Anti-tobacco advocates want Lagos declared ‘smoke-free’

The World No Tobacco Day is commemorated every May 31

The Lagos State House of Assembly should declare Lagos State smoke-free and prohibit the secret smoking parties organized by the British American Tobacco Nigeria, BATN, in the state, said the Network for Accountability of Tobacco Transnationals, NATT, on Friday at an event to mark the 2013 World No Tobacco Day.

The group also wants the organizers of the Nigerian Media Merit Award to kick BATN out of its yearly awards.

Philip Jakpor, NATT’s spokesperson, said that the smoking parties “clandestinely held in Ajegunle and Victoria Island in recent times” is part of BATN’s ploy to undermine the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention for Tobacco Control, FCTC.

“The most far-reaching plot to make itself seem socially responsible among Nigerians and particularly with the media is the yearly sponsorship of the Best Industry Reporter endowment at the Nigerian Media Merit Awards,” said Mr. Jakpor.

The World No Tobacco Day is commemorated every May 31 and this year’s theme Ban Tobacco Advertising, Promotion and Sponsorships aims to draw attention of national governments to industry activities that undermine the implementation of the FCTC.

In 2005, Nigeria ratified the FCTC, joining over 190 other countries around the world.

“Ironically, that signing and ratification coincided with the same period that BATN, controller of over 80 per cent of the Nigerian cigarette market, started evolving new strategies to undermine the treaty,” Mr. Jakpor said.

Mr. Jakpor said that despite the call for a comprehensive ban on Tobacco Advertising, Promotion and Sponsorships, TAPS, to combat cigarette smoking, the number of youth smokers in Nigeria has risen sharply.

“A survey conducted in 2001 showed that 9.1 percent of Nigerian youths smoke cigarette. The figure by another survey conducted in 2008 jumped to between 17 and 27 percent. A recent survey in four local governments of Adamawa state put the smoking rates among youth at 33.9 percent,” said Mr. Jakpor.

The FCTC’s Article 13 requires, among other things, that parties should undertake a comprehensive ban or, in the case of a party that could not ban due to constitutional principles, restrict tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship on the mass media within a period of five years.

Bode Oluwafemi, Director of Corporate Campaigns at the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, ERA/FoEN, said that despite the “life-saving provisions” of the global treaty, the tobacco industry continues to exploit TAPS to conscript youth and the under-aged into smoking.

“Countries that are making strong progress in banning the last remaining forms of advertising include Albania, Brazil, Colombia, Ghana, Iran, Mauritius, Panama, and Vietnam,” said Mr. Oluwafemi. “Here in Nigeria, the BATN has continued to undermine the treaty, not only through deliberate misinformation and illicit actions targeted at the youth, but also through brand stretching, point of sale adverts, diverse promotions, and sponsorships,” he added.

Mr. Oluwafemi called on the Nigerian government to hasten the coming into law of the National Tobacco Control Bill.

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