On the 10th of January 2023, the International Institute for Legislative Affairs (ILLA) conducted a training on tobacco tax advocacy and budget sensitizations. I had the privilege of participate in this important training as an NCD advocate. I gained invaluable insight on tobacco advocacy and some of the fiscal measures to reduces cigarette consumption. Tobacco tax advocacy is one of the approaches adopted to reduce consumption of tobacco products.
Tobacco use continues to pose a serious challenge to ongoing efforts to prevent non-communicable diseases in Kenya. These include cardiovascular diseases, cancers, respiratory diseases and diabetes. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) tobacco kills more than 8 million people each year. More than 7 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while around 1.2 million are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke. Around 80% of the world’s 1.1 billion smokers live in low- and middle-income countries. IILA has been involved in tobacco control research, policy advocacy and capacity building, including drafting and advocacy for passage of tobacco control legislation at both national and county levels in Kenya for several years.
Introducing certain tax on tobacco product is a fiscal measure that helps to discourage consumption of tobacco products. According to the American Lung Association, increasing taxes on cigarettes is a win-win proposition: significantly increasing cigarette taxes results in fewer kids starting to smoke, and in more adults quitting while at the same time providing substantial revenue to fund important health, as well as tobacco prevention programs. The association submits that every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes reduces consumption by about four percent among adults and about seven percent among youth.
In Kenya, several tobacco taxes have been introduced. In June 2015, Kenya attempted to simplify the cigarette excise tax structure by introducing a uniform specific rate of KShs. 2500 per 1000 cigarettes or KShs. 50 per pack (Excise Duty Bill, 2015). Mid 2022, Kenya’s National Treasury Cabinet Secretary announced an intention to raise taxes on e-cigarettes products during the annual budget statement presentation to parliament. This announcement was received by excitement and condemnation in equal measure from tobacco control enthusiasts and the tobacco industry. Global experiences with tobacco taxation and tax administration have been used by WHO to develop a set of ‘best practices’ for maximizing the effectiveness of tobacco taxation.
Apart from tobacco advocacy, participants were also taken through the budget making process. This was important to expand participants knowledge on how to participate in the public participation forums and advocate for certain taxes that could see tobacco consumption go down significantly.