, the World Health Organisation (WHO), Centre for Tobacco Control in Africa (CTCA) and the Health ministry want the government to increase taxes on every tobacco pack as a way of regulating its consumption.
“High prices are particularly effective in discouraging young people (who often have more limited incomes than older adults) from taking up smoking,” said Mr Collins Mwesigye on behalf of the WHO country director.
WHO estimates that by increasing tobacco taxes by 50 per cent, all countries would reduce the number of smokers by 49 million within the next three years and ultimately save 11 million lives.

Speaking at the event to commemorate the World No Tobacco Day held at the Ministry of Health premises on Friday, Health minister Ruhakana Rugunda affirmed that the ministry fully supports the Tobacco Control Bill 2014.
Early last week, more than 10,000 tobacco farmers from Bunyoro sub-region petitioned Parliament to review the Bill saying if it is passed in its current form, it will wipe out the growing of the crop in the country
However, the head of tobacco Control at the Ministry of Health, Dr Sheila Ndyanabangi, said: “The Bill does not prohibit tobacco farming but it is up to the farmers to choose alternative crops at their own pace that are not harmful to their own health.”
Dr Rugunda said: “We join the President in his call to tobacco farmers during his visit to Koboko District where he encouraged them (farmers) to adopt alternative crops to tobacco for their own safety, for more lucrative crops and protecting others from the devastating effects of the crop they grow.”