Increased illicit trade in tobacco looms – Business Botswana

Says MoH did not consult before presenting bill to Parliament


The Tobacco Control Act that was recently passed by Parliament will result in an increase in illicit trade in tobacco, tobacco industry leaders and business community representatives have told The Botswana Gazette.

The new tobacco law seeks to regulate the demand and supply of tobacco and tobacco products in Botswana and to control its production, manufacturing, sale, labelling, advertising and promotion, among other things.

It came to Parliament through the Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. Edwin Dikoloti.
In the aftermath of enactment of the law, Business Botswana (BB), which is the preeminent representative of the business community, says the law will not achieve its intended objectives due to its narrow focus on tobacco control instead of addressing the impact on livelihoods, loss of revenue to the fiscus and an expected rise in illicit tobacco trade.

“Illicit trade of tobacco is already a big problem even before the new law,” said BB Director of Policy Advocacy, Dichaba Molobe in an interview with publication. “This is just adding fuel to a raging fire.”

Molobe added that BB regrets that the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MoH) decided to leave them out of the debate on the Tobacco Control Bill prior to going to Parliament.
British American Tobacco Botswana (BAT), which controls about 93 percent of the tobacco market in the country, says legal traders of tobacco are going to suffer because of the law. “I do not see us surviving for three years,” the company’s Country Manager John Masala, said in an interview.

“The law is punishing us and illicit trade of tobacco will rise.”

Just like Business Botswana, BAT says MoH did not engage them before the bill was presented to Parliament. “We wonder why we were not consulted when the law is going to affect our business, the fiscus of the country and livelihoods that depend on the sale of tobacco,” Masala said.

At Business Botswana, Molobe told this publication that they expect the selling of cigarettes by hawkers to go underground because they will be prohibited from selling loose sticks. “The requirement to apply for licences will also push the trade underground.” He added that the law does not draw from the experience of failed tobacco prohibition across the world but repeats the mistakes.