Providing overview of tobacco consequence in the region, Dr. Judith Segnon-Agueh, Tobacco Control Focal point in the Benin Ministry of Health, noted that although tobacco products are very harmful, prices of the products are too low thereby increasing its consumption rate in the country.
She said “we must take conscious steps to ensure that we raise price of tobacco products in the country through taxes, so that tobacco products become expensive such that is not easily accessible in Benin. By doing this, we can drastically reduce the demand for the products. The good thing is that we can achieve this by putting in place a strong tobacco taxation policy based on the expert recommendations and global best practices.”
Speaking on tobacco taxation in the Economic Commission for West African region, ECOWAS, the Taxation Campaign Coordinator for the Africa Tobacco Control Consortium, Noureiny Tcha Kondor said “the government must take seriously the issue of the loopholes of present tobacco excise tax regulations by supporting a FCTC compliant tobacco tax policy implementation while being involved in anti illicit tobacco trade initiatives at regional level, without any interference of the industry”.
Dr. Evan Blecher, Director of International Tobacco Control Research at the American Cancer Society noted that when taxes on tobacco products are too low, it results in low prices of tobacco products and consequently increase consumption of the products, because they become cheaper to buy.
He added that smuggled tobacco products are potentially more harmful because the content are not regulated, noting that this scenario not only affect the health of the citizens it also “undermines the tax system of the country”.
According to Augustin Faton, President of Initiative for Tobacco Control Education in the Republic of Benin, all West African countries are economic stakeholders for cross-border trade in the region, and ”and putting in place an effective tobacco taxation policy in Benin and corresponding policies across the region will help reduce cases of smuggling of tobacco products and ensure compliance with existing trade protocols among these countries that are sharing borders in the ECOWAS region” he added.
Addressing the Press after the opening session of the workshop, the Regional Coordinator of the Framework Convention Alliance – Afro (FCA) Mr. Tih A. Ntiabang said, “countries in the ECOWAS region must make deliberate efforts to agree on the modalities for implementing effective laws that will raise taxes on tobacco products and discourage tobacco industries’ strategy of smuggling products from one country to another.” While encouraging countries of the region to continuously increase taxes on tobacco products, he pointed out that one of the key recommendations of the WHO MPOWER to arrest tobacco use, is to raise taxes.
Tosin Orogun, the Media Advocacy and Communications Coordinator for Africa Tobacco Control Consortium, emphasized on the fact all stakeholders must recognize that effective control of illicit trade and tobacco tax evasion control begins with implementing the provisions of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) by enacting the effective domestic tobacco control laws. According to him, “countries within the region that have demonstrated commitment to implementing the FCTC must be supported and encouraged to get to the finish-line”.
Benin is working towards entrenching tobacco control regulations into their national laws.
The workshop was organized by Initiative for Tobacco Control Education as part of the activities supported by the Africa Tobacco Control Consortium. Among participants at the meeting are representatives of different government ministries concerned with health and taxation issues in Benin, the media and Civil Society Organizations working in Tobacco Control.