By Agbonkhese Oboh

Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance, NTCA, has challenged the 8th National Assembly to approve the draft National Tobacco Control Regulation as a legacy that will demonstrate that they are on the side of the masses and not the profit-oriented tobacco companies.

Speaking at a briefing in Lagos yesterday, Oluseun Esan, Programme Coordinator of NTCA, said the National Tobacco Control, NTC, Act was a legacy left by the 7th National Assembly and signed into law in the twilight of the last administration on May 28, 2015.

He noted that most provisions of the Act have not been implemented because of a clause which requires the Federal Ministry of Health to draft tobacco control regulations based on the Act and transmit it to the National Assembly for approval.

According to Ean, “full enforcement of the Act will only occur after the Regulations are approved by the National Assembly. We call on the Committee on Delegated Legislation in the National Assembly to consider the health, safety and future of the Nigerian people; to stand on the part of the masses against the tobacco industry, which makes profit at the expense of the health and lives of the Nigerians.

“We call on them to approve the Regulations as it is, without watering down the provisions. Nigeria is one of the least regulated countries in Africa when it has to do with tobacco. We call on the House of Representatives to speedily consider the regulations and approve it with all the clauses intact without delay.

“We call on the Senate of the Federal Republic to also approve the regulation once it is transmitted to them by the House of Representatives. This is the legacy that the Nigerian people expect from the 8th Assembly.”

Also speaking at the briefing, Board Chair, African Tobacco Alliance, Akinbode Oluwafemi, said Nigerians, Africa and the global tobacco control community are watching the House of Representatives, because the provisions being discussed have already been passed by neighbouring African community.

On her part, Oluchi Robert of Environmental Rights Action, ERA, said government should be concerned about the health of Nigerians, noting that the tobacco companies’ main focus is on profit making and not the welfare of consumers.

CPC raids

Meanwhile, in continuation of its enforcement of the National Tobacco Control, NTC, Act, which commenced in January, the Consumer Protection Council, CPC, has carried out raids of lounges, bars and open markets in Port Harcourt and Lagos where cigarettes and shisha are openly sold.

The nine provisions of the NTC Act, which the CPC is enforcing that do not require regulations, are provisions that ban sale of cigarettes in single sticks.

Others are prohibition of sale of tobacco products to and by anyone below 18 years, smokeless tobacco which shall be sold in a minimum of a pack of 30 grammes, a person shall not sell or offer to sell or distribute tobacco or tobacco products through mail, internet or other online devices, prohibition of interference of tobacco industry in public health and related issues, prohibition of smoking in public places;

Ban owner or manager of any of the places listed, who permits, encourages or fails to stop smoking in the above listed places, ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship of any kind and for tobacco products to comply with specified standard for content as set out by the Standards Organisation of Nigeria, SON.

The penalty for any of the violations, according to the Act, includes fines and prison terms.

In the enforcement exercise in Port Harcourt, CPC conducted the exercise in concert with men of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC. For the Lagos exercise, CPC went with policemen to Old Ojota Motor Park and adjoining motor parks. The team also visited some lounges in Oregun, where shisha are sold.

At the briefing in Lagos, Programme Coordinator of NTCA, Esan, commended the CPC exercise, noting, however, that the agency should not rest on its oars as it embarks on the national assignment of safeguarding the health of Nigerians.

Esan explained that full enforcement of the Act will only occur when the National Assembly approves the National Tobacco Control Regulations which the Federal Executive Council, FEC, approved in June 2018.

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