From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) has decried Nigeria’s 20 per cent duty on tobacco compared to the World Health Organisation (WHO) 75 per cent and Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS) 70 per cent benchmarks saying the low taxation is responsible for about 16,100 annual deaths arising from over 18 billion cigarets sold yearly to consumers in Nigeria.
It therefore called on the Federal Government to increase the duty on tobacco to 75 per cent to discourage patronage.
Executive Director, CISLAC, Auwal Ibrahim Rafsanjani, and Programme Manager, Democratic Governance, Okeke Anya, stated this at a press briefing to commemorate the World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) in Abuja, yesterday.
“The taxes imposed are very insignificant to make any remarkable change in terms of the price of tobacco, hence it doesn’t really affect the buyer. In some countries a pack of cigarette goes for $4, that is N2,000, if that is imposed many people will want to stop smoking and it will have the desired results,” said Anya.
Rafsanjani said out of over 1.3billion people who use tobacco globally, over 80per cent live in low and middle income countries, where the burden of tobacco related illness and death is very high.
He decried the fact that despite high tax rate and enlightenment campaigns on the dangers associated with smoking, consumption of tobacco products in Nigeria has been on the rise.
While speaking on the theme of this year’s commemoration, “Commit to Quit”, Rafsanjani said though recent surveys found that 80 per cent of smokers would like to quit, less than five per cent are unable to quit on their own due to the highly addictive properties of nicotine in cigarets.
He said in view of the struggle to contain the spread of COVID-19, smokers ought to understand the implications of a higher risk of developing severe disease and death from smoking.
Anya while corroborating Rafsanjani, said there should be a deliberate policy to raise taxes above 75per cent to further discourage the use of tobacco products.
He said multinational firms who produce cigarettes are now leveraging on technology and social media influencers to promote other variants of cigarettes, with deceit that it is less harmful to health.
“The inscription on the cigarette pack that smokers are liable to die young doesn’t resonate with many people, many that cannot read may not understand there is any kind of warning. That is why we are pushing for issues of graphic health warnings, where they will be pictorial warnings to show the harmful effects of tobacco consumption. Happily, a lot of work has gone into it and from the month of June, we will begin to see graphic pictorials on packs of cigarettes unlike the inscription smokers are liable to die young which people don’t even read.
“We want government within the framework of tobacco control, to tax 75 per cent on excise duty on tobacco and not the present 20 per cent. The current tax is so low that at times tobacco companies will want to absorb those taxes that government impose so that people will continue to use cigarettes.”