Secretariat of UN tobacco treaty launches Knowledge Hub on Tobacco Taxation and African Tobacco Industry Monitoring

South Africa’s Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi and Dr Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva, Head of the WHO FCTC Secretariat, today welcomed the launch of two academic hubs in the country – centres of expertise on tobacco tax and monitoring industry interference.

The World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) Secretariat launched the Economics of Tobacco Control Project on tobacco taxation and the elimination of illicit trade of tobacco products, housed at Cape Town University. It also launched the Africa Centre for Tobacco Industry Monitoring and Policy Research, based at the Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University. This is an observatory that offers up-to-date information on tobacco industry tactics and activities designed to obstruct tobacco control policies.

“We are privileged to have these two hubs in this one country,” said Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, South Africa’s Minister of Health. “Those of us who are health workers are very easy to dismiss when we talk about the economics of tobacco and the tobacco industry. It’s as if we are fanatics who know nothing about economics. We need to develop real firepower to deal decisively with the tobacco industry. We must remain ahead of the curve – we must be proactive and see beyond their strategies.”

The Africa Centre for Tobacco Industry Monitoring will aggressively track tobacco industry interference in public health policy, efforts to lobby government and marketing campaigns designed initiate new tobacco users. The Economics of Tobacco Control Project will run capacity-building workshops, assist countries with introducing best-practice tobacco tax policies, and support arguments to counter the tobacco industry’s spurious claims about tobacco taxes.

“Tax is the most cost effective measure for reducing the prevalence of tobacco use. But the work of tobacco taxation is not a very easy one. It’s taken us a long while to convince finance ministers that increasing tobacco tax is a good idea, that it’s a win-win for health and the economy,” said Dr Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva, Head of the WHO FCTC Secretariat. “Finance ministers listen to an economist. We need universities, academics to help us on this.”

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