Advocates and public health professionals who converged in Abuja to mark the World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) 2019 have charged President Muhammadu Buhari administration to give priority to the enforcement of the National Tobacco Act, 2015 (NTC Act 2015) in his second tenure.
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 others.
According to them, the approval of the Draft National Tobacco Control Regulations by the Senate and House of Representatives on 28 May 2019 is a gift that will guarantee the well-being of current and future generation of Nigerians and should be swiftly implemented.
The Coordinator, Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance (NTCA), Mr. Olu’Seun Esan said the 2019 World No Tobacco Day with the theme: “Tobacco and Lung Health” reminds governments, Nigeria inclusive, that tobacco causes death to users while a safe air for breathing will result in good lung health and long life for all.
Esan said 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 NTC Act into law.
“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,” he said.
Also, the Head of Media and Campaigns, ERA/FoEN, Mr. Philip Jakpor, said that the 2019 WNTD reiterates the fact that smoking is 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 even for non-smokers.
Jakpor cited WHO statistics which says 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 are 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).
Sub-Regional Coordinator, West Africa, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK), Mrs. Hilda Ochefu, commended the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara for siding with Nigerians to approve the Regulations.
She also commended the media for putting pressure on the government through their reports that exposed tobacco industry antics at frustrating tobacco control in Nigeria.
She said that all the steps leading to the approval of the regulations had been torturous starting with getting the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to approve the regulations developed by the Federal Ministry of Health and her partners.
On his part Technical Resource Officer, West Africa, CTFK, Mr. Michael Olaniyan broke down the approved Regulations as follow:
Health warnings on tobacco packs will now constitute 50 percent of the principal display surfaces, this will increase to 60 percent in four years; prescribed price list of tobacco products at Point of Sale, this will not contain images, symbols, colors, signs or other contents including trade mark or branding images among other.
Also are licensing of tobacco products -N10m each as prescribed fees before issuance of license to manufacture, import or distribute tobacco products.
On his part, the Senior Program Officer, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Mr. Okeke Anya, said that beyond the approval of the regulations, the government should be mindful that the tobacco industry was particular about getting replacement smokers through kids being initiated into smoking.
He therefore urged the Federal Government to mainstream tobacco control into the education curriculum at all levels.
The groups called for expedited action on the part of the Clerks of both chambers of the National Assembly for 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.