More about the FCTC
What is the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC)?
The FCTC, which entered into force on 27 February 2005, is the world's first international public health treaty. As of April 2016, 180 countries have ratified the FCTC, which makes it one of the most widely embraced treaties in UN history. The Convention is governed by the Conference of the Parties and its Secretariat supports the implementation of the Convention as mandated by the Convention and the Conference of the Parties. The WHO FCTC was developed in response to the globalization of the tobacco epidemic. The spread of the tobacco epidemic is facilitated by many factors such as global marketing, transnational tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, and the international movement of contraband and counterfeit cigarettes.
Why was UCT chosen as an FCTC Knowledge Hub?
The School of Economics at UCT has been involved in the economics of tobacco control since the mid-1990s. Initially the focus of the Research Unit on the Economics of Excisable Products (REEP) (formerly the Economics of Tobacco Control Project), was on proving the economic rationale for South Africa’s tobacco control legislation that was passed in 1999, subsequently the geographic focus has become more international. The project has developed specialised expertise in tobacco taxation and illicit trade, which makes it a natural choice to become a Knowledge Hub on matters related to Article 6 (Tax and price policies) and Article 15 (Illicit trade).
What is an FCTC Knowledge Hub?
A Knowledge Hub is a resource centre to support parties to implement the FCTC provisions. The WHO FCTC has established six Knowledge Hubs: 1. The McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer in Melbourne (Australia), focusing on trade and tobacco, and litigation (Article 19) 2. Institute of Cytology and Preventive Oncology in Noida (India), focusing on smokeless tobacco use. 3. National Institute for Health and Welfare Helsinki (Finland), focusing on research and surveillance, and health impact assessment (Article 20) 4. The American University of Beirut (Lebanon), focusing on waterpipe tobacco smoking 5. The International Cooperation Centre on Tobacco Control in Montevideo (Uruguay), focusing on the promotion of south-south and triangular cooperation (Articles 8, 11, 14) 6. The University of Cape Town (South Africa), focusing on tobacco taxation (Article 6), and illicit trade in tobacco products (Article 15)
Why do we care about tobacco?
Each year, tobacco kills more than 6 million people globally. If current trends continue, this is predicted to rise to 8 million tobacco-related deaths per year by 2030. An increasingly large proportion of these premature deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. These deaths are unnecessary and avoidable.
What can be done to reduce these premature tobacco-related deaths?
A number of effective interventions exist. These include implementing smoke-free public places, banning tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, and large and prominent health warnings on tobacco packaging. The most effective strategy, and the one that can be utilised repeatedly, is increasing the excise tax on tobacco products.
Why is an excise tax on tobacco products so effective in reducing tobacco use?
Even though tobacco is highly addictive, people reduce their consumption in response to an increase in the price of tobacco. Hundreds of studies from around the world indicate that for every 10% increase in the price of tobacco, consumption decreases by between 4% and 8%. By increasing the excise tax, the government increases the retail price of tobacco products, which results in a decrease in consumption. It is important that governments tax all tobacco products equally so that consumers don’t switch to cheaper products in response to a tax increase.
But will the government not lose revenue by increasing the excise tax?
No, the government will in fact increase revenue by increasing the excise tax (even if the tax increase is very large). This is because the proportionate reduction in the demand of cigarettes is less than the size of the tax increase. In addition, quitters spend the money they would have spent on cigarettes on other goods, which are subject to VAT.
Will an increase in the excise tax not result in an increase in illicit trade in tobacco products?
Illicit trade indeed undermines some of the benefits of an excise tax increase. Some smokers, who may otherwise have quit smoking, would continue their habit by buying cheaper illicit cigarettes. The presence of illicit cigarettes does not eliminate the positive public health and revenue impact of higher taxes. To control illicit trade, governments need to adopt effective policies including supply chain controls. Fiscal marking, and track and trace systems, improved enforcement, and international collaboration and data sharing.
