6m Nigerians die from preventable tobacco diseases – CSEA

The Centre for the Study of the Economies of Africa (CSEA) has raised alarm over the increasing deaths caused by tobacco in take, expressing worry that out of the 1.3 billion global incidences, Nigeria alone looses six million of its citizens yearly to diseases from tobacco which can be prevented.

Research Associate at the centre Chimere Iheonu, disclosed this Wednesday in Abuja in his paper presentation titled “Health Burden and Economic costs of Tobacco Smoking in Nigeria” at a report dissemination workshop organised by the centre.

Iheonu also disclosed that Nigeria health systems spends 526.4 billion naira annually on health challenges compared to the 100 billion it makes in tobacco taxation, adding that 29,472 deaths were attributed to smoking which represent around 4.9% of all deaths.

He said” While smoking prevalence in Nigeria is relatively low at 5.6%(6 million adults) it is growing at an average of 4% per year.

“Weak or outright absence of evidence on the economic costs of Tobacco Smoking is often cited as responsible for this holistic measure,” he explained.

The Center therefore called for high taxation on tobacco industries, saying this will make their products expensive and in turn discourage citizens from smoking and endangering their lives.

In his response, a representative of the Tobacco Control Unit at the Ministry of Health, Abraham Akpo, lauded the centre for the research, urging them to collaborate with relevant agencies to bring out fact sheets, journal articles and policy briefs with detailed information that that will educate as well as challenge relevant stakeholders on better strategies to curbing tobacco consumption across the country.

Also, a representative from the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (CTFK) Micheal Olaniyan, blamed the excesses from tobacco industries to the lack of data on the part of government, regretting that government doesn’t take full responsibility of citizens but only concerned about the gains in tax.

He called on government to increase tax on tobacco to up to 50%, assuring that when the product is expensive consumers will be discouraged to patronize and thereby stop addiction.

“The government rely on data from CSO’s industries and other organizations and so is confused to finding a balance as to exact number of citizens employed by tobacco industries to be able to adequately take measures to the benefit of its citizens.

“Government is not fully responsible for the people and so doesn’t see the effects of tobacco on citizens, rather what it sees are the gains in taxes which is about 100billion than save the lives of citizens which will will make it loose about 400billion naira,” he lamented.

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