By Modou S. Joof
The Gambia Government has announced it will impose high taxes on tobacco in 2014.
This new policy was revealed by the minister of finance and economic affairs, Mr Kebba S. Touray on Thursday when he unveiledthe 2014 budget estimates of D8.6 billion for revenue, expenditure and development to the national assembly.
Government’s revenue measures for 2014 will rise with specific excise on tobacco products – from D5 per pack to D9 per pack with an environmental tax rate on tobacco products from 0.20 [bututs] per pack to D2.10 per pack, he said on December 19, 2013.
According to Touray, the Jammeh-led government will further increase the specific excise on other tobacco products from D37.50 per kilogram to D150 per kilogram – with an environmental tax rate from D75 per kilogram to D100 per kilogram.
Stiffer tobacco control measures
The new measures came 17 days after an anti-drugs and tobacco activist hints at stiffer tobacco control measures. Sambujang Conteh, managing director of Africa Network for Information against Drugs (RAID), said on December 2 that there will be tighter measures for tobacco control in The Gambia before 2014.
“Before 2014, the country will experience a big difference in terms of tobacco control, and the campaign on its usage in public,” Conteh told to the privately-owned The Voice newspaper.
He said the minister for health [Balla Garba Jahumpa] is very committed to tobacco control. He said in the weeks ahead, the minister of health and the minister of finance are expected to meet in Banjul to discuss on a 3% (per cent) tobacco allocation tax.
The law that prohibits smoking in public was signed by President Yahya Jammeh in 1998, after it was tabled at the National Assembly by Hon Edrissa Samba Sallah, then National Assembly member for Sami district, Central River Region, and adopted as a private member bill.
However, the law has not been effectively enforced. In 2010, the National Assembly tried to reinforce the law by identifying public places like markets, health centres, offices, vehicles and other public transports places where people must not smoke.
The Gambia has ratified the World Health Organisation framework convention on tobacco control, and has directed cigarette companies to mark packets of cigarette coming into the country with “Smoking Kills” and “Smoking Seriously Damages Health.”
Speaking at his home at Tobacco Road in Banjul, the Gambian capital, Conteh said a “tobacco control policy formulation” was conducted from June to October 2013 at the ministry of health.
“Sixteen (16) government ministries together with the civil society [organisations] had their views on this policy already formulated by ministry of health and they are all satisfied with it,” he noted.
He said a copy [of the policy] will be sent to the cabinet for review after which the minister of health will sign it.
“Gambians should support and observe the ban on smoking in public for the betterment of our health,” Mr Conteh said, suggesting wider sensitisation campaigns for the public, the security forces particularly the police who are the law enforcement agency.
“You cannot fight against drugs and leave cigarette. Through our study, we found that there is no person who uses drugs without using cigarette but there are people who smoke cigarette and are not using drugs,” he claims.
“Our priority will be given to the campaign against tobacco usage. My agency is working very closely with the ministry of health and social welfare in this campaign,” Conteh said.