Promoting Good Governance.

Inaugurate Tobacco Control Funds in 2020 budget, group tells FG

THE Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has demanded the immediate inauguration of Tobacco Control Funds (TCF) in the recently passed 2020 national budget, which was exempted by the federal government.

The group made this known in a statement issued on Thursday and signed by its Head, Media and Campaign, Philip Jakpor in Lagos.

The National Tobacco Control (NTC) Act 2015, had recommended its inclusion in the budget but the group said “near-zero allocation to the tobacco control was included in the 2020 budget.

It paper said such exclusion had ignited the need to institutionalize a funding mechanism.

The statement read in part: “Part 3, Section 8 (1) of the NTC Act 2015 provides “for the creation of the Tobacco Control Fund which shall consist of monies made available by the Federal Government from annual budgetary allocation approved by the National Assembly”.

The environmental rights group revealed that monies in the form of subventions from any of the governments of the federation could also be ploughed into meeting the stated objectives of the Act.

The statement disclosed that the recently approved budget allocated N427 billion, of which, a “reasonable chunk of these monies go to the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF), which received N44.5 billion”.

The group said the BHCP Funds is to be administered through the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), and the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH).

“Recurrent expenditure stands at N336 billion while capital expenditure is N46.47 billion. There was no mention of the tobacco control fund,” the group said.

The group expressed worry “that even after repeated demands by public health experts that a substantial percentage of the budget or tobacco taxes be allocated to tobacco control, the federal government was yet to see a good reason to do so”.

Reacting, the Deputy Director, ERA/FoEN, Akinbode Oluwafemi found it ironic that the inauguration of the TCF, was “still in limbo despite the genuine yearnings of the public health community and indeed the larger Nigerian populace who strongly recommend that tobacco control should be given centre-stage in government’s quest for wholesome health for Nigerians.

“Bad as this is for public health, for the tobacco industry it is good news.

“Oluwafemi opined that lack of funding for tobacco control and the delayed gazette of the National Tobacco Control Regulations 2019 both constitute clogs in the enforcement of the laws, even as he added that, “every minute now counts as new smokers are conscripted and lives are lost,” the paper said.

Also speaking, the NTCA National Coordinator, Oluseun Esan said the federal government’s failure to inaugurate the TCF under the 2020 budget will allow the tobacco industry to have a field day interfering in public health issues.

“Already, the same industry is talking about playing a role in the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and ready to supposedly partner to make this happen.

“What this means is more addiction, more economic losses to tobacco deaths,” Esan said.

He explained that the groups’ views on funding for tobacco control re-echo what hundreds of individuals and groups asked for in 2019 when they petitioned the Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila to earmark tobacco taxes for health coverage and tobacco control in Nigeria.

The group insisted starting the year with the TCF “which should be funded from tobacco taxes” will go along way in not only saving the lives of Nigerians but show the world how serious Nigeria is in tackling the tobacco menace.

In a report by the Management Science for Health (MSH), Tobacco is the most common cause of preventable deaths worldwide, and the statistics is rising in Africa, especially among young girls and other vulnerable groups.

The report noted that just like non-communicable diseases, smoking is a growing threat to public health.

Tobacco-related deaths are projected to double in Africa between 2002 and 2030

The report also recognises the existence of “Tobacco Policy Action Fund for Africa (the Fund)”, it supports African governments, who have access to it, to help put tobacco control policies into action and, ultimately, save lives.

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