The Framework Convention Alliance for Tobacco Control

Monitoring team thwarts tobacco industry interference in Uganda

A specially trained team of tobacco control advocates has prevented the tobacco industry from getting a suggested tobacco tax increase in Uganda reduced.

The Ministry of Finance had proposed increasing Uganda’s excise tax duty on cigarettes by 45.5 percent in the 2013-14 budget. When the matter was discussed in Parliament’s Finance Committee, the industry submitted a petition calling for an increase of just 11.4 percent.

An informant in Parliament passed on this information to the Uganda National Tobacco Control Association, which in turn informed the Tobacco Industry Monitoring (TIM) Team. The Team was created after it became clear that the industry was interfering in the process of Uganda’s Parliament passing a tobacco control bill, which had been drafted in 2011.

The Team comprises Members of Parliament (MPs) and tobacco control stakeholders from civil society. It monitors specific activities, including media and Parliament/government activities. The Team Coordinator gathers intelligence from members each week, and initiates any needed follow-up.

Aware of the industry’s position, the Team – with technical support from WHO, the African Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA) and the Center for Tobacco Control in Africa – prepared a factsheet on the benefits of a 45.5 percent increase, to both the government’s revenue and public health. It was provided to 10 MPs, who were able to use its arguments to counter the industry’s petition when the tax amendment bill was tabled in Parliament.

In the end, Parliament adopted the 45.5 percent increase.

The Uganda National Tobacco Control Association (UNTCA) coordinated the TIM Team, while ATCA provided training and helped to establish the Team.

“This is a great victory,” said Hellen Neima of UNTCA, TIM Team Coordinator. “However, it is just one win in what is certain to be a long battle with the industry in Uganda – we need to ensure that the Team has a long-term future so it can engage in this battle.”

According to ATCA Technical Adviser Patrick Musavuli, “We would like to see TIM Teams in every African country. The success in Uganda proves that when tobacco control advocates and politicians co-operate, public health can prevail over industry interests.”

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