TOBACCO-Free Club, University of Abuja chapter (TFC), has called on Federal Government to increase tobacco tax to 70 per cent of the retail price of the commodity.
Mr Izang Lawrence, Former President of the Club, made the call on Monday at a campaign to enlighten Nigerians on the national tobacco control act of 2015, in Abuja.
“The government must significantly increase tobacco tax to be at par with the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended level of 70 per cent of the retail price over the next five years,” he said.
He recalled that in October 2005, Nigeria ratified the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
“The framework recommended many effective ways of controlling tobacco in its various stages and protecting public health.
“Till date, a lot of the recommendations of the FCTC, which Nigeria is a signatory to, is yet to be implemented by Nigeria,” Izang said
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According to him, one of the recommendations of the FCTC is about 70 per cent tax increase while Nigeria is currently around 20 per cent.
Izang also called for stiffer laws to prohibit the sale of tobacco to minors and smoking in public places.
“We want the prohibition of the sale of tobacco products to and by anyone below age 18 and ban of the sale of cigarettes in single sticks.
“Our tobacco control group will never be tired of asking the government to continue to significantly increase the tobacco tax.
“The present tax regime is insignificant and insufficient to lead to price increases and will definitely not reduce consumption.
“We want the prohibition of smoking anywhere on the premises of a childcare facility, educational facility and health facility; and other prohibited areas for smoking include a playground, amusement parks and other public spaces.
“We also want the prohibition of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship of any kind,” he said.
He urged the Federal Government to begin the process of earmarking a significant fraction of tobacco tax and levies for tobacco control and to educate smokers of the dangers of smoking.
Izang described earmarking of a fraction of the revenue accruable from tobacco taxes and levies as one of the best practices effective for the promotion of public health.
Izang said that the National Tobacco Control Act 2015 provided for the setting up of the Tobacco Control Fund to implement the National Tobacco Control Regulations.
“Nigeria has approved the tobacco control regulations, which will make it possible for the Federal Ministry of Health to implement and enforce the Nigeria Tobacco Control Act, 2015.
“We ask that the Federal Government should start the process of earmarking a significant fraction of tobacco taxes and levies for tobacco control and national health coverage,” he said.
According to him, the National Tobacco Control Act 2015 provides for the setting up of the tobacco control fund and up till now, it has not been implemented.
Kenneth Amah, President, TFC, University of Abuja, stressed the need to create more awareness of the dangers of tobacco smoking.
Amah said that the government had reviewed the standard for cigarettes to include the complete ban on cigarettes with characterizing favour, including menthol.
He noted that the use of tobacco had been known to lead to severe health and socio-economic outcomes.
According to him, the use and exposure to tobacco smoke among Nigerians were gradually becoming an issue of public health concern and students were well informed about the dangers of tobacco.
“We are unmindful of those already using it, but we also have Tobacco cessation clinics for those already indulging in it and who want to leave.”
Amah further explained that cancer was common in people who smoked cigarettes because tobacco smoking posed a risk of 2.5 per cent compared to the other risk factors.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), reports that the campaign was supported by the Federal Ministry of Health and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Washington and Gatefield Impact.