Groups want tobacco industry excluded from tobacco control policies

Cigarette smoking
A tobacco smoker used to illustrate the story.

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, ERA/FoEN, and the Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance, NTCA, have urged the House of Representatives to exclude the tobacco industry from tobacco control policies and interaction.

At a media interaction with journalists in Lagos, Monday, the groups also reiterated their demand for the ban on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship.

“The tobacco industry is not a legitimate public health stakeholder, as tobacco has no known health benefits,” said Akinbode Oluwafemi, Director of Corporate Accountability, ERA/FoEN.

The groups commended the lawmakers for organising a public hearing on the Tobacco Smoking (Control) Bill, 2013, in July.

“At that epoch-making event, ERA/FoEN, CISLAC, NTCA, and other groups submitted memorandums to the House Committee on Health urging them to ensure that the final legislation is in tandem with the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, (WHO FCTC),” Mr. Oluwafemi said.

“While we commend the lawmakers for their strong support in garnering inputs of critical stakeholders in ensuring the bill is in sync with the WHO FCTC, we have observed with dismay the clandestine activities and visibility events by British American Tobacco Nigeria, BATN, and other tobacco entities in Nigeria, including their front groups seeking either to misinterpret the law or demanding the removal of key provisions that will make it implementable. Those events have particularly targeted agencies of government tasked with the responsibility of implementing the bill when it finally becomes law.”

Mr. Oluwafemi said a few of the very shameful activities in this regard are the visit of the top echelon of BATN to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and the training of men of the Lagos State Police on implementing a Smoke-free Public Places Law recently signed by Governor Babatunde Fashola.

“They have also conducted what they called empowerment training for officials of the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA),” Mr. Oluwafemi said.

The groups further noted that the tobacco industry’s training of law enforcement officers was a deliberate ploy to thwart the law in Lagos as well as undermine the passage of the National Tobacco Control Bill.

“For the tobacco industry to be training law enforcement officers is like the vector conducting training on how to get vaccine for a disease,” said Mr. Oluwafemi. “Or put in another way, getting mosquitoes to provide cure services for malaria. It is simply absurd.”
In July, ERA/FoEN criticised a training for police officers in Lagos organised by the BATN accusing the company of misleading the law enforcement officers.

But the BATN had defended its strategies, arguing that the training was part of its effort to support key stakeholders in the country to drive a fully compliant and well regulated tobacco sector in a transparent and responsible manner.

On Monday, the tobacco control groups said that the tobacco industry “would pull all stops” to undermine tobacco control efforts in Nigeria.

The groups further urged the House of Representatives to adopt higher taxes and price measures to reduce tobacco consumption.

They also advocated for the creation of smoke-free workplaces, public places, and public transport to protect the public from second-hand smoke.

“Also, there should be no room for Designated Smoking Areas (DSAs), they don’t work,” Mr. Oluwafemi added.

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