The federal government, in a move expected to reduce health hazards associated with tobacco-related diseases and alcohol abuse, recently announced June 4, 2018 as the commencement date for the implementation of new excise duties on alcohol and tobacco.
President Muhammadu Buhari had, in March, assented to an increase in duties as they affect tobacco, beer, wine, and spirits permitting a grace period of 90 days for implementation. This was a follow up to the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun’s purported memo to the President seeking approval on the issue. The Minister revealed that the reviews would be from 2018 to 2020 in order to ameliorate an anticipated negative impact of the policy on the sector. She said the upward review of the rates was carried out in line with new ECOWAS standards and is expected to boost the government’s revenue as well as discourage abuse of the items.
Also, the new specific excise duty rates for alcoholic beverages cut across beer, stout, wines and spirits for the period. Under the new regime, beer and stout will attract 0.30k per centilitre (cl) in 2018 and 0.35k per cl each in 2019 and 2020. Wines will attract N1.25k per cl in 2018 and N1.50k per cl each in 2019 and 2020, while N1.50k per cl was approved for spirits in 2018, N1.75k per cl in 2019 and N2 per cl in 2020.
It would also be noted that the new rates fall short of recommendations of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in its 2017 mission report which advised Nigeria to raise excise duty on a stick of cigarette to N5. Similarly, the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Article 6 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), canvased 70 per cent excise duty on tobacco products.
These were in response to a perceived alarming rate at which Nigerians consume cigarettes. Experts had continue to see it as a major source of concern, especially as it relates to public health. The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole had earlier lamented the high consumption rate of tobacco in the country. According to him, about 4.5 million Nigerians consumed 20 billion cigarettes yearly. Adewole said for every $1 gained from tobacco business, about $3 is expended on healthcare cost. He also said in May 2017, the World Health Organisation WHO reported that tobacco presently kills more than seven million people each year. Six million deaths are from direct use, while others are due to exposure to tobacco smoking.
In view of this staggering statistics, this newspaper is compelled to assure the government of its cooperation in its effort to discourage the citizens from imbibing negative habits that take their toll on public health.
While tobacco and alcohol manufacturers have expressed fears over possible loss of jobs that the excise increase could trigger in the sector, the Ministry of Finance has stated that the new excise duty rates were not targeted at the local manufacturers alone but are intended to achieve a dual benefit of raising the government’s revenues to support the nation’s growth as well as reducing the health hazards associated with tobacco-related diseases and alcohol abuse.
There is no denying the fact that some Nigerians are gainfully employed in the tobacco industry just as it is obvious that the health implications of cigarette smoking have a huge cost for the nation. However, we believe that continuous sensitisation of Nigerians on dangers of smoking is very paramount in this drive to to save them from themselves.
Smokers are liable to heart attack, premature aging and other cardiac complications because smoking also increases the risk of having heart attack and coronary heart disease. Smokers have increased chances of getting stomach cancer or ulcer, which weaken the muscle that controls the lower end of gullet (esophagus) and also reduces the amount of oxygen that gets to the skin and makes the body to age faster and look grey and dull. The toxins in the body also cause cellulite.
We therefore appeal to the government at all levels and the Federal Ministry of Health in particular to use the proceeds of the hike in tariffs to create more awareness about the risk of tobacco and alcohol use and abuse.