The interference by tobacco companies has been identified as the “single greatest threat” to efforts to control tobacco use across the globe.
The Network for Accountability of Tobacco Transnationals, NATT, disclosed this during a training on reporting the tobacco industry held in Lagos over the weekend.
“Tobacco transnationals like BAT, Philip Morris, and Japan Tobacco have used political influence to whittle down or defeat tobacco legislation across the globe,” said Philip Jakpor, NATT Nigeria Spokesperson.
“Article 5.3 (of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, FCTC) recommends that parties raise awareness about harmful nature of tobacco and tobacco industry,” Mr. Jakpor added.
The group’s position came ahead of the sixth Conference of Parties, COP6, a biennial conference where decision-makers overseeing the FCTC converge to evaluate the treaty’s impact.
Nigeria is yet to have a tobacco control law. Last July, the House of Representatives organized a public hearing on the Tobacco Smoking (Control) Bill, 2013.
Mr. Jakpor said that some of the tobacco industry interference tactics include “making gifts to governments to gain favour, promising self-regulation or voluntary initiatives, offering to ‘partner’ with governments” among others.
“In Nigeria, BATN (British America Tobacco Nigeria) is using Ads, Promotions, and Sponsorships to confuse the public in a bid to thwart passage of the National Tobacco Control Bill,” Mr. Jakpor said.
“BATN is also promoting unverified prosperous farmer tales while painting a gloomy picture for farmers as endangered species when legislations that will domesticate the FCTC finally become law.
“In Kenya, the tobacco industry is suspected of providing funding for political campaigns in order to gain influence among policy makers, and high level policy makers.
“In Uganda, the International Tobacco Growers Association is said to have instigated a group of tobacco farmers to petition the Ugandan parliament to delete key provisions that exclude partnerships and endorsements including voluntary contributions, and incentives or privileges that promote tobacco businesses in the Ugandan Anti-Tobacco Bill 2014,” Mr. Jakpor added.
In his presentation on “Writing Compelling Tobacco Control Stories”, Wale Fatade noted that stories should be about people and new facts must be presented.
“Conflict of interest is real especially as it concerns tobacco companies seen in vehicles’ donation, awards to journalists, subtle adverts in the media and training of law enforcement agents,” said Mr. Fatade, Executive Director, Media Support Centre.
“Journalists must take sides unless you don’t agree that tobacco is a dangerous substance,” Mr. Fatade added.
Tunde Akanni, a Communications Consultant, said that reporters could utilize a variety of web tools to source for information on tobacco control.
“We are now advocates, not just journalists,” Mr. Akanni added.