In furtherance of its research study Tobacco, CSEA participated in The 17th World Conference on Tobacco or Health. Participants from around the world presented research papers to highlight the huge strides being made in tobacco control globally.
Dr. Chukwuka Onyekwena reported a study on the potential for tobacco tax to improve public health in Nigeria. The study reported that to be truly effective, tobacco control tax policy in Nigeria would need to see a 275 percent increase in excise tax, a change in tobacco tax structure, and stronger tax administration and revenue-collecting.
Earlier in February, CSEA organized a policy dialogue on Tobacco control to disseminate the Centre’s findings on the study “The Economics of Tobacco Control: Modelling the Fiscal and Health Effects of a Tobacco Excise Tax Change in Nigeria”.
The study examines the potential for tobacco tax to improve public health and raise government revenues in Nigeria. Economic losses in the form of medical treatments and loss of productivity from tobacco-related diseases is estimated at US$ 591 million in 2015 (Tobacco Atlas, 2015). Thus, there is an urgent need to implement an effective tobacco control program to curb the epidemic of rising smoking prevalence rates and their impacts.
Among the several measures for tobacco control, tobacco taxation is widely recognized as the most effective policy tool. Tobacco taxation can prevent millions of smoking-attributable deaths, reduce the number of young people initiating smoking, and contribute to the achievement of national public health objectives in Nigeria. At the same time, it can create the fiscal space needed to finance the country’s economic development and public health programmes.
Yet, the current level of excise tax in Nigeria (at 12 percent of retail price) is very low and well-below the WHO benchmark (set at 75 percent of retail price). This has adverse impact on smoking prevalence and smoking intensity, with attendant health and economic costs at households and national levels. Thus, from the perspective of public health and public finance, there is an urgent need to raise excise tax on tobacco products in the country.