ERA/FoEN TASKS FG ON ILLICIT TRADE
For tobacco control measures to be effective , the Federal Government must take pro-active measures to tackle the inflow of illicit tobacco products into the country, the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), has said.
The group in a statement released to mark this years World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) said the Tobacco Control Law recently signed by former President Goodluck Jonathan, can only be effective if high taxes are imposed on tobacco products and effective actions taken to end the availability of cheap products through smuggling.
With this years theme of “Stop Illicit Trade In Tobacco”, the WHO says “Eliminating the illicit trade in tobacco would generate an annual tax windfall of US$ 31 billion for governments, improve public health, help cut crime and curb an important revenue source for the tobacco industry.
ERA/FoEN Director of Corporate Accountability Campaigns, Akinbode Oluwafemi said, “ Now that Nigeria has a tobacco control law, government must plug every hole that could undermine its effectiveness. A very big hole is the smuggling of tobacco products through our very porous borders.
“ A worrying trend that government however, needs to know is that the Big tobacco companies use smuggling as market penetration tool. They are therefore never to be treated as ally in the fight to end smuggling.
“They have at several times used smuggling arguments to scare government from imposing appropriate taxes on cigarette products. We do expect the new government not to succumb to their cheap blackmail. This government will do public health and the economy a lot of good by raising taxes on tobacco products and prosecuting whoever engages in tobacco smuggling.
ERA/FoEN lamented that more and more unregulated tobacco products like Shisha now flood the Nigerian market and called on government to immediately begging nationwide implementation of the National Tobacco Control Law.
The group emphasized that as the Federal Government begin to “ take steps to implement proven measures to reduce tobacco use, it can further increase the impact of the law by taking action to crack down on illicit trade and neutralize the tobacco industry’s ability to use illicit trade as an argument to stop progress”.
“We must take every step necessary to ensure that our populace is prevented from the harms caused by tobacco which is estimated at 6 million lives every. Government must ensure that all arteries to cheap tobacco products are blocked.
“We are also using the occasion to call on the Federal Government to ratify the World Health Organisation- Framework Convention on Tobacco Products (FCTC) Protocol for the to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products”, Akinbode added.