Stakeholders pledge support for Tobacco Taxation Project

The Ministry of Health has set a target to strengthen and prioritize health policies especially those relating to tobacco control so as to ensure that such are included in key agenda of the government. Subsequently, the ministry has collaborated with its partners and Agencies, to launch the Smoking Cessation Clinical Guidelines and Tobacco Control Regulations, LI 2247 for Tobacco Control in Ghana in 2017.

“We have also put in place adequate monitoring system and arrangements such as the establishment of the National Tobacco Control Program under the Ghana Health Service to monitor the process of these guidelines and regulations for better health outcomes.” These were contained in a statement delivered on behalf of the Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu by his policy advisor, Dr Barfuor Awuah at a day’s stakeholders meeting on tobacco taxation in Accra last Tuesday.

The meeting forms part of the Tax Justice Network Africa (TJNA) Project currently being implemented by the Vision for Alternative Development (VALD) and its partners.

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The tax project is aimed at ensuring that policymakers and advocates have a shared understanding of the potential role that tobacco taxes can play in reducing tobacco use, improving health outcomes, and mobilizing domestic resources within the broader lens of tax justice, adopt a multi-stakeholders-led implementation approach with the understanding that meaningful national level impact can only be achieved with national level partners who are aware of and understand the context of tobacco taxation and how tobacco taxation contributes significantly to national development.

“I am happy to note that, this is directly in line with our revised National Health Policy (2020) which we launched last year. This revised National Health Policy) 2020) calls for “whole-of-government t and “whole-of-society” approach in addressing all the social determinants of health for better health outcomes. This therefore means that, working together with the Vision for Alternative Development (VALD) and the Ghana Tax Advocacy Network for Health Promotion and other stakeholders towards this project would not be out of place,” he stated.

He announced that the Ministry of Health has received preliminary approval from Cabinet to operationalize a revised National Policy for the Control and Management of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in Ghana.

“This document would provide the broad policy framework for the prevention and management of NCDs in Ghana. This policy also has a whole section on how we are going to domestically control tobacco use in Ghana taking cognizance of other global frameworks on tobacco control for better health outcomes,” Dr Barfuor further stated.

Justifying the Ministry’s support for the project he said Tobacco tax will present an opportunity to the Ministry of Health to mobilize adequate financial resources for the advancement of health services in Ghana.

“We are therefore happy to be part of this discuss to explore possible avenues of effectively advocating and taxing tobacco products and services in Ghana to generate domestic resources for health development,” he stated.

The meeting offered participants the platform to discuss tobacco control with specific reference to tobacco taxation and the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) and how to further get the buy-in of the tax project from all relevant stakeholders.

The Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Prof. Ellis Owusu-Dabo, who chaired the meeting, lauded the Ministry of Health for throwing its full support for the project being implemented by VALD and the Tax Advocacy Network. He however urged the ministry to handle the Ghana NCD Policy with some urgency because all major stakeholders are looking forward to its adoption so they can work to give some relief to people living with NCDs.

“We are excited that this project has been initiated. It is going to be a win-win situation in favor of the fight against NCDs in Ghana. You cannot talk about NCDs without talking about smoking of tobacco and its risk factors. We need to work to preserve our population and it is my hope that these steps will help brief reliefs to people,” Prof Owusu-Dabo noted.

Ghana was identified as a frontier country in phase 2 of the Tax Justice Network Africa (TJNA) Project with VALD as the main implementing partner. The project is aimed at ensuring that policymakers and advocates have a shared understanding of the potential role that tobacco taxes can play in reducing tobacco use, improving health outcomes, and mobilizing domestic resources within the broader lens of tax justice.

It will also focus on advocating for strengthening and increasing financing for health systems, promoting the use of tobacco taxation as a tool for domestic resource mobilization, fostering complementary project collaboration with Tobacco Control Core Partners, and changing the perception that multinational tobacco companies are a major economic engine in the focus countries or a legitimate stakeholder in policy discussions.

According to the Programmes Director of VALD, Labram Musah, the project is expected to bring Tax policy reform – Shift from the tiered tobacco excise tax system to a uniform specific excise tax system; as well as ensure Tax increase – by at least 15% in nominal terms. It is also their expectation that the project will lead to Ghana ratifying the Illicit Trade Protocol on Tobacco Products (ITP) and ensure its domestication and implementation.

A Senior Regulatory Officer at the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) in charge of Tobacco and Substance Abuse, Mavis Danso, observed that tobacco taxes can benefit smokers who quit, reduce the overall consumption of tobacco, and provide smoking cessation services.

She said a lot of studies have concluded that higher prices resulting from higher taxes increased the number of quit attempts and the probability of successful cessation among youth and young adults.

“An increase in the price of cigarettes led to transition from daily smoking to no smoking, from moderate daily to light daily smoking, and from heavy daily smoking to moderate daily smoking. The advocacy and fight to increase taxes and change the tax regime on tobacco and tobacco products is a laudable one and as such support is needed to achieve one of the most important strategies in the fight against this global tobacco menace. The FDA pledges its support and commitment in this regard to ensure public health and safety,” she assured.

By Jeorge Wilson Kingson ||





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