Nigeria to choke out tobacco

Gloria Essien, Abuja

The Nigerian government says it would gradually choke tobacco out of the country.
The minister of health, Professor Isaac Adewole stated this at an event to mark the 2018 World No Tobacco Day in Abuja.
He said that Nigeria does not currently have the acurate number of persons dying from Tobacco use, but alot of Nigerians are addicted to tobacco in the country.
“May I inform you that data from 2014 WHO – NCD Global Status Report showed that heart related diseases, cancers, diabetes and chronic respiratory disease killed 38 million (68%) persons out of the 56 million global deaths recorded in 2012, and sadly, more than 40% of these deaths occurred before the age of 70 years. It is generally agreed that tobacco will kill more than 50% of its users when used exactly as recommended by its manufacturers”, he said.
The minister also said that globally, there are more than 1 billion smokers, and more than 7 million people are killed by tobacco annually.
“Of this, more than 6 million die from direct tobacco use, and close to 900,000 from exposure to second-hand smoke. I must add that the low and middle income countries including Nigeria bear nearly 80% of the global burden.  In Nigeria for instance, over 20 billion sticks of cigarettes are consumed annually, and 5.6% of adults (4.5 million) currently use tobacco products. About 82% of the entire population are exposed to second-hand smoke when visiting bars/nightclubs and 29.3% (6.4 million) when visiting restaurants according to data from the Nigeria Global Adult Tobacco Survey which was carried out in 2012). Recent studies among University of Abuja undergraduates reveal that 33.3% of the students are smokers.”
He added that tobacco use is responsible for huge economic losses emanating from both direct and indirect medical costs and that it is estimated that Nigeria losses $800 million annually to stroke, heart disease and diabetes.
“In 2015 the projected accumulated loss to tobacco was put at $7.6 billion, paradoxically, the tobacco industry makes huge profits without taking responsibility for the harm they do to public health. Evidence also shows that for every $1 gain from tobacco business about $3 is expended on healthcare. The control of tobacco epidemic requires vigorous and multipronged strategies. Accordingly, Nigeria signed and ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) in 2004 and 2005 respectively and through the concerted efforts of Tobacco Control Stakeholders and the leadership of the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH), the National Tobacco Control (NTC) Act was enacted in 2015,” the minister said.
Increase in Tobacco taxation
 “Tobacco products are very cheap in Nigeria, the FMOH with support from the National Tobacco Control Committee, Civil Society Organizations, and Tobacco Taxation Technical Working Group, had discussions with the Federal Ministry of Finance which resulted in the recent tax increase on tobacco products which has been  approved by Mr. President. May I inform you that the new rate come into effect from today, 4th June, 2018. It is a tax increase of N20 per pack of 20 sticks of cigarettes; this would be raised to N40 per pack in 2019 and subsequently, N58 per pack in 2020. Although the tax increase is below the ECOWAS tax directive of at least 50% ad valorem plus USD 0.02 per stick of cigarette, cigar and cigarillos (or USD 20 per net kilogramme for all other tobacco products), I believe Mr. President will lead ECOWAS in implementing this directive within a shortest possible time to move Nigeria near the WHO recommended tax increase that is equivalent to 70% of retail price of tobacco products,” he said.
The World Health Organisation pledged  its continuous partnership with FMoH to identify not only with the progress that has and will be made, but also with the difficulties that may be encountered as well as underlining the ways of surmounting them.
The WHO representative at the event, Mr. Rex Mpazanje said that the 2018 celebration raises awareness on the link between tobacco and cardiovascular diseases, which when combined, are the world’s leading causes of death.
“Tobacco use is the leading cause of CVD, after high blood pressure with up to half of all tobacco users dying prematurely from tobacco-related causes. On average, tobacco users lose 15 years of life. In the African Region, about 146 000 adults aged 30 years and above die every year from tobacco-related diseases. This makes tobacco use one of the leading preventable risk factors for non-communicable diseases and a threat to any person, regardless of gender, age, race, cultural or educational background”, he noted.
The WHO urged the government to continue with the efforts by expediting the passage of the regulation to enforce the National Tobacco Control Act 2015 and enforcement of some provisions of the act as announced by the HMH at the last WNTD.
On his part, the Director General of the Consumer Protection Council, Mr. Babatunde Irukera, said that there were lots in curbing smoking.
He said “Tobacco control is not just something that calls for urgency, it is an emergency”. 
The Chairperson of National Tobacco Control Committee, Professor Christie Ukoli, says the committee has achieved a lot in the last two years.
She said that they hope to achieve full implementation of the WHO Framework for Tobacco Control.
The theme of this year’s celebration is “Tobacco and heart Disease” and the slogan is “Tobacco Breaks the Heart – Choose Health, Not Tobacco”.
Bilkisu Pai