Friday, 15 January 2016

Article - Prof. Diagne

Down with Tobacco: A West African Tale 

Prof. Diagne Abdoulaye
Director CRES

Six million people are dying due to tobacco consumption, while 5 million persons are affected by tobacco related diseases (cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, etc). 80% of smokers living in poor and middle class countries spend their financial resources on tobacco instead of addressing basic needs such as food,education, healthcare. These reasons, among others explain why the Consortium pour la Recherche Economique et Sociale (CRES) decided to join the Tobacco Control effort worldwide and especially in Africa.

Until 2013, Senegal did not have a law on smoking despite the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which was ratified in 2005. In order to address this lack of legal framework regarding tobacco, CRES decided in 2010 to help the Ministry of Health by setting up a multi-disciplinary team composed of lawyers and activists who developed a draft bill to regulate the production, consumption and distribution of tobacco. To achieve this, CRES collaborated with legal counsellors and the Minister of Health during the whole writing process, and also included some members from the government and some religious leaders who are very influential in Senegal. This initiative strengthened the relationship among the Senegalese Civil Society associations, which created the Senegalese League Against Tobacco (LISTAB). This federation of association conducted large advocacy and lobbying campaigns for the adoption of a law on tobacco use and production. This strategy paid off and resulted in the adoption of a bill by the government in July 2013, and by the Members of Parliament in March 2014.

While working at the national level, and being aware that tobacco taxation was the most effective way to reduce tobacco consumption, CRES was also eager to contribute to the protection of millions of people by changing the regional directives on tobacco taxation. In this regard, CRES first involved researchers, statisticians, tax and custom personnel to form 15 national teams and write 15 national country profiles on tobacco economics and national taxation policies, including recommendations for strengthening the tax systems. The next step involved the writing of an advocacy document that gathered all international evidence that could justify this reform, and submitted it to national and regional decision makers.

Another aspect of CRES policy influence strategy was to support the communication between researchers, tobacco control advocates and policy makers, by organising three regional conferences where they shared the research results and points of view, and together arrived at a solution for a fiscal policy to serve health purposes. In the last Regional Conference, the Regional Parliament representative signed an official statement, 'Declaration of Abdijan' which emphasised the need to adopt new ways to curb the growth of pandemy. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Ministries of Finance and of Health together with civil society associations and international organisations wrote the draft regional directives that have been officially submitted to the two regional West African Unions (ECOWAS and West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU)). Both regional organisations used this document to convene a technical meeting on this subject and are currently in the process of initiating a reform on tobacco taxation related to regional policies. Simultaneously, West African countries have changed their tobacco taxation policies.

Such a decision will have a major impact on the reduction of the prevalence of morbidity, mortality and public health expenditures due to smoking related diseases in the West African countries. As a result of this project, CRES was awarded a prize by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

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