The Nigerian Tobacco Control Alliance (NTCA), a tobacco control advocacy group, has urged the Nigerian government to further increase the excise duty on tobacco products to further expand the nation’s revenue base.
The group, in a press conference in Lagos on Monday, said although the recent increase in tobacco taxes by the government is commendable, it still falls far below the World Health Organisation-recommended standard.
“While the recent increase in excise duty on tobacco products (which amounts to about 17 percent excise tax burden) is a step in the right direction, its effect on tobacco usage, public health and development would be minimal relative to the excise duty on tobacco products recommended by the WHO,” said Akinbode Oluwafemi, NTCA’s board chairman.
“The WHO recommends a tobacco tax policy amounting to about 75 percent excise tax burden; this would yield a larger decrease in tobacco usage most especially among the poor. Thus, the government should introduce more radical tax policies for tobacco products.”
The Nigerian government in June, approved new excise duty for tobacco and alcoholic beverages to be spread over a three-year period, from 2018 to 2020.
Under the new tax regime, in addition to the 20 per cent value-added tax, each stick of cigarette will attract ₦1 specific rate per stick in 2018; that is, ₦20 per pack of 20 sticks.
In 2019 and 2020, each stick will ₦2 (₦40 per pack) and ₦2.90 (₦58) respectively.
The NTCA urged the new finance minister, Zainab Ahmed, to “seriously consider” raising tobacco taxes to be at par with the WHO’s recommendation.
“We cannot over-emphasise the fact that tobacco taxation can save millions of lives, reduce poverty, and raise revenues for financing development,” Mr Oluwafemi added.
Oluseun Esan, the NTCA programmes coordinator, said since tobacco has remained a legal product, the government should target raising as much revenue as possible through taxation and use the proceeds to fund development and public health.
“This will also decrease the level at which vulnerable people have access to it and on the other side, bring more resources to the government,” said Mr Esan.
“It is time for sustainable development goals. 2030 is around the corner and concrete steps must be taken now. Tobacco control has a direct (and) indirect link with all the forms of sustainable development agenda,” he added.
Mr Esan also urged citizens to join hands in stopping the tobacco menace by first stopping a smoker close to them from smoking.
“Smoking doesn’t only affect the smoker but the second-hand smoke you inhale as a person close to the smoker is equally harmful,” he said.
“The populace need to discourage smokers from smoking and also ensure that people (who) have not started do not eventually start smoking.
“This is what the tobacco industry is trying to do; to ensure that they replenish the dying smokers with a new set of smokers, the youth. We need to ensure that those that are smoking (stop) and those that have not started, do not smoke.”