More about the UCT Knowledge Hub
Who will the Knowledge Hub at UCT serve?
The Knowledge Hub will be a resource for the 180 constituents that are party to the FCTC. It will benefit governments around the world by providing training, knowledge dissemination and technical assistance on tax/price measures and illicit trade of tobacco products. Under the Article 6 of the Convention (Price and tax measure to reduce the demand for tobacco), Parties are expected to implement tax policies that contribute to the health objectives aimed at reducing tobacco consumption. The WHO recommends that countries impose a total tax burden (excise, VAT and import taxes) of 70% on cigarettes. Few countries have reached this recommendation, so there is much work to be done globally.
What is the modus operandi of the Knowledge Hub at UCT?
The Knowledge Hub envisages two primary modus operandi for supporting parties to the Convention. The first is to provide training and knowledge dissemination to government officials (and possibly employees from civil society organisations) from a variety of countries on a specific topic: for example, how to design an efficient tobacco tax system, or how to measure the size and/or trends in illicit trade in tobacco products. The second is to provide technical support to individual countries on issues related to tobacco taxation and/or illicit trade in tobacco products. This will often take the form of assistance in the development and implementation of priority projects that are initiated as part of the workshops/training programmes. For example, over the course of a Knowledge Hub workshop on tobacco taxation, a country might decide it wants to estimate the likely impact of a change in the excise tax structure and/or the excise tax rate on the price of tobacco, tobacco consumption and government revenue. If the project is small in scale and of low priority, remote support (via electronic correspondence, knowledge hub web portal, e-tools etc.) may be sufficient. In the case of a large-scale high-priority project, the Knowledge Hub would typically spend days in that country, consulting with relevant officials from the Ministry of Finance and possibly other ministries or civil society groups, and, using custom-made models, would help to present the results of the simulations in a report.
Is all information on the Knowledge Hub website public?
Certain information and resources are available on the public section of the website. REEP also has have a website with many publications, working papers and presentations. Contact details of staff can also be found on this website, as well as additional information on activities we are involved in. The address is www.tobaccoecon.org. Certain sensitive information on the Knowledge Hub website will not be made public, to avoid tobacco industry interference. The tobacco industry aggressively opposes tobacco excise tax increases and has been implicated in the illicit trade of tobacco products. Protecting information from industry interference will strengthen efforts to inform public health policy.
I currently work for the Ministry of Finance/Health in my country, does that mean that I am eligible to attend UCT KH workshop?
No, working for the ministry of finance or health does not automatically make you an eligible candidate for a UCT KH workshop. The goal of the UCT KH is to affect policy and bring about policy change. Therefore, any member of the ministry of finance or health who wishes to apply will have to prove directly that they are in a position to affect or bring about this change.
If I work in one of the FCTC 2030 countries, does that mean that I am eligible to attend UCT KH workshop?
No, being a member of the FCTC 2030 countries does not automatically imply eligibility. The goal of the UCT KH is to affect policy and bring about policy change. Therefore, any person who is from a FCTC 2030 countries who wish to apply will have to prove directly that they are in a position to affect or bring about this change.
Should I, or my team be accepted for a UCT KH workshop or in-country technical mission, which costs will be covered by UCT KH?
The UCT KH receives funding from Cancer Research UK to provide funding to a limited number of participants and in-country technical missions. Whether you receive funding will depend on your application. The costs that will be covered for workshops include flights and travel expenditures, accommodation and visa costs. Per diem will not be included in the costs covered. In-country technical missions are fully funded by Cancer Research UK. It should be noted that all non-governmental capacity building (in-country technical support and workshop attendance) will have to be funded by the participants themselves.
How often does the UCT KH host workshops?
The UCT KH will host two workshops annually.
Which are the 15 FCTC 2030 countries?
Cabo Verde, Cambodia, Chad, Colombia, Egypt, El Salvador, Georgia, Jordan, Madagascar, Myanmar, Nepal, Samoa, Sierra Leone; Sri Lanka and Zambia.