By Angela Atabo
Abuja – The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) on Tuesday urged the Federal Government to increase tax on tobacco to stop its harmful effect on the health of Nigerians.
The Executive Director of CISLAC, Mr Auwal Musa told newsmen in Abuja that the call became imperative considering the harm the substance had on the health of smokers and passive smokers.
Musa said that CISLAC, a Civil Society Organisation (CSO), took a proactive measure to draw attention of stakeholders in the entertainment industry and Nigeria at large to the harmful effects of tobacco consumption.
He said that the National Tobacco Control (NTC) Act of 2015 has as its heart the protection of present and future generations of Nigerians against the harmful effects of smoking but it was seldom adhered to.
“The Global Adult Tobacco Survey conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics in 2012 puts the average percentage of daily smokers in Nigeria at 5.7 per cent with an increase projected in coming years.
“The current global index estimated at six million tobacco related deaths calls for not just worry but urgent and strategic interventions by national governments of developing countries identified as the most vulnerable.
“Aligning our arguments along proven researches across the world of the impact effective tobacco taxation plays in reduction of its consumption;
“CISLAC calls on Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun to urgently begin a review of its current tax regime to reflect more proactive and progressive levying system on tobacco companies.’’
Musa said that the issue of increased tobacco taxation remained a win-win for Nigeria.
According to him, on one hand it will drastically reduce the number of smokers as adequate taxation increased prices of tobacco and make it less affordable, while on the other it will generate more revenue for the country.
He said that the additional revenue generated could be channeled into addressing non communicable diseases with particular focus on tobacco control.
He said that tobacco promotion and advertising remained banned in all its forms in Nigeria and called on all implementing agencies to see to the full compliance to extant provisions of the Act.
Mr Okeke Anya, a programme officer with CISLAC, attributed the increase in consumption of tobacco to inappropriate taxation of tobacco companies in Nigeria.
“Most of the companies are not Nigerian companies so most of the money go back to Europe and Asia.
“Funny enough, in those countries that these companies originate from there are stringent control measures to control its consumption unlike in Nigeria.
“This is because they know that tobacco is dangerous .Take for instance taxation ,anybody who has gone to New York will find out that for any packet of cigarette the tax rate is 10 dollars, which is N3600.
“A pack of cigarette in Nigeria here costs N250 to N500; so how come it is so cheap here? This is because Nigerian governments has not taxed the tobacco industry what they are supposed to tax them.’’
Anya said that as a matter of fact government gave rebate and waivers to tobacco industries in Nigeria, adding that they were actually paying them for causing damage to people’s health.
He said that if the government could make a pack of cigarette to cost N3,600 for instance, it would do two things for Nigeria.
“Firstly, it will raise money for the country and secondly the number of people that will not be able to afford cigarettes will rise; and cause a reduction in the number of consumers.’’
Anya urged the government not to jettison the use of tax measures to curb the consumption of tobacco as used by other countries to protect the health of Nigerians. (NAN)