Rwanda- Country Profile

This page was last edited on at

Rwanda is an East African country with a population of 12.6 million.1

Smoking in Rwanda

The 2019 World Health Organization (WHO) report on the global tobacco epidemic, reported that 10.2% of men and 2.2% of women used tobacco daily.2 Tobacco use kills over 2,000 people a year in Rwanda, according to the Tobacco Atlas report.3

Tobacco, Poverty and the Rwandan market

In 2016, 38.2% of the Rwandan population lived below the national poverty line. 4 The combined approximate revenues of the world’s six largest tobacco companies in 2016 was USD 346 Billion, 4138% larger than Rwanda’s Gross National Income.3
Rwanda is a tobacco growing country, although it is not a major agricultural product in Rwanda (tourism, minerals, coffee and tea are Rwanda’s main sources of foreign exchange),5  Tobacco farming has been shown by the World Health Organization to perpetuate cycles of illness and poverty.67 Yet it has been seen as an attractive crop for poor rural farmers in Rwanda because of its low start up costs.8

Who Dominates the Market?

In 2012, British American Tobacco (BAT) reported that the company (through BAT Rwanda) held a leading market share in Rwanda.9
Rwanda is of strategic importance for BAT operations in neighbouring countries. In 2006, BAT Rwanda underwent an operational restructuring and became the “centre of distribution and marketing excellence for the Rwanda-Burundi area”.10 In 2020, British American Tobacco was described as the leading tobacco company in Rwanda during local media interviews. 11

Roadmap to Tobacco Control

Rwanda became a party to the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) on January 17, 2006, and thereby became legally obliged to implement the evidence-based tobacco control measures associated with the Treaty.12 At the time of ratifying the FCTC, Rwandan tobacco control legislation was based on the 2005 Act for the Protection of Non-Smokers and Environment against Damages and Bad Consequences of Tobacco.13 This sought to provide protection to non-smokers, children and the environment from the dangers of second-hand smoke and smoking by regulating smoking in public places and the purchase of tobacco products.
Despite clauses within the FCTC that require ratifying countries to adopt and implement tobacco control measures within a certain time after signing the Treaty, Rwanda’s first tobacco control law after ratification took seven years to be enacted and was still not compliant with the FCTC. In April 2013, the Rwandan government passed The 2013 Act (Nº 08/2013 Relating to the Control of Tobacco).14 Key provisions within the law included:

  • Banned smoking in all indoor public spaces;
  • Public awareness and education campaigns;
  • Protection against exposure to second-hand smoke;
  • Regulation of Tobacco Advertising Promotion and Sponsorship (TAPS);
  • A commitment to eliminating illicit trade;
  • Administrative sanctions and penalties for non-compliance with the required measures.15

In September 2018, Law No. 71/2018 relating to the protection of the child, extended tobacco control regulations to include penalties for violations the ban on selling tobacco products to minors.16

Obstacles to FCTC Compliance

Many of the provisions of the 2013 Act are not compliant with FCTC standards.17 For example, the Act failed to comprehensively regulate against direct and indirect advertising of tobacco products as outlined in FCTC Article 13. The graphic health warning labels only cover 30% of the packs, instead of the 50 % or more as required by Article 11. Although there were measures for protecting the public from harmful effects of tobacco smoke, these too were not fully compliant with Article 8 as they allow the owner or manager of the premises to create a designated smoking area within the premises 16
It is worth noting that is a common tactic of the tobacco industry to use its influence and leverage its political relationships to support the passage of weak tobacco control legislation, often because once some form of legislation is enacted, there is often less political will to develop further, stronger tobacco control legislation.18

Extensive research published in 2021 by the Tobacco Control Research Group at the University of Bath, a partner in STOP, and in conjunction with BBC’s Panorama, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project uncovered multiple instances of British American Tobacco seeking to frustrate tobacco control measures in Africa.

TobaccoTactics Resources

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. World Bank, Rwanda, accessed January 2021
  2. WHO, 2019 World Health Organization (WHO) report on the global tobacco epidemic, 2019, accessed January 2021
  3. abTobacco Atlas, Rwanda Country profile, 2020, accessed January 2021
  4. The World Bank, Rwanda, 2020, accessed January 2021
  5. Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook, accessed November 2015
  6. N.M. Schmitt, J. Schmitt, D.J. Kouimintzis, W. Kirch, Health risks in tobacco farm workers—a review of the literature, Journal of Public Health, 2007, 15:255-264, accessed November 205
  7. World Health Organisation, Tobacco increases the poverty of individuals and families, 2004, accessed November 2015
  8. S. Rwembeho,Tobacco farming providing income to farmers, The New Times, 10 July 2011, accessed November 2015
  9. British American Tobacco, Public Private Dialogue on Harmonisation of Domestic Taxes in EAC, 9 February 2015, accessed November 2015
  10. Tobacco Journal International, BAT Rwanda restructures, 12 April 2006, accessed November 2015
  11. The New Times, British American Tobacco working on potential coronavirus vaccine, April 2020, accessed January 2021
  12. World Health Organization, Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, 2003, accessed October 2014
  13. CTFK, Tobacco Control Laws, Country Profile Rwanda, accessed November 2015
  14. World Health Organization,Rwanda – Comprehensive tobacco control legislation adopted, April 2013, accessed October 2015
  15. The Government of Rwanda, Law Nº 08/2013 Relating to the Control of Tobacco, 8 April 2013, accessed November 2015
  16. abTobacco Control Laws, Rwanda, 2020, accessed January 2021
  17. WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control: an overview, January 2015, accessed November 2015
  18. A.B. Gilmore, G. Fooks, J. Drope, S.A. Bialous, R.R. Jackson Exposing and addressing tobacco industry conduct in low-income and middle-income countries, The Lancet, 14 March 2015, accessed July 2015