By Ronald Kabuye
Members of the Uganda tobacco control coordination forum have advised government to amend the excise duty amendement act 2017 to provide for equal treatment for both locally made and imported tobacco products while impossing excise tax on them as opposed to appealing the ruling by the East Africa Court of Justice EACJ which stopped the country from imposing excise taxes from imported tobacco products.
It should be noted that on the 25th January this year EACJ issued an injunction in favor of the British american tobacco Uganda BATU against Uganda barring the country from further collecting of taxes on imported tobacco products since imposing different excise duty on products from Kenya as opposed to those in uganda amounts to discrimination and contravenes different East Africa protocols, national laws and WTO agreement.
Addressing a news conference, the head of tobacco control program at the ministry of health Dr. Sheila Ndyanabangi advised that government to avoid going into legal tussles where the country is likely to loose the case and in the end incur high costs.
She has further advised government to consider regular raise taxes in consideration of inflation rates and increase in income to reduce affordability especially for the young and poor people, increase the tax progressively until the share of excise tax to total retail price per pack is above 70% and prevent illicit trade through tax evasion by acceding to and implementing the provisions of the protocol for elimination of illicit trade in tobacco products.
The call comes as the world is commemorating the world cancer day in children were at least 500 children are on cancer treatment as per cancer institute records and thousands of others are believed to be battle the same but have no access to treatment.
It’s on this note that the national coordinator of Uganda Health Communication Alliance UHCA Richard Tinkasimire Baguma called upon legislators to tighten laws on tobacco usage and heed to their calls since its the leading cause of cancers not only in the country but world wide.
Available statistics indicate that the total health cost of tobacco use including; indirect cost of treatment, Loss of income, and productivity from death and disability is 328.82 billions as opposed to the 81 billions the tobacco industries pays in taxes annually.