Tobacco related deaths are excruciatingly high.
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, CTFK, a non-governmental organisation committed to the control of tobacco consumption, on Wednesday said it is working towards ensuring that Nigeria has a tobacco control law before the end of the current legislative session.
The group’s Sub-Regional Coordinator, West Africa, Hilda Ochefo, said this during a visit to the headquarters of PREMIUM TIMES in Abuja. She said her organisation is currently working with the Federal Ministry of Health and other strategic agencies to revive the draft tobacco control bill abandoned under the 6th National Assembly, to ensure the current lawmakers have the document to work with.
“Getting a tobacco control legislation in place in Nigeria is importance for all Nigerians,” Ms. Ochefo said. “It is in our own interest to work together to establish a law that would help save millions of lives that may be exposed to the danger our people are exposed to through tobacco consumption”.
She acknowledged the dearth of statistics and data to show the exact number of Nigerians that die from tobacco use every year adding that the population of tobacco related deaths is more than the figure of victims of HIV/AIDS and malaria pandemic.
“British American Tobacco, or any tobacco production company for that matter, is neither an African nor Nigerian company. So they do not care if several millions of our people are killed as a result of their use of tobacco.
“These companies have got nothing to lose if they continue to promote the production and sale of tobacco. They are committed to doing everything at their disposal to ensure that people continue to patronise tobacco.
“Death through direct and indirect tobacco consumption is an oncoming epidemic that if not checked, will wreak havoc on the health of our people,” Ms Ochefo said.
She said that the tobacco industry has a history of interfering in the process of making laws to regulate tobacco consumption. Ms. Ochefo said CTFK, which has been around for the past 30 years, is committed to work in collaboration with other groups, NGOs and the media to investigate and bring to the open the malaise of the public health issue.
She said the organisation, which started from the U.S, has evolved in its programmes in Africa including Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroun, Togo, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Benin Republic, Senegal, Egypt, Tanzania, Malawi, and Botswana; with South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt as the three strategic operational hubs.
“Currently, we are working with the Federal Ministry of Health to revive the draft of the Tobacco Control Bill abandoned during the sixth National Assembly. This would be sent to the National Assembly for deliberation and approval. And we hope that before the end of the current National Assembly, the Bill will be passed,” she said.
Ms. Ochefo commended PREMIUM TIMES for depth and professionalism in its reporting. She solicited the cooperation of the company in investigating the illegal activities of tobaccos companies and advocating against tobacco consumption.
The Editor-in-Chief / CEO of PREMIUM TIMES, Dapo Olorunyomi, who was represented by the paper’s Acting Editor, Idris Akinbajo, assured his guest that his organisation was willing to embrace the partnership with CTFK as it fits into the mission and vision of the media house to ensure the public’s “right to know.”
Mr. Akinbajo said PREMIUM TIMES would be ready to work with the group to ensure Nigerians become aware of the risks and dangers involved in tobacco consumption, and also any illegal or inappropriate activities of tobacco companies.