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Taxing Tobacco in West Africa

Tobacco kills more than 8 million people each year, and over 80% of the world’s smokers live in low- and middle-income countries. Increasing taxes on tobacco is the most cost-effective way to reduce tobacco use and its high cost to society, while also raising government revenue. However, tobacco taxes are widely underutilised, particularly across Africa, where cigarettes have actually become more affordable in the last four years.

In 2017, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) adopted a directive on tobacco taxation that set minimums for ad valorem and specific taxes on tobacco products, but so far, no country has implemented it fully. Tobacco’s damage to public health and the economy will only worsen if governments do not take decisive action. This should start with implementing the ECOWAS directive.


West African countries should:

Introduce a specific tax of at least 0.02 USD per cigarette and 20.00 USD per kilogram of other tobacco products, as directed by ECOWAS.

Raise the specific tax rate at least once each year, to keep pace with increases in inflation and income.

Levy the ad valorem tax on the retail price of tobacco products, rather than the import value/producer price.

Consider investing additional tax revenue raised in tobacco control and other public health initiatives.