The Nigerian government has been asked to increase the tax on tobacco to meet Article 14 of the World Health Organisation (WHO), which pegged it at 75 per cent.
Addressing a press conference to mark the World No Tobacco Day, the Executive Director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwal Ibrahim Musa lamented that the present tax of 20 per cent on tobacco is too low to increase the price of cigarette and make it expensive for people to buy.
He said the federal government should copy the tax regime on tobacco in Europe, which is as much as 70 per cent to stop many Nigerians from purchasing the “poisonous” substance.
He said Nigeria needs to fully subscribe to the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCT) cost-effective measures for effective tobacco control known as MPOWER that include measures such as monitoring, protecting, offering, warning, enforcing bans and raising taxes on tobacco.
He said while Nigeria has put in place mechanisms for implementation of some of the FCTC measures, lamenting that unfortunately the measure of adopting cessation programmes designed to offer help for smokers to quit remains largely underutilised.
He decried that: “As the country continues to delay on implementation of cessation programmes, the tobacco industry is already miles ahead in investing massively in strategies and technology aimed at initiating young people to their products as they are eager to flood Nigeria and the rest of Africa with new products like e-cigarettes, misleading brandishing them as quit aids and harm reduction products.”
He called on the government at all levels in Nigeria to invest in promoting cessation, by developing evidence-based, cost-effective strategies and guidelines and allocating adequate resources for programme’s implementation.
He said free counselling must be provided for those that are eager to quit and also for those that have quit.
He decried that surveys have found that even though 80 per cent of smokers would want to quit smoking, less than five per cent are able to quit on their own due to the highly addictive properties of nicotine
Musa revealed that over 1.3 billion people in the world use tobacco, and over 80 per cent of this population live in low and middle-income countries where the burden of tobacco-related illness and death is very high.
He said data has shown that 18 billion cigarettes sold annually and that 16,100 deaths arising from tobacco use annually in Nigeria.