Big Tobacco loses power in Senegal

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Big Tobacco loses power in Senegal

Dakar did not listen to the tobacco companies and brought in new laws against smoking. By Stephen Cockburn


Is Big Tobacco losing its power? (Tela Chhe)

Health campaigners in Senegal are very happy about the new laws against smoking.

Senegal is the sixth African country to make smoking illegal in almost all public places. Also all cigarette advertising is now illegal. And there are very serious health warnings on 70 per cent of cigarette packets.

Philip Morris is the company that makes Marlboro and L&M cigarettes. They have a factory in Senegal. And they tried to fight against the new law.

‘This is an example of people fighting against the power of the tobacco industry,’ says Tih Ntiabang (Africa Co-ordinator of the civil-society Framework Convention Alliance).

Anti-smoking laws are getting stricter in the West, so the tobacco companies are trying very hard to sell more cigarettes in Africa, where the advertising laws are freer.

Ntiabang says that Big Tobacco (the big tobacco companies) fights against many laws in Africa. And when they do not manage to persuade the government, they start fighting in the law courts.

Philip Morris is fighting legal battles against Australia and Uruguay because of trade agreements. Also, in South Africa, British American Tobacco is fighting to make cigarette advertising legal again: they say they need to advertise cigarettes for ‘freedom of expression’.

For Senegal, the next big step is to increase the price of its cigarettes. They now cost 80 US cents a packet, which could be the cheapest in the world. But there could be legal problems with this. Senegal is a member of UEMOA (an organisation that controls French-speaking West Africa’s currency), so it cannot increase tax on cigarettes. If it wants to raise prices it must either choose to follow the more relaxed rules of the economic group ECOWAS or try to change the rules of UEMOA.

There will be many effects of this in Africa. So the big tobacco companies will probably have their lawyers ready.

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