Tobacco Taxation in West Africa : Overview Issues and Options for Tobacco Control

The way in which tobacco products are taxed in West African countries is the result of both national and regional legislations. Four important features are highlighted in this review, in the current policies and practices that are not in step with the objectives of tobacco control, namely the practice of levying excise duty on an ad valorem basis as pursuant to the Community Directives on tobacco excise tax; the differentiated rates for excise duty in many countries; the relatively low levels of excise tax rates which are applied on tobacco products in most of the countries; and the application by some Member States of less stringent tobacco taxation policies than what is required by the relevant regional Directives. It was argued that the community Directives on tobacco excise tax should evolve towards allowing a mixed excise tax structure, whereby Member countries must levy a specific excise tax calculated per unit of the product, in addition to an ad valorem excise tax calculated as a proportion of an adequate tax base. Member countries should apply uniform excise rates on all tobacco products, and should increase the rates of excise duty so that the share of tobacco taxes account for at least 70% of retail prices, as recommended by the WHO. Community Directives on tobacco excise tax can help this happen by requiring explicitly that member countries must apply uniform rates of the excises; and by raising the minimum of and removing the “upper limit” on the applicable excise duty rates. The positive effects of such changes for tobacco control would however be limited if some Member States do not comply with regional Directives in designing their national tobacco taxation policies.