Tobacco control groups jubilant as National Assembly approves draft regulations

The UN health agency warned that tobacco’s killer toxins also wreak havoc on the environment. [Photo:]

Nigerian tobacco control advocates have described Tuesday’s approval of the Draft National Tobacco Control Regulations by the Senate and House of Representatives as the most befitting health legacy of the eighth National Assembly.

The Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance (NTCA) and the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), in a joint statement issued in Abuja, said the approval of the regulations less than a week to the end of the current session of the National Assembly is a parting gift that would fully make the National Tobacco Control Act 2015 operational.

The groups also stated that the regulations would safeguard current and future generation of Nigerians from tobacco harms.

“This is a giant leap forward in the quest to reduce tobacco harms and getting the tobacco corporations accountable for their lethal products,” said Akinbode Oluwafemi, ERA/FoEN Deputy Executive Director.

“We commend the National Assembly for this health legacy.”

Nigeria’s tobacco control legislation came into existence in 2015, signed into law by former President Goodluck Jonathan after years of delay.

But its implementation has been stalled due to a controversial clause within which says the law requires parliamentary approval of regulations – which cover about 70 percent of implementation needs of the Act – before enforcement.

Over the past weeks, tobacco control advocates had mounted pressure on the eighth National Assembly to approve regulations before the expiration of their tenure.

Last week, the activists raised an alarm over attempts by the tobacco industry to stall the approval of the draft regulations.

Tuesday’s approval comes less than a week after the regulations were deliberated upon at the Senate, and Senate President Bukola Saraki alerted on some observed discrepancies which informed his setting up of a Conference Committee to harmonise the Senate and House of Representatives positions.

Although some of the provisions in the regulations are not as strong as tobacco control groups would have wanted, Mr Oluwafemi said the approval was still a bold step that has elevated Nigeria in the group of nations that have ratified the World Health Organisation- Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC).

The regulations address the licensing of tobacco products, duration of the license, and the sizes of pictographs and graphic health warnings on tobacco packs, among others.

Oluseun Esan, NTCA Alliance Coordinator, said, “The tobacco control community hail this much-awaited approval of the regulations which will rollback the tobacco industry onslaught on Nigerians, particularly kids that are wooed by the industry to replace a dying older generation of smokers.”

The groups said it was worthy of mention that Mr Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, stood with Nigerians at the most decisive hour of their tenure, hence their names and those of the various committee members who made the approval of the regulations possible will be written in gold.

They also asked that the process of gazetting the regulations and commencement of enforcement by the relevant agencies of government should not be delayed.

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