Rwanda- Country Profile

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Rwanda is a small East African country with a population of 11.3 million.1

Smoking in Rwanda

The Tobacco Atlas reported that in 2013, 16.3% of men and 2.7% of women used tobacco daily.2 According to the 2008 Global Youth Tobacco Survey, 13.5% of young males and 9.5% of young females aged 13-15 use tobacco products.3

Tobacco, Poverty and the Rwandan market

The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Rwanda remains low whilst the percentage of the population living in poverty, although decreasing from 56.7% in 2005, was still 44.9% in 2010.4 The combined approximate revenues of the world’s six largest tobacco companies in 2013 was USD 342 Billion, 98% larger than Rwanda’s Gross National Income.
Rwanda is a tobacco growing country. Although not a major agricultural product in Rwanda (tourism, minerals, coffee and tea are Rwanda’s main sources of foreign exchange),5 according to the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the UN, leaf production increased from 3900 tonnes in 2002 to 5000 tonnes in 2012.6 Tobacco farming has been shown by the World Health Organization to perpetuate cycles of illness and poverty.78 Yet tobacco is appareantly seen as an attractive crop for poor rural farmers in Rwanda because of its low start up costs.9

Who Dominates the Market?

In 2012, British American Tobacco (BAT) reported that the company (through BAT Rwanda) held a leading market share in Rwanda.10
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”.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:

  • 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

Obstacles to FCTC Compliance

Many of the provisions of the 2013 Act are not compliant with FCTC standards.16 For example, the Act failed to comprehensively regulate against direct and indirect advertising of tobacco products as outlined in FCTC Article 13. It also lacked provisions to enforce graphic health warning labels 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 smoking areas in all premises.
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.17

TobaccoTactics Resources


  1. World Bank,Rwanda, accessed November 2015
  2. American Cancer Society, The World Lung Foundation, Rwanda, The Tobacco Atlas, 2015 accessed September 2015
  3. Global Youth Tobacco Survey, Rwanda fact sheet, 2008, accessed November 2015
  4. The World Bank, Rwanda, 2010, accessed November 2015
  5. Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook, accessed November 2015
  6. Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN, FAOSTAT, 2015, accessed November 2015
  7. 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
  8. World Health Organisation, Tobacco increases the poverty of individuals and families, 2004, accessed November 2015
  9. S. Rwembeho,Tobacco farming providing income to farmers, The New Times, 10 July 2011, accessed November 2015
  10. British American Tobacco, Public Private Dialogue on Harmonisation of Domestic Taxes in EAC, 9 February 2015, accessed November 2015
  11. Tobacco Journal International, BAT Rwanda restructures, 12 April 2006, accessed November 2015
  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. WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control: an overview, January 2015, accessed November 2015
  17. 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