By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
On the 2017 World No Tobacco Day, the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) called on the Federal Government to increase taxation on tobacco products.
The group also urged government to remove tobacco companies from the Sustainable Development Agenda of the country.
Speaking in Abuja, the Deputy Executive Director of ERA/FoEN, Akinbode Oluwafemi demanded, “Immediate commencement of the implementation of sections of the National Tobacco Control, NTC Act that do not require regulations such as smoke-free public places, restriction on underage access and ban of sale in single sticks, among others.
Flanked by Dr. Olupelumi Adebuyi and Hilda Ochefu, he particularly enjoined the authorities to start by implementing some sections of the NTC Act that do not require regulations such as smoke-free public places, restriction on underage access and ban of sale in single sticks to smokers.
Oluwafemi who spoke on the theme of the event titled “Delay is dangerous. The time for effective regulations is now!” argued that the measure will be a gift to Nigerians and particularly the youths that have been deliberately targeted by tobacco corporations as replacement smokers.
“The tobacco control community feels this commemoration is also an opportunity to update the media on some recent activities of the tobacco companies to thwart Nigeria’s forward March to ensuring the well-being of our citizenry since the National Tobacco Control Act came into force to undermine its implementation.
“Apart from the renewed onslaught on our youth through very attractive and flavoured cigarettes, tobacco industry front groups such as the Initiative for Public Policy Analysis, IPPA, and have continued to spin lies to discredit tobacco control and public health advocates.
“We have also warned about the threats posed by a suspicious Amendment Bill by a member of the House of Representatives which seeks to vest the powers of implementation of the NTC Act with the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control, NAFDAC, as against the Ministry of Health as is a global practice.
“The Nigerian government, particularly the Ministry of Health remain unintimidated as it works on resolutions for the effective implementation of the National Tobacco Control Act. In deed the Regulation coming at this time will be a gift to Nigerians and particularly the youths that have been deliberately targeted by tobacco corporations as replacement smokers.”
He also called on the Ministry of Health to hasten investigation of the controversial recommendations of some members of the Nigerian delegation to the Conference of Parties meeting held in India in November 2016.
He said, “The delegates from the Ministry of Justice and the Standards Organisation of Nigeria are of particular interest in the said controversy.”
He advocated that the Federal Government should “Kick British America Tobacco from the SDG private sector support group.
“As we have said before and reiterate now, delay in the full implementation of the NTC Act will be exploited by the tobacco industry to begin a new onslaught on our nation and particularly our youth. Delay is dangerous. The time for effective regulations is now!”
Adebuyi who is a physician of the college of medicine , University of Ibadan maintained that Tobacco smoking remain a threat to development adding that based on findings by the world health organisation (WHO), there are currently more than 7 million deaths from tobacco use every year.
Saying the figure that is likely to grow to more than eight million a year by 2030 without intensified action, he listed the dangers inherent in the use of tobacco thus: ” Tobacco use costs national economies enormously through increased health-care costs and decreased productivity.
He said, “It worsens health inequalities and exacerbates poverty, as the poorest people spend less on essentials such as food, education and health care. Some 80% of premature deaths from tobacco occur in low- or middle-income countries, which face increased challenges to achieving their development goals.
“Without mincing words, you can see that tobacco use is a threat to all of us, irrespective of gender, age, race, cultural or educational background. Tobacco unleashes disease, death, suffering, and impoverishment of families and national economies.”
On her part, Ochefu said it behooves Nigeria to live up to its name as the giant of Africa by leading the way in the fight against tobacco smoking in the continent.
The event was organised in conjunction with Nigeria tobacco control research group, Nigeria tobacco control alliance , smoke free Nigeria