THE NIGERIAN government has started the implementation of a new tax regime for tobacco products in a bid to further discourage smoking in the country.
Also, in compliance with the National Tobacco Act (2015) and Regulations (2019), the government has commenced screening and issuing operational licences to qualified tobacco businesses in the country with a view to profiling and monitoring the industry activities nationwide.
The new licensing guideline requires strict adherence to ensuring that a unit package of tobacco products has the approved texts and graphic warning messages that will make users aware of the harmful effects of tobacco use.
The minister of state for health, Olorunimbe Mamora, said at a media briefing on World No Tobacco Day in Abuja on Tuesday that the new three-year tax regime took effect from June 1.
The policy includes an ad valorem tax rate increase from 10 per cent to 30 per cent.
In addition to 30 per cent ad valorem, the government raised the excise rate on cigarettes from N58 to N84 per pack of 20 sticks.
The government will further increase it to N94 per pack in 2023 and then N104 per pack in 2024.
Mamora also said shisha was taxed at N3,000 per litre and N1,000 per kilogramme. It will increase yearly by N500.
“This pro-health tax is an effective public health control measure against behavioural risk factors as it can reduce demand and consumption of tobacco products.
“It will also prompt tobacco users to switch spending their resources on tobacco products to healthy alternatives such as education, health and others.”
Quoting the World Health Organization (WHO), the minister said the tobacco epidemic was one of the biggest public health threats the world had ever faced, killing up to half of its users, with more than eight million deaths recorded annually worldwide.
He noted that more than seven million deaths result from direct tobacco use, while about 1.2 million are from non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke.
“The theme for this year: ‘Tobacco, a Threat to our Environment’, is aimed at creating awareness about the environmental impact of tobacco and to educate people on the dangers and health risks of tobacco use. Ultimately, to prevent and control the use of tobacco around the world.”
He said about 4.5 million Nigerians 15 years and older use tobacco products, and about 3.1 million are current smokers.
Also, quoting the sixth edition of Tobacco ATLAS, Mamora said more than 26,800 annual deaths occur from tobacco-related diseases in the country.
“Similarly, the report of a study by the Centre for Study of the Economics of Africa, published in 2021, corroborated that 29,172 deaths were attributable to smoking in Nigeria.”
Tobacco damages the environment and contributes to global warming, the minister explained, stressing that beyond the environment, tobacco use, including the exposure to second-hand smoke, contributes to 12 per cent of deaths from heart diseases.
It is the second leading cause of cardiovascular diseases, second only to high blood pressure.
The minister said nearly 900,000 people are killed by breathing in second-hand smoke, adding that in addition to heart disease and hypertension, tobacco use and second-hand smoke cause non-communicable diseases like stroke, cancers, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases.
“According to the World Health Organization report, every year, tobacco production contributes 84 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the air. Companies use nearly 600 million trees yearly in producing cigarettes. Globally, tobacco companies expend about 22 billion tonnes of water yearly in tobacco production.”
He added that 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are discarded improperly every year, making it the single largest type of litter worldwide.
In May, the ICIR reported that tobacco kills over eight million people worldwide, each year.