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Background and Introduction

Smoking is a public health issue in Ethiopia. The Global Adult Tobacco Survey indicated that 5% (3.4 million) of the adult population above 15 years old are current tobacco users.[1] Out of this number, 6.2% are male and 1.8% are female. Ethiopia was one of the early signatories of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), ratifying in February 2014, and has shown commitment to implement tobacco control in the country.

Proclamation No. 661/2009 provided additional focus for tobacco control and assigned a regulatory body, the Ethiopian Food, Medicine, and Health Care Administration and Control Authority (EFMHACA).[2]Under this proclamation, for the first-time regulation of the content, manufacture, import, export, distribution, sales, use, packaging and labelling, advertisement and promotion, and disposal of tobacco products, was realized. In addition, part 3 of regulation No. 299/2013 from article 33 to 36 further elaborated the control of tobacco products including places where smoking is prohibited, (allowed designated areas), health warning message (30% text warning), protection of minors and requirement of a special license to import, distribute or sell tobacco. However, the tobacco industry often thwarts government efforts. Its interference in Ethiopia’s new Tobacco Control Proclamation 1112/2019 and new 2020 excise tax has been documented in this report.

Established in 1942, the National Tobacco Enterprise (NTE) was a monopoly until the Ethiopian government privatized it in 2017. It is now owned by Japan Tobacco International (JTI) with 71% share and by Yemen-based Sheba Company with 29% share.[3] The 71% NTE share purchased by JTI from the government of Ethiopia amounted to US$ 1 billion, the largest purchase in Ethiopia’s privatization history. After the transaction, Eddy Pirard, president and CEO of JTI, said: “this significant increase in our ownership of NTE shares reaffirms Ethiopia as an increasingly important place to do business in Africa.” [4] NTE is the only tobacco industry in the country that operating manufacturing importing and distribute tobacco products. This implies that 100% of the market share is owned by NTE.

The WHO FCTC Article 5.3 empowers the government to protect itself from tobacco industry tactics. This report reviews how the Ethiopian government is implementing Article 5.3 guidelines. It uses the Tobacco Industry Interference Index questionnaire developed by the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance.[5]. This report is based on publicly available evidence available from online databases using the Google search engine for tobacco control-related media stories (Ethiopian and African newspaper websites) using the keywords: ‘Ethiopia’, ‘Tobacco Control’, ‘FCTC’, ‘WHO FCTC implementation, ‘Tobacco Industry’, and ‘National Tobacco Enterprise’. The search terms were customized for each database to retrieve published articles and policy documents. The main findings of the Index are presented below