UN mission to Congo highlights importance of tobacco taxation

10 Aug 2015


From 13 to 17 July, members of the UN Interagency Task Force (UNIATF) on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs) met with UN agencies, government experts, selected ministers, the Speaker of the national assembly and civil society organisations.

The visit concluded with a call to include NCDs as a priority in DRC’s development plans and for the government to establish or reinforce a multi-stakeholder mechanism to coordinate prevention and control of NCDs, which are responsible for nearly two-thirds of all deaths worldwide.

Raising taxes proven effective

Aiming to enhance the technical capacity of public institutions to implement a tobacco taxation policy, the mission participated in a workshop and technical support sessions on tobacco taxation. Raising the price of tobacco products, including through taxation, is recognised as one of the most effective measures to reduce tobacco consumption, and thus reduce the health burden.

Tobacco use is the one risk factor common to four major NCDs: cancers, cardiovascular and lung disease, and diabetes.

“We take note of your recommendation to increase tax on tobacco products and the benefits it will have on our revenues and on protecting the public health,” said Deputy Ministry of Finance, HE Albert M’peti Biyombo. “The Ministry of Finance will consider this and will share it with the Prime Minister.”

Bill waiting in Parliament

DRC’s tobacco control bill has been in the making since 2006, and has faced strong resistance partly because of interference from the tobacco industry. It is now awaiting adoption by Parliament.

Speaker of the National Assembly, the Honourable Aubin Minaku, told the mission he understood that Parliament has an important role to play in reducing the burden of NCDs. “I can promise you that I will personally follow up and accelerate the process for adoption of the tobacco control bill,” he said.

Secretary General Dr Mukengeshay Kupa called the mission “a timely initiative, since NCDs are the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in DRC, leading to economic losses. I personally lost relatives last year and in the last three years the Ministry of Health has lost many senior staff due to NCDs”.

Tobacco, NCDs in development goals

In September world leaders will meet at the United Nations to adopt the new global development goals. They will include a target to reduce by one-third, by 2030, premature mortality from NCDs.

The goals, known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will also include a target for countries to accelerate implementation of the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

Acting Representative of the WHO to DRC, Dr Bakary Sambou, noted, “By inviting the mission in the country, the government has shown its willingness to prevent and control NCDs.”

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