Home NewsAfrica WHO urges countries to impose tax levies on Tobacco value, supply chain

WHO urges countries to impose tax levies on Tobacco value, supply chain

by Haruna Gimba

By Zayamu Hassan

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has advised countries in the African region to impose environmental tax levies on tobacco across the value and supply chains including production, processing, distribution, sales, consumption and waste management.

In a statement to mark the World No Tobacco Day, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said the global health body was committed to assist tobacco farmers to switch to alternative crops.

“I also encourage our countries to accelerate implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), which provides the necessary guidance to advance the creation of smoke-free environments, to create programmes to support tobacco users to quit, and support for the application of excise tax and other financial countermeasures.

“Reducing tobacco consumption is a key catalyst towards realizing the health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) but, as the environmental evidence illustrates, the benefits go far beyond health,” Moeti said.

While saying that tobacco cultivation exposes farmers to health risks, the WHO regretted that: “Tobacco growing is a significant driver of deforestation too, due to the large quantities of wood needed for curing.

“Deforestation is, in turn, one of the largest contributors to carbon dioxide emissions and climate change, also advancing loss of biodiversity, land degradation and desertification.

“Estimates are that the wood requirement to cure tobacco is responsible for 12% of all deforestation in Southern Africa.

“Additionally, tobacco cultivation exposes farmers to several health risks, including “green tobacco sickness”, which is caused by nicotine absorbed through the skin during the handling of wet tobacco leaves, as well as exposure to pesticides and tobacco dust.”

The statement disclosed that Cigarette butts are by far the single largest category of litter, “with research showing that cellulose acetate-based cigarette filters are largely non-biodegradable.

“Cigarette butts litter pavements, parks and beaches, finding their way into waterways and leaching harmful chemicals that poison animals and aquatic life – and children.”

The WHO further regretted that despite 24 African countries instituting bans on smoking in public places, and 35 banning tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, “our estimates are that one in every 10 African adolescents use tobacco.

“The emergence of new products, such as electronic nicotine and tobacco products, are also proving attractive to youths, compounding the concerns.”

Explaining the dangers associated in farming tobacco on the environment, the WHO Chief said: “The environmental impacts of tobacco farming include massive use of water, which is a scarce resource across most of the continent, along with large-scale deforestation and contamination of our air and water systems.

“Land used to grow tobacco could also be used much more efficiently, especially in countries grappling with food insecurity.

“To help counter the threat, WHO has joined hands with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Kenyan government to create the Tobacco-Free Farms project.

“Launched in March, the project supports farms to switch from tobacco to alternative food crops, that will help feed communities, rather than harm their health.

UN agencies and the Kenyan government provide training, inputs such as seeds and fertilizer, and a ready market for their harvest through the World Food Programme’s local procurement initiatives.”

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