—Commend NASS Approval of Regulations

—-Urge FG to block every form of advertisement

By Johnbosco Agbakwuru

ABUJA-PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has been told to give priority to the enforcement of the National Tobacco Control Act, 2015, as he begins his second term of another four years.

A group of advocates and public health professionals gave the advice on Thursday when they converged in Abuja to mark the World No Tobacco Day 2019.

The groups said that the approval of the Draft National Tobacco Control Regulations by the Senate and House of Representatives on 28th May 2019 was a gift that will guarantee the wellbeing of current and future generation of Nigerians and should be swiftly mplemented.

tobacco

The groups include the Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance (NTCA), Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), Cedars Foundation, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Center (CISLAC), and University of Abuja Smoke-free Club, among a host of others.

Briefing journalists at the occasion, the Programme Coordinator, Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance, NTCA, Olu’Seun ESAN, urged the Federal Government to ban completely point of sale display of tobacco products.

9th House: Gbajabiamila’s candidacy threatened by N/Central candidate, Hon Bago(Opens in a new browser tab)

He said that the 2019 World No Tobacco Day theme: Tobacco and Lung Health was a reminder to governments, that tobacco causes death to users while a safe air for breathing will result in good lung health and long life for all.

Esan explained that it was refreshing that after the long wait, the National Assembly will be leaving a lasting health legacy by gifting Nigerians the approval on May 28, the same day in 2015 when former president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan signed the National Tobacco Control Act into law.

He noted that until the approval, only a few provisions of the NTC Act such as prohibition of sale of cigarettes to minors were enforceable. The lacuna this created, was exploited by the tobacco industry to market lethal products to kids.

“As advocates in Nigeria we call on the government to ensure the fast implementation of the just approved Tobacco Control Regulations. We also call on the government to implement specifically the setting up of the National Tobacco Control Fund.”

In his intervention, Head of Media & Campaigns of ERA/FoEN, Philip Jakpor said that the 2019 WNTD reiterated the fact that smoking was responsible for over two-thirds of lung cancer deaths globally, and sadly, that second-hand smoke which most Nigerians are exposed to in daily engagements, increases the risk of developing lung cancer for non-smokers.

Jakpor cited WHO statistics which says that that of the nearly 8 million people that die annually from tobacco consumption, more than 600,000 are victims of exposure to second-hand smoke.

The activist added that it was for this reason that governments around the world were making commitments to promote lung health by protecting their people from the effects of tobacco use and strengthening implementation of the proven tobacco control measures contained in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC).

He said that in Nigeria the lacuna caused by unenforceable provisions of the National Tobacco Control Act since 2015 had been exploited by tobacco corporations to market lethal products, even as he commended the Senate and House of Representatives for gifting Nigerians the approval of the draft National Tobacco Control Regulations as a parting gift to coincide with the WNTD 2019.

He however observed that some of the Regulations were not as strong as Nigerians would have wanted but were still laudable developments.

Hilda Ochefu of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK) commended the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara for siding with Nigerians to approve the Regulations, even as she praised the media for putting pressure on the government through incisive reports that exposed tobacco industry antics at frustrating tobacco control in Nigeria.

She revealed that all the steps leading to the approval of the Regulations had been torturous starting with getting the Federal Executive Council to approve the Regulations developed by the Federal Ministry of Health and her partners.

Okeke Anya of CISLAC was of the opinion that beyond the approval of the Regulation, the government should be mindful that the tobacco industry was particular about getting replacement smokers through kids being initiated into smoking. For this reason, he advocated that the Nigerian government mainstream tobacco control into the education curriculum at all levels.

The groups asked for expedited action on the part of the Clerks of both Houses for production of clean copies that will be transmitted to the Federal Ministry of Health. They also want the Regulations published in the official gazette without delay as required by Section 22 of the NTC Act 2015, and full enforcement of the NTC Act by the relevant agencies of government.