The Reporter (Addis Ababa)

Ethiopia: International Tobacco Laws Spark New Draft Law

The Ministry of Health (MoH) has announced that it is finalizing a draft of the country's first law to regulate and control the hazardous effects of tobacco among its citizens.

At the high level advocacy workshop, "Get involved in Tobacco Control", held on Wednesday in Addis Ababa, state minister of health Kebede Worku (Ph.D.) indicated that Ethiopia will soon ratify the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC).

The MoH is also currently preparing an action plan to help the new law get implemented after it is be ratified through the legal procedure.

The new draft law is expected to be sent to the Council of Ministers and then to the House of Peoples' Representatives.

Abdissa Kurkie (Ph.D.), director of Disease Prevention Directorate at the MoH, told The Reporter that the draft law is almost completed and will soon be sent to the Council.

According to Abdissa, the draft is based on the WHO FCTC and Africa's convention, but prepared with an Ethiopian context and in harmony with the government's health policy. He, however, did not disclose the details of the draft law as it needs minor review.

The WHO FCTC is the first international treaty negotiated in response to the globalization of the tobacco epidemic. The convention represents a milestone for the promotion of public health and provides new legal dimensions for international health cooperation.

The workshop, jointly organized by the MoH, the Food, Medicine and Health Care Administration and Control Authority of Ethiopia (FMHACA), and the WHO brought together parliamentarians, government officials, civil society representatives and the media to discuss the current situation and response to the major health threat of tobacco. The workshop advocated for the ratification of the FCTC and implementation of legal frameworks for prevention of tobacco use, including the creation of smoke-free public places and workplaces.

During the workshop, Kebede said that Ethiopia's health policy pays special attention to tobacco control, assuring that the WHO FCTC will be soon ratified.

"The general public and stakeholders should be involved in tobacco control - thus playing an active role, especially in the translation of legislations and regulations into concrete practices," he said.

In his keynote address, Mengisteab Woldearegay, deputy director of FMHACA, emphasized that tobacco affects the health of the entire human body, along with the consequent social and economic problems.

He stressed that ongoing efforts at all levels of the health system should be strengthened, including the ratification of the WHO FCTC.

"As part of the global action for the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), both FMHACA and MoH have made enormous contributions to the most challenging public health issues facing the country today," Dr Abebayehu Assefa said on behalf of the WHO country office for Ethiopia.

The workshop deliberated on several issues critical for the expansion of nationwide tobacco control efforts, concluding to establish a National Multi-Sectoral Coordination Mechanism to sustainably and effectively address the growing threat of tobacco.

Even though tobacco is one of the discouraged commodity items, the government amasses a huge amount of annual revenue from the product.

A WHO report shows the government collected 639,782,151 birr in 2011 from tax revenues, including excise tax, VAT, selling tax, and import duties.

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