Monday, 12 August 2019

Tobacco is world leading cause of preventable death —expert

12 August 2019

Tobacco consumption has been identified as one of the world's leading cause of preventable death worldwide NEGROIDHAVEN can say. According to statistics made available by the World Health Organisation (WHO) tobacco use is singularly responsible for not less than six million death annually, with the strong indication that this grim figure will increase to a staggering 8 million deaths by the year 2030. 

This and other similar information on issues bordering on Tobacco use were disclosed Friday last week during the One Day Workshop on Tobacco Taxation in Cross River State which held in Calabar, Cross River capital city as organised by Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre CISLAC in collaboration with Tax Justice Network Africa.

In the course of the workshop the resource person by name Peter Unekwu-Ojo Friday who intimated that one-third of the world population indulge in smoking of the which one billion of that population is male and two hundred and fifty million are females, observed that eight million deaths occur annually with the strong likelihood of the death increasing to ten million by 2023. Implying that 'every six seconds, one death occur due to tobacco consumption'. The resource person said that developed countries have reduced consumption by 6%. While developing countries like Nigeria have rather increased consumption by 60% as at 1990'. According to him, in 2016, 7.1 million deaths were recorded worldwide with 5.1 million of that population being male and 2 million people being female'. It was discovered that 'every cigarette you smoke reduces your expected life span by 11 minutes'. 

While highlighting the constitution of cigarette resource person Friday identified tar (road surface), methanol (rocket fuel), steric acid (candle wax), hydrogen cyanide (poison used on death row), cadmium (batteries), nicotene (pesticides), ammonia (toilet cleaners), acetone (rat poison) and carbon monoxide (gas from car exhaust). He added that the consequence of smoking includes economic loss, health loss, sociocultural loss and psychological loss. While observing that tobacco affects every part of the body, he said that tobacco has been noted to lead to twenty five known diseases. He would then submit that tobacco will kill one billion people in this century. 

In contextualising the debate about tobacco consumption in Nigeria, Friday disclosed that twenty billion sticks of cigarette are consumed annually in Nigeria. His words, 'While 67, 000 Nigerian girls under 18 years smoke annually; 303, 300 Nigerian boys between ages 8 and 15 are known to smoke... Nigeria spends N7. 45 billion on Tobacco monthly and N89. 5 billion annually.' 

Given this towering figures it was agreed during the course of the workshop that government should combat tobacco use through taxation, a development if implemented will reduce consumption/prevalence, lower mortality rate, economic losses and increase revenue generation for government. According to Friday there was 'tax increase of N20 per pack as at 2018, N40 per pack as at 2019. And an anticipated N58 per pack by 2020'. Nevertheless, this tax regime was still below the ECOWAS tax directive of at least 50% ad valorem plus $0.02 VAT. 

On his part, Okeke Anya another resource person who noted that 'the development, implementation and enforcement of tobacco tax and prices as part of public health policy should be protected from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry' observed that tobacco tax systems and administration should be structured to minimise cost of compliance and administration ensuring that the desired level of tax revenue is raised. He argued that increase in tax on Tobacco leads to increase in price which in turn affects consumption. 

However, Effiom Duke the Cross River Secretary of Tax Justice Network Africa who during his remark decried that taxation in the area of tobacco in the state has not been effective informed that his network in collaboration with the Nigerian Labour Congress NLC 'has a fantastic plan to ensure the increase of tobacco to between N700 and N1000.'

Speaking earlier in his welcome remark Adesina Oke Esq of CISLAC on behalf of the Executive Director of CISLAC Auwal Musa Ibrahim welcomed the participants to the workshop. While addressing the audience said that the implication of the use Tobacco had made it necessary to have the discussion. According to him, tax regimes on Tobacco is basically aimed at reducing consumption of Tobacco as well as increase revenue for government. His words in part 'the campaign against tobacco will not be sufficient if this issue is not properly handled. Because when you look at the danger that tobacco has brought into our society it is more than even the revenue it will generate. A lot of people are dying because of the negative effects of consuming tobacco. But at the same time you cannot deny people of their right because tobacco is not one of those things that are prohibited.'

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