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World No Tobacco Day: FG urged to raise taxes to discourage smoking

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A COALITION of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) is calling on the Federal Government to increase taxes on tobacco products in order to discourage smoking in the country.

The group also asked the Federal Government to enforce the ban on smoking in public spaces.

Chief Executive Officer of the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) Akinbode Oluwafemi, during an event to commemorate World No Tobacco Day in Abuja, said tobacco contaminates not only the environment but adversely impacts the health of consumers and non-consumers alike.

He disclosed that from cultivation which often involved the use of pesticides, the product has been found harmful to tobacco growers. He cited deforestation and the use of large water volumes for the plantation, which according to him also affects the ecosystem, and by extension lead to climate change.

“In the manufacturing of cigarettes, tobacco companies are believed to contribute 84 megatons of carbon dioxide equivalent to greenhouse gases.”

Oluwafemi observed that due to the stringent laws in the Global North, most tobacco corporations have relocated to low and middle-income countries like Nigeria.

“As these companies continue their active marketing of lethal products in Africa, so do they also concentrate about 90 per cent of tobacco products in the same region which now bears the highest environmental burdens.”

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However, findings from the WHO identified taxation as one of the cost-effective measures to reduce tobacco use and health care costs. This strategy it stated would help the youth, and low-income persons and the same time increase the revenue generation of most nations.

It emphasised that “the tax increases need to be high enough to push prices up above income growth”.

According to the global health organization, “an increase of tobacco prices by 10 per cent decreases tobacco consumption by 4 per cent in high-income countries and about 5 per cent in low-income and middle countries.”

On May 18, the Federal Government through the national coordinator, Non-Communicable Diseases Division from the Federal Ministry of Health, Dolapo Sanni, disclosed how the country records about 26,800 deaths related to tobacco annually.

However, the group tasked the Federal Government and stakeholders in public health to revisit the status of tobacco control in the country.

With an emphasis on the enforcement of the smoke-free public places policy contained in the National Tobacco Control (NTC) Act 2015, they asked the managers of hotels to also comply with the law.

He listed the indoor public places where smoking is restricted based on the Second Schedule of the NTC Act to include healthcare facilities, primary and secondary education facilities, shops, police stations and prisons, higher education facilities, transport facilities, theatres, cinemas, and stadiums among others.

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Part of the recommendations listed includes: Reinvigorate the enforcement of the smokefree public places policy; enforce the Tobacco Advertising Promotion and Sponsorships (TAPS) ban as it pertains to the entertainment and movies sector and promote inter-agency collaboration and synergy in the enforcement of the ban on TAPS and the smokefree public places policy.

Others are to initiate or strengthen schemes to make tobacco manufacturers responsible for the environmental and economic costs of tobacco product waste and to provide support to tobacco farmers to switch to alternative, more viable and sustainable livelihoods to reduce the environmental impact of tobacco growing, curing, and manufacturing.

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Olugbenga is an Investigative Reporter with The ICIR. Do you have a scoop? Shoot him an email at oadanikin@icirnigeria.org. Twitter Handle: @OluAdanikin

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