A civil society organisation, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), has called for heavy taxation of tobacco firms in Nigeria, pointing out that the present taxes charged on tobacco companies in the country are not in any way commensurate with the hazards the product brings in Nigeria.
In a lecture at a one-day Media Training on Tobacco Taxation Digital Advocacy held in Umuahia at the weekend, the Programme Manager of CISLAC, Mr Okeke Anya, argued that considering the danger tobacco poses to individuals, tobacco companies should be charged more taxes to cushion the effects of the health hazards the plant causes.
A huge tax payment, he observed, will improve the deteriorating health sector, adding that the huge amount channeled towards the treatment of dangerous diseases such as cancer, heart disease etc will come from tobacco sales in the country.
He accused some international bodies, legislature and government agencies of compromising their positions by allowing tobacco companies to pay peanuts to government treasury ,even as he observed, they rake in huge sums of money every year.
Anya outlined health hazards created by the tobacco consumption and maintained that the plant is so dangerous to health that a non user who finds himself/herself within the vicinity of the consumer is equally in danger of having the ugly effect of the plant.
He noted that when an individual consumer, seen as the first degree user, consumes the product, an inhaler nearby, a second degree inhaler, will also suffer the same illness, stressing that even the person that later comes into the compartment where the product was consumed some hours after, known as a third degree inhaler, will also suffer the same fate.
“This is how bad it is. Now, since it is not classified as illicit plant internationally, enough taxation should be imposed on tobacco manufacturing companies so that not only would it generate more revenue to the country’s treasury, but it would discourage more consumption like young ones jumping into smoking”, he said.
Diseases caused by tobacco consumption include: cancer, stroke, heart disease diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) etc. Anya added that tobacco consumption increases the risk of tuberculosis.
The CISLAC official therefore urged the media to join in the efforts to compel the government to impose enough taxes to tobacco firms in Nigeria, describing it as an aberration for a product to continue to cause some health hazards through its usage, while its manufacturers are contributing less in meliorating the health system of that country.
The training was attended by journalists in the mainstream media which included those in the print and electronic media as well as bloggers and social media patrons. The highlights of the event were the presentation of certificates of participation to the participants.
Uche Nwosu is a two time Shell Petroleum PLC award winner in the year 2000;
He won the Shell Award on Investigative Journalism and Environmental Cleanliness.