By Solomon Adoga
Nigeria remains a high ranking country in tobacco products consumption with the third largest tobacco market in Africa. According to statistics from the Global Adults Tobacco Survey (GATS) smoking prevalence among Nigerian adults is estimated at 5.6% (about 2.4 million adults) smoking an average of eight cigarette sticks per day. The danger of this statistics lie in the effect on a larger population exposed to tobacco smoke through second hand consumption.
The harmful effect of tobacco use has inspired countries, including Nigeria, to implement control measures to tackle tobacco consumption and affordability. The idea embedded in the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC) Article 5.3 provides guidelines for countries to implement an effective tobacco tax system capable of reducing tobacco products affordability and consumption.
Nigeria recently commenced implementation of a new tobacco tax regime by introducing specific tax on tobacco products amounting to a total excise tax burden of less than 20% of retail price. While the regime falls well below the WHO recommendation of 75% excise tax burden, it is has been widely described as a step in the right direction and presents opportunity to advocate for a more stringent and effective tax system.
In its commitment to effective tobacco control in Nigeria, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) expanded advocacy on tobacco taxation targeting state and non-state actors in Calabar, Cross River State, in a workshop that aimed to galvanise regional understanding and support for price and tax measures to cushion the dangerous effects of tobacco consumption.
Welcoming participants to the meeting, the Director of Legal and member of CISLAC’s Board of Trustees, Bar. Adesina Oke stressed the need to be fully abreast of the economics of tobacco taxation in order to appreciate it as the most effective tool for reducing tobacco consumption particularly among low-income earners in Nigeria.
Adesina noted the danger of not fully taking advantage of measures that will meaningfully reduce tobacco use as the product remains the world leading contributor to death arising from non-communicable diseases. Commending the quality of representation at the meeting, Adesina expressed optimism towards fruitful deliberations.
The workshop integrated technical sessions highlighting the dangerous effects of tobacco consumption to public health and the economy as well as guiding participants to an understanding of the rationale and guidelines of the WHO Article 5.3. Other sessions of the workshop also covered understanding of the National Tobacco Control Act (2015) and the new tobacco regime in Nigeria.
The workshop harvested recommendations that are geared towards cultivating Cross River State’s approach and support to measures capable of improving public health and cushioning the effect of tobacco consumption in the state and the country at large.