An average tobacco user in Uganda spends nearly one million Shillings on cigarettes annually, a damning report by the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) has revealed.
The report titled “Using Taxation to Control Tobacco Consumption in Uganda” authored by Anita Ntale and Dr. Ibrahim Kasirye, says in 2016 alone the average money spent on cigarettes was Shillings 949,000. The report attributes this consumption rate to the low price of tobacco products in comparison with other basic household items.
According to the report, although the percentage of tobacco use has reduced over the past five years from 10.5 percent in 2012/13 to 5.4 percent in 2016/17, smoking prevalence among the youth has remained higher than the national rate.
The report observes that although Uganda, like most sub-Saharan African countries, is still in the infancy of the tobacco use epidemic, tobacco consumption among vulnerable groups such as the youth is on the rise hence the need for more evidence to inform and drive tobacco control policies.
The report proposes tobacco taxation as one way of greatly influencing cigarette prices and thereby influencing consumption, adding that increases in tobacco excise taxes have been shown to be the most effective policy instrument for reducing smoking in other developing countries.
According to the report, the existing taxes are still below the WHO recommended thresholds whereby tobacco excise taxes should make up to 70 percent of the retail price. In Uganda, excise taxes currently make up 31 percent of the retail price for regular cigarettes.
In 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that tobacco use kills up to seven million people each year and nearly 80 percent of the world’s smokers are from low and middle-income countries. Tobacco use is globally recognized as a major risk factor for non-communicable diseases like heart disease as well as lung and related cancers.