By Fiona Freddy
ABUJA- The Federal government of Nigeria on Monday called on the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), to expedite action on the implementation of the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control as well as the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products.
Health Minister, Prof. Isaac Adewole made the call yesterday in Abuja while declaring open the regional meeting of ECOWAS to validate the draft directive on Track and Trace Systems for Tobacco Products and Review of the draft Supplementary Act on the Taxation of Income, Capital and Inheritance for ECOWAS member states.
The draft policy is aimed at reducing the high rate of tobacco consumption as well as eradicating the issue of illicit trade in tobacco which is said to be highly injurious to public health of the people as well as the economy of the subregion.
Adewole, who remarked that the meeting is coming at a time the issue of tobacco is at the front burner in Nigeria, called for concerted effort from all member states, adding that the issue would be best managed at an international level.
“A key recommendation of the mission is the need to quickly ratify the protocol to eliminate illicit trade in tobacco products. For us it’s a task that must be done and in the shortest possible time for obvious reasons.You will all agree with me that the issue of illicit trade in tobacco products across the ECOWAS region calls for urgent attention as it poses dangers not only to public health but also to our economies and environment”, he said.
The Minister making reference to a WHO report disclosed that about 7 million people die annually from tobacco consumption across the world with 80 percent of the deaths in low and middle income countries.
“It is alarming to state that nearly 10 percent of the global tobacco trade is illicit and this is significantly higher in low and middle income countries, reaching up to 50 percent and above”, he added.
He blamed the issue of proliferation of cheap tobacco products on the poor security situation across ECOWAS borders and express confidence that the treaty on track and trace systems implemented would greatly reduce the level of tobacco usage and also provide increase revenue that can be channeled to the development of the healthcare sector.
Earlier the Commissioner Trade, Custom and Free Movement, ECOWAS Commission, Laouali Chaibou, observed that putting in place a strong taxation Policy would help reduce the high rate of tobacco consumption in the sub-region.