Malawi is set to become the next African country to legalize marijuana farming in a bid to boost its economy. This comes as its major foreign exchange earner tobacco, starts to see the impact of a decades-long global anti-smoking lobby led by organizations including the World Health Organization and other African based tobacco control organizations.
Malawi's parliament has drafted a bill on legalizing industrial and medicinal hemp and is expected to be tabled with the national assembly soon.
Different stakeholders in the hemp industry have been calling on the government to speed up legislation on hemp farming so Malawi has an alternative forex earner apart from tobacco which currently accounts for 60% of forex earnings.
Tobacco sales have decreased over the years globally, as of July the world’s three biggest tobacco companies have each given up about 20% in market value this year. According to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence, Altria the US maker of Marlboro, is down 18% and British American Tobacco, is down 22%.
The industry is struggling with the global shift away from cigarette smoking due to health concerns. For example, cigarette smoking in the United States fell to record low in 2017, with just 14% of all American adults smoking, a 67% decline from 1965, when 42% of adults smoked.
Malawi is feeling the pinch, as commodity prices for tobacco takes a hit. While prices at this year’s auction were $1.58 a kilogram, in recent years prices have been as low as 80 cents a kg.
Thus Malawi is looking towards industrial marijuana to supplement tobacco and expand the country’s revenue options.
“We needed to have jumped on this window already, as it has been proven on the international market that the crop is lucrative, so to legalize this crop will be very vital for Malawi.” says Boniface Kadzamila, a member of parliament
Industrial hemp can offer much to the country’s economy, it is reported that an acre with 2,500 plants can fetch up to $60,000 in the USA, in states where hemp has been legalized. On average an acre of 2,500 tobacco plants fetches around $5,000 in Malawi.
A South African-based Canadian investor Graham MacKintosh of Green Quest Farmerceuticals believes Malawi has the climatic conditions to grow the crop and shouldn’t miss out on the economic benefits it will reap out from it, as currently the market is “booming”.
In a bid to prevent the public from a devastating health consequences attributed to tobacco products, the Ethiopian government is set to introduce a stringent law that will restrict the tobacco industry from having any interference and interaction with government officials mainly responsible for the adoption of public health policy and implementations.
The government that sought the importance of preventing and controlling the public from the severe consequences of tobacco products as well as from similar consequences on the public health due to unsafe, infectious and poor quality foods and medicines has drafted the stringiest proclamation to date and presented it to House of Peoples’ Representatives (HPR) this week.
The bill titled: Food and Medicine Administration Proclamation which was endorsed by the Council of Ministers was tabled on Tuesday for its first reading before HPR. The bill in its provision, article 48 has imposed prohibition of smoking and tobacco use in public places, including in all common areas within condominium housings, in any outdoor part of healthcare facilities, government institutions, schools that enroll children or youth under the age of 18, in any outdoor spaces that is within ten meters of any doorway, operable window including public parks.
The bill also restricts direct or indirect sell or offer of tobacco products to any person under the age of 18. It also bans the selling of single free stick tobaccos that means tobacco traders will be forced only to sell the entire pack containing 20 sticks.
The bill in its article 51 proposes protection to responsible government organs against the tobacco industry’s interference.
"No government organ or any official working in the area of health policies should receive any financial or in kind contribution from the tobacco industry," states article 51 (4).
The bill further restricts interactions between any government organ responsible for the adoption of public health policy and the tobacco industry. In addition, any financial or in-kind charitable contribution by the tobacco industry will be allowed only if the contribution has in no way, the aim or effect of promoting tobacco products.
In addition to theses, the bill also imposes a total ban on the manufacturing, importing, selling, and distribution of or an offer to sell any shisha products. A trade activity to provide places for smoking shisha or other tobacco products will also be prohibited, according to article 49 of the bill.
To guarantee the safety of food products that are manufactured and packed for the purpose of trade activity, the bill requires mandatory registration for food and food trade establishments.
It also lists mandatory standards for food manufacturing, preparation, storage, transport as well as standards for selling places for food products.
In a bid to discourage the consumption of alcoholic drinks, the bill further puts stringent restrictions on advertising and promotion of alcohol. In addition to this, an alcoholic drink whose volume is less than 10 percent will be advertised through the broadcasting media only from 9PM in the evening to 6 AM in the evening.
Yohannes Woldegebreal, a legal expert argues critically against the bill. The bill has brought several changes, with far reaching consequences that could stifle the customer basis, market share of many of these businesses and even drain the resource basis for the growing print and electronic media and various other activities, he stated in his commentary .
According to him, the bill has also failed to determine and clearly delineate the perimeter of its enforcement.
For instance, in the case of food, the regulation attempted to cover “everyone who provides food for the public consumption to ensure its safety,” he explained.
Yohannes was critical on the definition given to food products. According to the bill, food is defined as 'any substance, whether processed or semi-processed, which is intended for human consumption, and includes plants, and plant and animal products placed in the market or offered for use by the public." Yohannes argues that the definition provided to food and the scope of regulation the bill attempted to cover will have a negative impact on the social values of the Ethiopian society that consider food as a vital component in various events of Ethiopian social life.
DerjeMoges, a legal consultant involved in the drafting process argues against Yohannes's assertion.According to Dereje, the impression that the bill is invasive in the conduct of various social events like marriage, death, and holidays, is a wrong claim.
"The bill does not and is never intended to regulate such social occasions. What the bill empowers is really the administrative organs intheir regulation of food substances provided by food traders and food establishment, and not in any way consumption by individualcitizens;either in conducting social events such as marriagesor other holidays," Dereje explained.
He further stated that for any food provider to be regulated; there has to be a food trade or food establishment providing food for public use.
