Some tobacco control stakeholders have urged the Federal Government to fund the National Tobacco Control Fund to raise the campaign against tobacco smoking.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the special fund is aimed at funding tobacco control interventions in the country.

The stakeholders, who are members of the Federal Ministry of Health Tobacco Taxation Technical Working Group (TT-TWG), made the call in separate interviews with NAN in Abuja on Friday.

The National Tobacco Control Act of 2015 provided for the establishment of the ‘Tobacco Control Fund’ to be used to meet the objectives of the National Tobacco Control Act.

The law provides for national tobacco awareness creation, capacity building of healthcare workers across all levels, and sustainability of tobacco control interventions and activities, among others.

Dr Toma Malau, the Coordinator of the TT-TWG and Branch Head, Cardiovascular and Tobacco Control, Non-Communicable Disease Control Division, Federal Ministry of Health, said the call became imperative due to the pivotal role tobacco control fund would play in supporting and sustaining tobacco control efforts in the country.

Malau added that aside funding the activities of the National Tobacco Control Committee, among other efforts, the fund can also be used to assist local farmers engaged in cultivating tobacco to move away from tobacco farming and cultivate other farm produce that will yield more profits for them.

“Part of the tobacco control fund will fund these activities and much more but unfortunately the tobacco control fund is yet to be operationalised and this is the law that there shall be a tobacco control fund.

“Tobacco consumption causes a lot of diseases which can be non-communicable diseases and even communicable diseases like tuberculosis.

“So without the tobacco control fund, it will be difficult to carry out all these interventions required to discourage tobacco consumption in the country,” he said.

Mr Okeke Anya, a member of the group and Programme Manager of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), said to implement any policy and action, the required resources have to be made available and easily accessible hence the crucial role tobacco control fund plays in tobacco control interventions and activities across the country.

“That is why we are calling on the federal government through the ministries of health and finance to ensure that the provision of the law that establishes tobacco control unit should not just be on paper.

“There must be funds in the tobacco control fund that has been provided by law to enable those charged with tobacco control carry out their responsibilities,” he said.

Mr Seun Esan, another member of the TT-TWG, however explained that the setback hindering funding the Tobacco Control Fund stems from the fact that the National Tobacco Control Act did not explicitly specify how funds for the tobacco control fund will be generated.

He pointed out that the federal government could change the narrative of the tobacco control fund by deducting a percentage of the tax and excise on tobacco for funding the tobacco control fund.

“But experience from around the world has given us a whole lot of options and alternatives on how to fund tobacco control fund. One option is tobacco tax earmarking.

“Earmarking is deducting a percentage from the tax and excise on tobacco and commits it to the tobacco control fund. It could be as little as two per cent.

“The tobacco control fund will be used for sensitisation to people, educating the younger ones on the dangers of tobacco, helping people who are already addicted to tobacco to quit and blocking tobacco industry interference and so much more. The fund can do much that we can hardly imagine,” he said.

Mr Tony Thomas, another tobacco control stakeholder, told NAN that having an accessible and adequate budget is very crucial to achieving success in laid out plans but without the necessary funding, nothing works.

“Just hosting of our meetings to brainstorm on the way forward is sometimes a challenge and this task is far beyond meeting to talk. We have reach out to so many people to achieve our set goals. If the tobacco control fund is well funded, we will make so much progress.

“That is why I am calling on all stakeholders, especially the federal government, to take steps in ensuring the tobacco control fund is funded,” he said

NAN reports that the TT-TWG met on Thursday in Abuja during which it decried the high rate of deaths caused directly and indirectly by tobacco consumption and called for the implementation of the regulations put in place to curb tobacco consumption in the country.

Edited by Muhammad Suleiman Tola