By Chioma Obinna
LAGOS— HOUSE of Representatives yesterday gave concurrent passage to the National Tobacco Control Bill after long years foot-dragging as part of activities to mark this year’s World No Tobacco Day.
It could be recalled that the National Tobacco Control Bill was passed by the Senate precisely on March 15, this year.
The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the first treaty to be negotiated under the auspices of the World Health Organisation, is an evidence_based treaty that reaffirms the right of all people to the highest standard of health. It is also the first regulatory strategy to address addictive substances.
The treaty entered into force in February 2006 while Nigeria signed and ratified it in 2004 and 2005 respectively.
To this end, the Nigerian Heart Foundation (NHF) has appealed to President Goodluck Jonathan to immediately assent to the Bill with a view to protecting the citizens from the harmful effects of tobacco as well as save costs of medicare.
At a press conference to mark the Day in Lagos, with the theme: “The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in Nigeria” the Nigerian Heart Foundation, Director on Tobacco Control Committee, Mr. Dapo Rotifa who commended the House of Representatives, said the Bill was passed with nothing added or anything removed as passed by the Senate in March this year.
According to him, “This concurrent passage is the end of legislative activities to make the Bill into law.”
Noting that the next step is to send the bill for presidential assent, Rotifa disclosed that every year about five million people die globally from tobacco consumption and 600,000 from exposure to second hand smoke.
The NHF spokesperson added that the Bill is a comprehensive law providing for regulations of supply and demand measures of tobacco products.
He said the WNTD 2011 was designed to highlight the treaty overall importance as domestication of the WHO FCTC in most developed countries has translated to marked reduction in tobacco consumption in those countries.
While regretting that Nigerian government had allowed tobacco companies to be operating in the country blamed it on the fact that there are no effective legislations to curb their activities.
His words, “The passing of the Bill will ensure the reversal of increasing deaths and the protection of non smoking public from the dangers associated with cigarette smoking. A free Nigeria will put public health above profits made from selling o cigarette and will reduce the rate of smoking especially among the youths and under age people.”
Continuing, he said the Bill is also to ensure that health messages cover 50 per cent of the areas where tobacco products are to be displayed while the minister of health has been empowered to prescribe pictures or pictogram and ensure the law is effectively implemented.
Tobacco smoking is a known cause of approximately 25 diseases, and even the WHO says that its impact on world health is not fully assessed. It contributes to the hardening of the arteries, which can then become blocked and starve the heart of blood flow, causing the attack.