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Published On: Wed, Feb 5th, 2020

Why Civil Societies took anti tobacco campaign to Abuja varsity

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Civil Society organisation against tobacco smoking, Nigeria Tobacco Research Group, partners and participants during the workshop at the University of Abuja.

  • …wants increase in tobacco taxes

On Friday, a Civil Society organisation against tobacco smoking, Nigeria Tobacco Research Group, with other partners, took its campaign against the harmful substance to the University of Abuja, to educate students on the effects of the substance.
This was in its determination to rid the country’s higher institutions of tobacco products.
The Research Monitoring and Evaluation Coordinator, Obioma Uchendu, said the programme was a dissemination workshop based on a study conducted in some higher institutions in the nation’s capital.
He specifically said research was mainly on advertising, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco that occur within tertiary institutions.
“Based on the survey, we felt it was necessary to gather the institutions surveyed to hear the findings. It is also an opportunity to train members of the institutions to monitor tobacco violations within their institutions. The school authority and leaders of students organizations will help and monitor to ensure no violations.
Also speaking, The Technical Research Person for Tobacco Free Kids, West Africa, Micheal Olaniyan, called on the Federal Government to increased tobacco tax,for tobacco control and Health coverage in Nigeria.
He said it had become very vital for government to increase taxes on tobacco seeing that,over 20 million people in Nigeria consumes single stick of tobacco yearly.
“When the tobacco control tax is effectively implemented, the FCTC will be a fundamental tool for reducing the devastating global consequences of tobacco products on health, lives, economies and environments. Increase in tobacco tax, increases prices of tobacco products are the most cost effective policy for tobacco use reduction. The present tax regime is insignificant and insufficient to lead to price increases and will definitely not reduce consumption.
The Government must significantly increase tobacco tax to be at par with the WHO recommended level of 70% of the retail price over the next five years”.
He expressed worry that inadequate funding has been the bane of tobacco control in Nigeria over the years and the time has come for Nigeria to face this challenge headlong by earmarking for tobacco control.
Olaniyan, said the federal government should commence process of earmarking a significant fraction of tobacco taxes and levies for tobacco control and national health coverage.
We also want the government to set up and ensure the continuous funding of the national tobacco control, which he said could bolster their fight against the illicit substance.
“The Federal Ministry of Health should as a matter of urgency should 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.”
He called on Civil Society organizations to 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 to ensure success.
On his part, Coordinator of the Tobacco Control Research Group, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, Dr. Akindele Adebiyi said 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 industries are contriving.
“We want the school authorities and students to know that there are laws of governments against tobacco products. When we educate them about these laws and the harmful effects of the substance, they will on their own part take drastic actions in helping to create a smoke free environment.”
He said 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 in the country.
He expressed worry 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.
“The tobacco industries have consistently used colour branding and other subtle ways to stimulate the interest of consumers. We must create this awareness for people to know their antics so as to guard against them.”
He said the Group had identified branded kiosk as a deliberate marketing strategy by Tobacco companies to target youths who are known to be attracted to bright colours.
“The Tobacco Industries also devised ways of making big promises to tobacco farmers, providing incentives and encouragements. The big tobacco is also known to target the soft, weak and vulnerable spots. They usually target and deploy massively to capture developing nations, youths and children; a claim they usually vehemently deny, but it is obvious with concrete evidence out there for all to see. Already, the Nigerian senate had moved a motion urging the Federal Government ban sale of cigarette within 100m perimeter of school, this is coming at the heels of a research that established that tobacco products are conspicuously displayed beside cookies and candies in stores and kiosks close to schools. Most empowerment programmes, corporate social responsibility initiatives of the tobacco industries are nothing but subtle antics of the big tobacco to regain what they lost.
“Also, use of flavoured product and the continuous release of newer brand are other strategies used to advance their business. The onus lies on government at all levels to continually up their game and proactively work to curb these antics and put in place measures to curb the excesses of the tobacco industries.”

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