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South Africa needs to curb Illicit cigarette trade

South Africa needs to curb Illicit cigarette trade

South Africa has an illicit cigarettes trade problem. The tobacco industry has always used the threat of illicit trade as the rationale to request government not to increase excise taxes and more recently, even suggested to the standing committee on finance to freeze excise tax for three years which was rejected. The Tobacco industry is using many tactics to delay any legislation being passed while they fuel the illicit trade market to make profit. In other words, they are involved in what is called the ‘third shifts’, that is, background conduct of illicit business under front of legal business.

Professor Lekan Ayo- Yusuf of the Africa Centre for Tobacco Industry Monitoring and Policy Research (ATIM) has highlighted that the current tobacco ban has also amplified and exposed the already existing underhand activities of the industry. He also highlights in an article published by the Mail and Guardian that the “decision of the government to allow the industry to resume production of cigarettes in May, supposedly for export only, fuelled the illicit trade as these cigarettes might have either not eventually been exported or were exported only to return to the country (round-tripping).”

There is need for political will to deal with the problem of Illicit trade and the SARS plan to deal with illicit tobacco needs to be expedited.

The full Mail and Guardian article can be accessed HERE.

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South Africa Tobacco Industry Interference report launched

South Africa Tobacco Industry Interference report launched

The South Africa National Council Against Smoking (NCAS) together with the Africa Centre for Tobacco Industry Monitoring and Policy Research (ATIM) and the University of Capetown Research Unit on the Economics of Excisable Products (REEP) launched the South Africa Tobacco Industry Interference report on Thursday 13 August 2020. The report forms part of the Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index, a global survey of how public health policies are protected from the industry’s subversive efforts, and how governments have pushed back against this influence.

The tobacco Industry Interference Index was initiated by the South-East Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) as a regional report with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products (STOP) and is part of a global publication of the Global Centre for Good Governance in Tobacco Control (GGTC) at the School of Global Studies in Thammasat University. The report shows that tobacco industry interference has decreased with an overall score of 72 in 2018 to 58 in 2019 owed partially to the changes and restructuring at the South Africa Revenue Services (SARS) which resulted in increased capacity for effective service delivery. 

Despite this improvement in the overall index score, the report shows tobacco industry’s continued use of tactics, economic power, lobbying and marketing to influence tobacco control policy.  Of note is the industry arguments around Illicit trade, the use of social media influencers to market and promote their products undermining the ban on advertising including the lack of transparency by other government departments in interactions with the industry. More effort is therefore still needed to mitigate against tobacco industry interference. Echoing the comments made by all presenters at the launch, Professor Ayo-Yusuf of ATIM emphasised the importance of the South African government to adopt the proposed Control of Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill (2018) to strengthen the current law and protect health policies from vested interest of tobacco companies. Civil society is called upon to work hand in hand with government to support the implementation of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Article 5.3.

The full report can be accessed HERE.

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