The Federal Government has said on Tuesday that about 26,800 deaths related to tobacco smoking were recorded annually in Nigeria.
The National Coordinator, Non-Communicable Diseases Division on the Federal Ministry of Health, Dolapo Sanni, made this known in Abuja, at the launch of a research report on tobacco taxation and health financing in Nigeria.
The research, conducted by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre and Tax Justice Network Africa was titled, ‘Tobacco taxation and health financing in Nigeria beyond COVID-19 era’.
According to Sanni, the tobacco epidemic is one the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced.
He noted that the menace was killing more than eight million people every year, with more than seven million of those deaths resulting from direct tobacco use.
Sanni, represented by Bunmi Oshundele of Monitoring and Evaluation, NCDs, while describing the deaths from tobacco in Nigeria as huge, said 4.5 million Nigerians in the range of 15 years and above, used tobacco products.
She said, ‘‘3.1 million are current smokers while 1.6 million adults currently use smokeless tobacco products.
“With this, more than 26,800 annual deaths come from tobacco-related diseases in Nigeria.
“And the government is making all efforts in controlling this menace. The economic cost of tobacco use is substantial and includes significant healthcare costs for treating these diseases that are caused by tobacco use.
“Also, the loss of human capital that results from tobacco and the morbidity and mortality cannot be overemphasised. So, in addressing this tobacco menace, Nigeria signed or ratified the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2004 and 2005 respectively.’’
The Executive Director, CISLAC, Auwal Rafsanjani, said that increasing tobacco taxes was an effective tool for tobacco control, adding that excise taxes were the most effective tax measure for promoting public health.
While lamenting the state of healthcare delivery in Nigeria, and describing it as very abysmal, she said healthcare financing played a critical role in sustaining the health of the present and future generations.
He said, “The governments of African countries met in April 2001 to address healthcare financing problems, being one of the key determinants of Universal Health Coverage. The outcome of the 53 African Heads of States’ meeting led to the signing of the Abuja Declaration, thereby committing every member state to allocate 15 per cent of their national budgets to health. While the agreement was reached in Abuja, Nigeria has remained a perpetual defaulter.
“As the country defaults on budgeting effectively for health, countries of the world are adopting an innovative approach to mobilise resources for health financing.
“One of the key approaches is the adoption of tobacco taxes as an alternative strategy which presents a win-win situation in terms of reducing the affordability of tobacco products and increasing revenue for development funding.”
The CISLAC boss said the study was commissioned to interrogate the viability of tobacco taxation as a source of revenue generation for health financing in Nigeria.