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CISLAC Urges President Tinubu to Raise Tax on Tobacco

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Isiyaku Ahmed

Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) has urged President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to as a matter of urgency put the machinery in place to raise and implement tobacco tax regimes in Nigeria.

The Executive Director of CISLAC, Comrade Auwal Ibrahim Rafsanjani made the requestl on Tuesday in Kano at a Media Roundtable on Tobacco Taxation Agenda Setting for President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration.

He said the President specifically mentioned in his manifesto, “where he promised to increase health care funding in the country through improved budgetary allocation and categorically identifying consumption tax on harmful products such as tobacco and alcohol as a viable tool to mobilize resources for health financing.”

Rafsanjani, who was represented by CISLAC Senior Program Officer, Solomon Adoga reminded the President of “this very important campaign promise,” urging him to urgently implement it.

 The CISLAC Boss also noted that particularly in a time when the government is forced to make hard economic decisions that have brought unprecedented levels of hardship to citizens across economic status, there could not be a better time to move to ensure the lives of Nigerians are better protected from harmful products, especially as households are unable to afford healthcare cost.

“In its Nigerian Development Update report, the World Bank noted that Nigeria could generate more than N600 billion annually by increasing excise duties on tobacco and alcohol.

“According to the Bank, excise on tobacco and alcohol does not impact the vast majority of people and compliance can be monitored much more easily by the compliance agencies, making it a cost-effective strategy for promoting health and generating sufficient revenue to fund health care and other areas of development.

“CISLAC hopes to remind the President of this very important campaign promise and urges the president to as a matter of urgency put the machinery running to implement effective tobacco tax regimes in Nigeria.

“It must be noted that Nigeria remains one of the leading tobacco markets in Africa, with its young and growing population a constant attraction to the tobacco industry. Government must move to protect its young people and children by ensuring it does not succumb to the interference tactics of the tobacco industry that only aims to undermine effective tobacco control in the country,” said Rafsanjani.

He pointed out that for many years, CISLAC had been championing effective tobacco taxation regimes in Nigeria, noting that: “As a global tool for the control of tobacco use, effective tax administration on the products posses a double-edged advantage to the health and economy of nations.”

“According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), tobacco use kills 6 million people each year, and this could rise to 8 million by 2030 if the global epidemic is left unchecked.

“Tobacco use has also been identified as the major risk factor for over 80% of premature deaths from noncommunicable diseases, WHO also estimated that 30,000 Nigerians lose their lives yearly due to illnesses caused by tobacco. This is much more than the 3,000 lives claimed by COVID-19 during the three years of the pandemic.

“Studies have shown that the poorest households, especially in low-income countries spend as much as 10% of total household income on tobacco alone, therefore significantly reducing the amount of money available for other basic items such as food, education and healthcare.

“Again, the WHO has directly pointed to this as a contributor to malnutrition, increased healthcare costs, and lower standards of living.

“In Nigeria, the burden of tobacco use is even more aggravated by the limited access to health care. Nigeria continues to lag in the implementation of its commitments under the global Universal Health Coverage (UHC) with less than 5% of the population having any form of health insurance coverage.

“Most Nigerians bear the full financial cost of health care as data shows that out-of-pocket expenditure represents about 75% of total health spending in the country. What this further means is that those without money are unable to access health care in the country.

“Furthermore, budgetary allocation to health has continued to fall short of the African Union Abuja Declaration to pledge 15% of the total annual budget to health as a requisite for improving health care services and delivery in the continent.

“Since the adoption of the declaration, Nigeria is yet to achieve 6% of the total allocation to health and thereby contributing little to improve the state of health care in the country.

“Amidst the poor state of health care in the country, the prevalence of consumption of harmful products such as tobacco continues to further stretch the already overwhelmed facilities in the country and calls for more concerted efforts on the part of the government to control the use of such products. This will not only promote the health of individuals but will also reduce the burden of the cost of health care on both government and households,” he added.

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