By Evan Blecher, PhD, International Tobacco Control Research Program, The American Cancer Society
Cape Town, South Africa — One of the exciting opportunities championed by the American Cancer Society in Africa is supporting tobacco control in the sub-Saharan region. Raising the rate of taxation on tobacco products has been widely shown to be the most effective way to reduce tobacco consumption. In support of those objectives, the Society’s International Tobacco Control Research Program (ITCRP) has had a busy summer.
Following the World Bank/Southern African Development Community workshop on “The economics of tobacco control in Southern Africa: the issues of taxation and smuggling” June 3-5 in Botswana, the ITCRP held two important workshops in partnership with the University of Cape Town (UCT). The collaborative work with UCT forms part of the African Tobacco Control Consortium (ATCC) project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Society Offers Tobacco-tax Strategies at High-level Meeting Attended by Governments from 15 African Countries
The first workshop was a tax training session June 11-13 in Botswana in collaboration with a local non-governmental organization, the Anti-Tobacco Network. This country-level training brought together policy makers and civil society to discuss a path forward for tobacco taxation in Botswana. Topics discussed included the technical aspects of tobacco taxation with a particular emphasis on the regional dynamics, as well as discussions on mapping out the critical action points for policy development.
Participants included representatives from the Ministries of Health, Finance and Trade, the Botswana Unified Revenue Service, the Botswana Confederation of Commerce & Industry Management, and the University of Botswana.
The workshop was facilitated by Dr. Evan Blecher from the ITCRP, Professor Corne Van Walbeek from UCT, and Dr. Yussuf Saloojee from the National Council Against Smoking. Dr. Saloojee is a recent recipient of the Luther Terry Award, the American Cancer Society’s highest honor in international tobacco control.
Botswana is a priority country in the African Tobacco Control Consortium, and the Anti-Tobacco Network is currently receiving funding from the consortium.
Groundbreaking Researcher Program Draws Participants from Nine African Countries
The second workshop was an innovative and first-of-its-kind project – an Emerging Researcher Program. The workshop brought together 12 researchers from nine countries (Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria, Niger, South Africa, Togo, and Zimbabwe) for a weeklong session July 16-20 at UCT. The purpose of the workshop was to:
- Expose delegates to a broad overview of the economics of tobacco control and help them navigate through the main data sources for the African continent
- Familiarize participants with key data analysis techniques and research methodologies in tobacco control research
- Share examples of research conducted in an African and low- and middle-income country/region context
- Discuss challenges of and solutions for conducting research in data poor environment.
- Allow participants to discuss research plans both formally and informally
Gaotlhobogwe Motlaleng, University Of Botswana, Paphidzo Batisani, Botswana Unified Revenue Service, Itumeleng Magama, Ministry Of Finance and Development Planning, Gorata Moloise, Ministry of Trade and Consumer Affairs, Kutlwano Tina Mosime, Botswana Anti-Tobacco Network Board Member, Kabelo Antony Ebineng, Botswana Confederation of Commerce & Industry Management, Tabby Maphangela, Ministry of Health, Refilwe Tsopito, Botswana Anti-Tobacco Network, Corne van Walbeek, School of Economics, University of Cape Town, Evan Blecher, American Cancer Society, Yussuf Saloojee, National Council Against Smoking, Nicole Vellios, School of Economics, Univeristy of Cape Town, Jamie Tam, University of Michigan, Bontle Mbongwe, University of Botswana and Botswana Anti-Tobacco Network, Teresa Aluku, American Cancer Society, Mollie Levine, University of Southern California (Cape Town, South Africa July 2012)
Participants are in the process of applying for small research grants to conduct a tobacco control research in their own country/region. The workshop was facilitated by Dr. Evan Blecher and Dr. Hana Ross from the ITCRP, Professor Corne Van Walbeek from UCT, and Professor Emmanuel Guindon from the University of Montreal. Other presenters included UCT staff, as well as the National Council Against Smoking, and Rosemary Kennedy from the Global Health department at ACS.
The success of these workshops reflects the growing relationship between the American Cancer Society and UCT. This partnership began with a two-year pilot project in early 2011 and has grown into part of the ATCC project. An important aspect of this collaboration has been the significant increase in capacity from both a technical and programmatic perspective at UTC, with full-time programmatic and academic staff working on tobacco control, and several graduate students providing technical and research support. Furthermore, UCT is now developing as a critical and leading resource on the economics of tobacco control, not only in Africa but around the world.