The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has bemoaned the failure by the federal government to gazette the National Tobacco Control Regulations six months after its approval by the National Assembly.
In May, the Assembly approved the regulatory provisions that has made the implementation of the National Tobacco Control (NTC) Act difficult since 2015 when it was signed into law by former President Goodluck Jonathan.
The approval of the Tobacco Control Regulations was in response to several advocacy actions by anti-tobacco activists who had in the last four years, pressured the government to implement the provisions.
“We have all anticipated that by this time, we would be celebrating the full implementation of the National Tobacco Control Act and the National Tobacco Regulations 2019. But unfortunately, nearly six months after the regulations were approved by the National Assembly, the most important next step: Gazette of the National Tobacco Control Regulations is yet to happen,” said Mr. Akinbode Oluwafemi, Deputy Director, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) at a press briefing in Lagos, Monday.
“Though some of the provisions of the regulations fall far below our expectations and will require review sometime,” Oluwafemi said in the meantime, it has strong provisions to discourage smoking and protect non-smokers.
The regulations address the licensing of tobacco products; the duration of license; it increases the 50 percent Graphic Health Warnings (GHW) on all tobacco products to 60 percent in four years; increasing the smoke-free areas; and the prohibition of tobacco industry interference/participation in tobacco control activities among other measures.
The World Health Organisation puts tobacco-related ailments and deaths globally at 8 million every year. Tobacco kills 17,500 Nigerians annually according to figures by Tobacco Atlas (2015).
Oluwafemi while calling on the Ministers of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire and Senator Olorunimbe Mamora to conclude the regulations’ process, said the delay “is being exploited by tobacco multinationals to entrench their hold on the Nigerian market.
“To block any lacuna that could be exploited by the tobacco corporations to continue to recruit our kids and loved ones into smoking addiction, we’re urging the ministers to give the regulations the urgent attention it deserves. We’re requesting the swift gazetting of the regulation so that enforcement of its provisions can commence immediately.”
Head, Media and Campaigns, ERA/FoEN, Mr. Philip Jakpor condemned the continuous attempt by the British American Tobacco Nigeria Foundation (BATNF) and other players in the tobacco industry to portray themselves as socially responsible organisations in their insatiable quest to attract new entrants into smoking.
Through its foundation, BAT has been positioning itself as a stakeholder in the Nigeria’s agricultural sector, claiming it’s partnering the Nigerian government on the United Nations’ SDGs 2 (which seeks an end to hunger by 2030).
“This was all too evident at the recent World Food Day event in Lagos on October 16, 2019, where we not only witnessed the company’s officials openly fraternizing with government officials, but also a display of packaged farm produce in BATN colours and logo.”
Jakpor stated that the tobacco manufacturer’s action was a clear attempt to lure more Nigerian youths into smoking as “replacement for an already dying generation of current smokers.” He asked the Nigerian government to speedily gazette and commence the full implementation of the National Tobacco Control Regulations 2019 alongside the NTC Act to curb the tobacco industry’s infractions.