Anti-Tobacco Alliance in Nigeria urge government to raise taxes on tobacco Governments can win – and win again – by raising tobacco taxes
The Nigerian Tobacco Control Alliance (NTCA) is a network of Civil Society Groups (CSOs), Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), Community-Based Organisations (CBOs), Faith-Based Organisations (FBOs), and several professionals. NTCA is concerned and interested in human rights, public health, cancer, and tobacco control with a view to ensuring qualitative health; sustainable human development and good governance for all Nigerians.
The World Health Organisation has dedicated 31st of May every year for an intense awareness on the havoc of tobacco use. Tobacco is an engineered product that is causing enormous health hazard to both its direct and indirect users.
This year theme for World No Tobacco Day is Raise Tobacco Taxes. Raising tobacco taxes is a win-win for governments: this simple move generates revenue and, by discouraging smoking, it boosts public health, reducing health care costs. During this year World No Tobacco Day 2014 celebration, Alliance Manager of NTCA, Mr Adejuwon Gbenga urges governments to increase tobacco taxes.
Tobacco use is currently responsible for 10 percent of adult deaths worldwide, according to the
World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO FCTC Treaty is an international legal instrument designed to reduce tobacco-related deaths and disease around the world, made up of a host of measures. This treaty (FCTC) which Nigeria signed on the 28th of June 2004 and ratified on the 20th of October 2005, Oblige government to implement its articles.
It is widely accepted that raising the price of tobacco products is the most effective way to curb
tobacco use. Article 6 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is dedicated to such
‘price and tax measures’, and in October this year, the 178 Parties to the FCTC are expected to
approve guidelines on putting article 6 of the treaty into action. Mr Adejuwon enumerates that higher tobacco taxes benefit public health in three ways:
1. Some existing smokers quit entirely;
2. Some people, mostly teenagers, who would otherwise have started to use tobacco, refrain
from doing so;
3. Some people continue to use tobacco, but reduce how much they use per day.
Smoking rates especially among youths in Nigeria has continued to rise yearly. A national survey in 1990-91 showed that 4.14 million (10 per cent of Nigerians over the age of 15 years) smoke and 1.26 million are heavy smokers. Another appraisal conducted in 2008 indicated that the number of smokers had jumped to between 17% and 27%. A more recent survey in four local governments of Adamawa state put smoking rate among the youth at 33.9%.
Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death in the world today with about six million tobacco related deaths per year, no other consumer product is as dangerous or kills as many people, as tobacco. It is considered by the Alliance that 280,000 Nigerians died of tobacco related disease annually and this is approximated to about 800 people dying every day.
Tobacco is known globally as a lethal product that wipes out more than half of its consumers. Tobacco is a major risk factor for non- communicable diseases such as heart attack, stroke, impotent, diabetes, lungs; cervical and several types of cancer. The Tobacco Industries are fuelling deadly epidemic in Nigeria through all sort of illicit and uncontrolled practices, the industry is also leveraging on this loose regulation mechanism in Nigeria to aggressively maximize overseas profit. Tobacco use among Nigerians impedes on the nation economic and social development.
Tobacco is an easy product to tax and raise revenue from. Tobacco users do react when prices go
Up, they are price sensitive but they reduce their consumption by less than the percentage
Increase in price, which means they end up paying more in tobacco taxes.
As an article published earlier this year in an international media notes that 50 percent increase in inflation-adjusted tobacco prices reduces consumption by about 20 percent in both high-income countries and low and middle-income countries.
And bigger tax increases are more effective, the article adds: “The United States and the United
Kingdom took more than 30 years to halve cigarette consumption per adult. With the use of large
tax increases, however, France and South Africa halved consumption in less than 15 years.”
Because of low excise taxes, cigarette prices are far cheaper in many low and middle-income
countries compared to high-income countries, even after adjusting for purchasing power.
Increasing these taxes can produce significant results.
In Brazil, the average price of cigarettes more than doubled from 2006 to 2013. As a result, sales
declined from 5.6 billion packs to 3.8 billion packs in the same period, and the number of smokers
dropped from 21.4 million to 17.1 million. Revenue from tobacco excise taxes increased from 3.5
billion reals ($US1.6 billion) to 5.1 billion reals.
More recently, the Philippines have revised their tobacco taxes, so that by 2017 the price of the
country’s cheapest brands will have increased more than 1,000 percent!
“We encourage Nigeria government to follow the leads of the Philippines, Brazil and other
countries that have realised the importance of raising tobacco taxes to effective levels,” said NTCA Alliance Manager.
“We know this move saves lives: increasing tobacco taxes is one of the key measures in the FCTC,
which has been ratified by 178 Parties representing nearly 90 percent of the world’s people,” he