By Mashe Umaru Gwamna
Participants at a high-level session on tobacco tax earmarking convened by the Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance (NTCA) and the Federal Ministry of Health have highlighted the importance of the establishment of Tobacco Control Fund for successful implementation of tobacco control policies in the country.
The meeting held in Abuja on August 22, 2019 was attended by senior officials from the Federal Ministry of Finance, Nigeria Customs Service, Ministry of Budget and National Planning, Federal Ministry of Industry, Trades and Investment, Budget Office of the federation, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), as well as Centre for the study of economics of Africa and the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), among others.
In a communiqué issued at the end of the event, participants noted that tobacco is a leading cause of death globally and that the tobacco issue in Nigeria requires a urgent attention especially with the various novels products and advertising methods that the tobacco industry are contriving.
They averred that the burden of tobacco induced diseases on public health of the country is high and a concerted effort is needed to address the spate of tobacco induced diseases (non-communicable diseases) in the country.
They stressed that according to global best practices and recommendations of various experts high tobacco taxes remains the single most effective and cost effective way to reduce tobacco use.
It was observed that healthcare and health coverage in Nigeria is underfunded and that tobacco control need more funding which can be achieved through earmarking of tobacco taxes because of its success rate in other countries.
They therefore recommended that:
·Every Ministries, Department and Agencies represented in the meeting should make strong recommendations to their offices for tobacco tax earmarking for public health and tobacco control.
·The Federal Ministry of Health should as a matter of urgency set up the National Tobacco control fund for financing tobacco control in the country.
·The Federal Ministry of Health should coordinated a synergized effort for the campaign for tobacco tax earmarking to happen
·Civil Society organizations should continue to put the conversations on tobacco tax earmarking in the public space.
·The Tobacco taxation technical working Group should take pragmatic actions on tobacco tax earmarking.
·Every stakeholder should work towards a policy for tobacco tax earmarking for health and tobacco control.
·The Federal Ministry of Health must work with the federal Ministry of Finance; Ministry of National Planning and the Budget Office
·The NTCA should write a petition to request for tobacco tax earmarking to the Federal Ministry of health, Federal Ministry of Finance, The Budget Office, the National Tax committee and the Federal Government.
·There is a need to get the Political leaders’ buy-in early in this administration.
·Demand for percentage earmarking should for a start be a little percentage. As little as 5 – 10 %.