The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, Tuesday, tasked the Federal Government to raise tobacco taxes to save a huge number of Nigerians dying annually.
The Executive-Director, CISLAC, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, made the call in an address of welcome, at the launch of ‘Research Report on Tobacco Taxation and Health Financing in Nigeria.’
Rafsanjani, said the way out on reducing tobacco-related deaths in Nigeria and Africa is for the government to astronomically increase tax on tobacco products as recommended by the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC), which identified tobacco taxation as an effective tool for tobacco control.
Also, the 44 page report indicated tobacco specific tax increase of 30 per cent ad valorem rate and N4.20k per stick in 2022, the average prices of cigarettes per pack increased from N270.37k in 2020 to N356.30k by the end of April 2022. Meaning that on a 20 stick pack of cigarettes has resulted in raising the price of a pack by 32 per cent on average.
Consequently, the average consumption in the country reduced but at the lesser percentage of 7.84 per cent
The report showed that cigarettes are still very affordable in Nigeria as it is cheaper in the northern part of the country as compared to the southern part, where the disparity in income level trumps the price difference.
According to the report, there is need for policymakers to pay closer attention to cigarette affordability rather than just nominal prices in adjusting excise tax on tobacco products and to generate more revenue
He said, “Excise taxes are the most effective tax measure for promoting health because they change the price of a harmful product relative to other goods and can be easily increased over time. Consumption is reduced best with taxes based on specific taxes on unhealthy products such as sticks and packs of cigarettes.
“Closely linked to the issue of tobacco taxation as a control tool is the issue of safeguarding population health. It is not news however, that the state of health care delivery in Nigeria remains very abysmal while the world intensifies efforts to attain the Sustainable Development Goals.
“According to the World Health Organization (WHO), health care financing plays a critical role in sustaining the health of the present and future generations. This is because health care financing determines the existence and affordability of health services when needed.
“As the country defaults on budgeting effectively for health, countries of the world are adopting innovative approaches to mobilise resources for health financing. One of the key approaches is the adoption of tobacco taxes as an alternative strategy which presents a win-win situation in terms of reducing affordability of tobacco products and increasing revenue for development funding.”
Speaking on the essence of the report launched by CISLAC, he explained that the study was commissioned to interrogate the viability of tobacco taxation as a source of revenue generation for health financing in Nigeria.
“It looks to present empirical evidence to guide policy formulation as Nigeria struggles to meet its health financing gap.
“It is important to sustain the conversation for tobacco taxation beyond mere revenue collection and generation but to also channel these resources to improve the health sector in Nigeria.”
However, he expressed hope that the report will serve as a useful tool for advocacy and policy formulation, as he commended Tax Justice Network Africa, TJNA, for the enormous support provided in the course of conducting the study.
In a goodwill message, the National Coordinator, Non-Communicable Diseases Division, Federal Ministry of Health, Dr Dolapo Sanni, who was represented by Dr Bunmi Oshundele, pointed out that the death rate from tobacco smoking in Nigeria is frightening and causes worry.
According to Sanni, in Nigeria, findings from the 2012 Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) show that 5.6per cent (4.5 million) Nigerians 15 years and older currently use tobacco products of which 3.9per cent (3.1 million) are current smokers, while 1.9per cent (1.6 million adults) currently used smokeless tobacco.
“The death toll from tobacco in Nigeria is huge. The Tobacco Atlas 6th edition estimates that more than 26,800 annual deaths occur from tobacco-related diseases in Nigeria.
“The economic costs of tobacco use are substantial and include significant health care costs for treating the diseases caused by tobacco use, as well as the lost human capital that results from tobacco-attributable morbidity and mortality.
“In addressing the tobacco menace, Nigeria signed and ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2004 and 2005 respectively,” she said.
However, she supported the call for high taxation on tobacco products as “Price increases through taxation have been shown to bring the biggest health benefit to people with the least money to spend, including young people.”
“With the implementation of the tobacco tax regime from 2018, Nigeria commenced efforts to implement the ECOWAS directives on tobacco taxation and the WHO FCTC recommendation.
“Continuous increase to outpace inflation would increase government revenue for health financing and also reduce spending capacity of tobacco users, therefore resulting in reduced prevalence of tobacco and its resultant health effects.
“Hence, this research on tobacco taxation and health financing is in the right direction, and its launch for which we are gathered is laudable.
In another goodwill message, the Lead, Tax Equity, Tax Justice Network Africa, TJNA, Rogers Kidiya, said, “Nigeria is a leading country in Africa. We want Nigeria to take its place in coming up with tax policies on tobacco that supports our own people.”
“In terms of context, the reason why tobacco taxation and health financing is very critical in this time and day include, there is a global ratio I want us to consider, for every $1 that is received in the tobacco industry be it in all forms of taxes from the tobacco industry we use another $3 to mitigate the health burden that comes from the consumption of the product that is the global one.
Kidiya added that, “In Africa, tobacco contributes up to 30 per cent of the disease burden, and 80 per cent of that is caused by users of tobacco.”