By Albert Allotey
Accra, Nov. 20, GNA – Tobacco related illnesses account for three per cent of all deaths in the country, Dr Alex Kombat, Senior Revenue Officer of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) has revealed.
They also cost the nation GHC 668 million every year, equivalent to 0.2 per cent of the annual growth domestic product.
“Generally, people continue to consume these harmful products because they are addictive and not expensive enough,” Dr Kombat said.
He said that the Government and the GRA had seen the need to put taxes on them to increase their prices to deter people from consuming it in large quantities.
Dr Kombat said there was the possibility of the Government using taxes to reduce the consumption of tobacco at the launching of Ghana’s 2023 Tobacco Industry Interference Index (TIII) Report, by VALD-Ghana at a stakeholders’ meeting in Accra.
Dr Kombat said over the years government had used policy control measures like excise taxes, customs duties, valued-added tax, National Health Insurance Levy, among others at entry points and at domestic front to discourage consumption of these products.
However, the implementation of these policies had not been easy without interferences of industry players,” he stated, adding that, Article Six of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control required that parties should implement tax policies to reduce tobacco consumption and help raise revenue.
He said ECOWAS directive on the harmonization of excise duties on tobacco products indicated that the excise duty on tobacco products should include an ad-valorem duty and a specific duty, however the implementation did not go well without a fight from the industry players.
He said the VALD-Ghana worked tirelessly through research and persistent meetings with the policymakers to ensure that this came to pass.
Subsequently, two bills were submitted to Parliament in this regard in December 2022 with the hope that they were going to be passed. Unfortunately, they were not passed in December 2022.
“VALD kept pushing with several press conferences which eventually saw the passing of the excise duty amendment bill into law on March 31, 2023, as an Excise Duty (Amendment) Act 2023 (Act 1093) to amend the Principal Excise Duty Act 2014 (Act 878) to replace the first schedule,” Dr Kombat stated.
There is a reduction in interference from 58 per cent to 56 per cent in public health policies from 2020-2021.
The report is to assist the health sector to up its game in reducing the tobacco industry interference in public health policies and it is in accordance with the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Article 5.3 and its guidelines.
Mr Labram Musah, the Executive Director of Programmes of VALD-Ghana, who launched the report said the TIII stood as a critical assessment tool designed to scrutinize and quantify the various forms of interference perpetrated by the tobacco industry in public health policymaking.
Giving an overview, he stated that the tobacco industry interference (TII) was meticulously crafted to address the urgent need for monitoring and evaluating the industry’s tactics and ensuring transparency in the decision-making process.
“The TII scrutinizes a range of indicators to assess industry interference, including Industry participation in policy development, corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities, benefits to the tobacco industry, unnecessary interactions with the tobacco industry, transparency, conflict of Interest, and preventive measures,” he pointed out.
The Report showed that tobacco control regulations in Ghana did not provide explicit provisions to curb the interference of the tobacco industry in policy development and that the Ministry of Health had delayed in developing the code of conduct, which is expected to provide clear guidelines for public officials in their dealings with the tobacco industry.
The rest were the invitation of the Harm Reduction Alliance, a tobacco industry allied organisation after they submitted a memo to the Chairman of the Committee on Defence and Interior of Parliament to be part of the stakeholders’ engagement on the Narcotics Control Bill.