"This is quite clear from Chapter three of the bill which provides registration of establishments and not individual hosts," he concluded.
The Health Ministry, in cooperation with the United Nations, launched in Cairo the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) 2030 project. This is to boost tobacco control efforts in the country.
Egypt has been a Party to the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) since 2005. According to the Health Ministry in a statement on Wednesday, WHO representative in Egypt John Gabor said Egypt is one of 15 countries worldwide with a heavy burden of tobacco-related ill health – according to the World Health Organization’s 2017 standardized estimate of smoking prevalence, 43.6% of men and 22.8% of Egypt’s population overall are daily tobacco smokers.
In 2008, WHO supported the Ministry of Health in taking effective measures to warn people about the dangers of the tobacco use and, for the first time, in 2011, Egypt included health warning images and a toll free quit line number on all cigarette packs. Tobacco is a major public health concern and a barrier to development around the world. The FCTC 2030 project is strengthening tobacco control in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) through promoting and supporting governments to accelerate the implementation of the WHO FCTC.
According to WHO, Egypt is a high-burden tobacco-use country implementing several of the best buy (MPOWER) measures to reduce tobacco use, with one measure at the highest level of achievement.
The WHO FCTC is contributing to the implementation of MPOWER measures in Egypt through: raising awareness regionally for important aspects of the tobacco epidemic and the main elements of tobacco control; encouraging an increase in tobacco taxation in line with inflation and implementing smoke-free environments; providing tools to help monitor tobacco use; encouraging the Government of Egypt to sign and implement the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco, and releasing studies highlighting the growing public health and economic costs of tobacco use.
Tobacco harms the health, the treasury, and the spirit of Egypt. Every year, more than 61200 of its people are killed by tobacco-caused disease. Still, more than 40000 children (10-14 years old) and 11147000 adults (15+ years old) continue to use tobacco each day.
In Gambia, the African Network for Information and Action against Drugs (RAID) , recently trained over 20 of its volunteers on monitoring of the implementation of the 2016 Tobacco Control Act tools.RAID Gambia is a registered non-governmental organisation which champions a number of causes such as anti-smoking, substance abuse, illicit drugs trafficking, Aids / HIV, anti baby abandoning and teen pregnancy. The organisation was formed after the realisation that substance abuse and illegal drugs trafficking posed a detrimental effect on public health and the socio-economic structure.
Held in Mandinaba in Kombo East, the volunteers were from different youth organizations and associations in the West Coast Region. RAID officials expressed optimism that the training would avail the Agency and its aligned Government partners the opportunity to assess and be able to measure the effectiveness of the Act on the use of tobacco substance in the country.
Executive Director of RAID-The Gambia, Sambujang Conteh said the Agency has been in existence for almost two decades now and has implemented series of livelihood projects and socio-economic programs in the country.Conteh indicated that they have been staunch advocates against rural-urban drift, conduct trafficking in person awareness campaigns, child marriage, illegal migration and drug abuse and trafficking.
The Agency and its working partners’, he said, seek to have effective implementation of the Act which is drastically reducing the use of substance abuse in the country.On the role of youth participation in the fight against the illegal tobacco practice, Mr. Conteh reiterated that the enactment of the Tobacco Control Act in the country can be fully realized when everyone support and fully engage in the execution of the law.
Lamin Jammeh, regional program coordinator in West Coast Region said one of the most the targets of the Agency in the fight against the unlawful use and sale of tobacco in the country is to have a complete comprehensive Tobacco Control Act, which he said, is set for implementation before end of December.Mr. Jammeh said The Gambia is being ranked as the first country within the African sub-region in the fight against Tobacco, saying his organisation has been instrumental in the past by engaging authorities to have a complete comprehensive document on the control of Tobacco substance in the country.
He acknowledged that West Coast Region is one of the most strategic areas in the country where trafficking of all kind of drugs pass through, adding that has even made the Act to capture border management issues in an effort to curb the passage of drugs in and outside the country. “I think when this Act is fully implemented the problem of having borders in serving as entry points for illegal importation of Tobacco drugs in the country will be well controlled and be a thing of the past,” he said.
RAID Partners with the various government ministries and international, multi-lateral agencies such as the ministries of health, local government, the Interior, WHO, UNFPA, UNICEF
South Africa has become the first country in the world with an illegal cigarette brand as a top seller! Illegal cigarettes are preferred for their low prices in South Africa, with the cigarette brand RG retailing at the lowest price of 10 Rand. RG has overtaken all legal brands including the preffered cigarette brand in the country Peter Stuyvesant, giving South Africa the dubious honor of being the first country in the world with an illegal cigarette brand as its top seller.
Illegal cigarettes are favored for their low price, with RG selling for, on average, R10. The South African Revenue Service (Sars) is meant to earn R17.85 from every box of cigarette sold in South Africa, meaning any brand sold for less than that amount is clearly not paying taxes, making it illegal according to a 2015 judgment. In just 3 months, the cigarette brand has rapidly grown to now occupy 42% of the market. Authorities have come under pressure to clamp down on the allegedly tax-dodging manufacturers of illicit cigarettes. Just last week, the Lesotho Revenue Authority confiscated 380 000 RG loose straws at the Maseru Bridge border post.
This was one of the biggest busts in Lesotho in the last five years. RG is allegedly smuggled from Lesotho to South Africa.
Interestingly , Gold Leaf Tobacco, manufacturer of RG, said Sars had never had to act against their brand because it was above board.
“Our RG brand is registered with Sars and there is nothing illicit about it,” said attorney Raees Saint.“We have been constant contributors to the fiscus. We have, in the last 12 years, paid an amount of nearly R8.2bn in excise duties alone.”
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