By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA—MINISTER of Health, Professor Isaac Adewale, has indicated the Federal Government’s interest to increase taxation on tobacco to discourage people from smoking as it endangers their health.
This is as Tobacco manufacturing companies have described Nigeria as an untapped market to invest in tobacco products.
This came as a non-governmental group, Environmental Right Action, Friends of the Earth Nigeria, ERA/FoEN, has accused Philip Morris International, PMI, of illegal importation of cigarettes into the country, and that if not checked, the country might witness tobacco epidemic worse than any epidemic ravaging the country.
Speaking when he played host to the Tobacco Control Community Advocacy group that visited him in his office in Abuja yesterday, Prof. Adewale said he had “personal and official reason for fighting tobacco.”
He made it known that the government had contemplated increasing taxation on tobacco products to discourage people from smoking tobacco because of the inherent health danger and also use the proceeds to fund healthcare.
He said: “I want to thank the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids for this meeting. This meeting is important because I have personal and official reasons for fighting tobacco and will do anything to make our people stop smoking.
“Among measures we are considering, we have to look for a way to tax tobacco. When taxes make the prices of tobacco high, those who still want to smoke will have to work hard to be able to pay for it.”
“We must be prepared for this battle because it is a battle for the long haul. Africa is the target of the tobacco companies because they claim they are creating jobs but the harm of tobacco outweigh the jobs they claim to create. It is a battle we must fight together and win.
“We will fast track the regulations for implementation of the National Tobacco Control Act.” I heard what happened in India at the seventh session of the conference of parties (COP7) of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). I am waiting for more briefing on it; we must be ready to fight even a long distance battle…”
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By Johnbosco Agbakwuru