Calabar — Nigeria suffers economic losses of over $800 million annually to the smoking of tobacco products, especially cigarettes.
The disclosure was made at a one-day workshop organised by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and Tax Justice Network for Africa (TJNA) on Tobacco Taxation held recently in Calabar, Cross River State, with the theme: "Supporting Effective Tobacco Control Through Responsive Tax System."
A resource person at the workshop, Peter Unekwu-Ojo Friday, who spoke on the topic, "Tobacco and Health Consequences," said available statistics from empirical studies has it that the $800 million annual losses are linked to tobacco related low productively and deaths.
Quoting from the results of a survey published by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and conducted by the Nigeria Global Adult Tobacco Survey, the resource person said at least 20 billion sticks of cigarette are smoked annually, with its attendant health hazards, leading to about eight million deaths worldwide annually with at least 17,000 deaths annually.
Friday said on a daily basis Nigerians spend at least N7.45 billion on tobacco consumption, amounting to N89.5 billion annually.
According to the survey, about 303,300 Nigeria boys, and 67,000 girls indulge in smoking tobacco products.
He said the nation was now spending funds on handling tobacco related diseases annually that far exceeds its yearly fiscal plan.
Another resource person at the workshop and CISLAC Project Manager, Mr. Okeke Anya, said there's urgent need for the Federal Government to increase taxes on tobacco products.
Anya advocated the enactment of enabling laws by the Federal Government that would curb excessive consumption of tobacco in Nigeria, saying the existing laws governing the use of tobacco such as the National Tobacco Law 2015 was inadequate to checkmate smoking of tobacco products.
He was of the view that tax system that encourages huge taxation should be put in place to drastically reduce the consumption of tobacco products.
Anya said the yearly N20 tax levied on every packet of cigarette with 20 sticks would not discourage the smoking of the product.
He said N20 tax levy with a legal provision for a yearly N20 increase in tax was a far cry of about $3 dollars or about N900 tax on a packet of cigarette in the United States of America, and Britain, saying the taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products in Nigeria should be heavily increased.