Group uses dance contest to campaign for passage of National Tobacco Control Bill

Cigarette smoking
A tobacco smoker used to illustrate the story.

To help fast-track the passage of Nigeria’s National Tobacco Control Bill, the TobaccoCTRL, a public health and policy change campaign group, held a dance contest to create awareness on the adverse effects of tobacco use.

Three youth who emerged winners at the contest were rewarded with prizes, on Thursday, in Lagos.

After a ​p​ublic ​h​earing last month, the tobacco bill still awaits passage by both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The organisers of the dance contest said that the idea was to have the National Assembly pass the National Tobacco Control Bill, NTCB, into law before the 2015 general elections.

“Ours is to reach out to the youths, to educate them about the dangers of tobacco, how they can stay away from tobacco and how they can also join us in the effort to ask the legislators who represent us in their various constituencies to also lend their voices to the passage of the bill,” said Olamide Egbayelo, TobaccoCTRL’s Digital Media Manager.

The contest, which began in October, had young people downloading a tobacco-control song titled ‘Listen,’ dancing to it, and uploading the video on TobaccoCTRL’s website.

In the song, the lawmakers are urged to listen to calls to pass the tobacco-control bill as well as take notice of the other countries in Africa and around the world where the bill had been passed into law.

300 people downloaded the song, according to the organisers, while 19 uploaded the video of their dance moves on TobaccoCTRL’s You Tube page and asked their friends to vote.

The entry which garnered the highest likes and comments emerged the winner.

Ms. Egbayelo said that they chose to use a dancing competition to raise awareness because the target audience are the youth.

“Social media is a platform where you have most youths on. And if we are supposed to reach out to youths we have to do so in a very exciting way,” she said.

“The messaging of the song is educative, it’s also passing a message across and we think that through dance contests we can reach more people.”

Nigeria’s previous Tobacco Control Bill was passed by the Senate in March, 2011, and concurred by the Lower House two months later, but was not signed into law by President Goodluck Jonathan.

Highlights of the bill include prohibition of the sale of cigarettes to persons under the age of 18; ban of promotion of tobacco or tobacco products in any form; display of the word ‘WARNING’ in capital letters
on every package containing tobacco product, amongst others

The Chief Operating Officer at Paradigm Initiative Nigeria, Temitope Ogundipe, the social media drivers of TobaccoCTRL, said that the current bill when passed into law would not drive away the tobacco industry.

“But at least we want responsible advertising, responsible marketing, we want our public places protected from second-hand smokes, we want our children protected from the pressure of picking up smoking, we want support for those who want to quit smoking,” said Ms. Ogundipe.

Tobacco kills nearly six million people each year, more than five million of those as a result of direct tobacco use while more than 600 000 are non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke, according to the World Health Organisation, WHO.

Nearly 80 percent of the world’s one billion smokers live in low- and middle-income countries, where there is no cessation assistance of any kind.

Ms. Ogundipe said that targeting the youth is important because young people need to understand the benefits of having a tobacco control law.

“The fact that a person can dance and win a gift really doesn’t mean anything in itself, but what is more important about what these young people have done is the fact that they have shown passion for a meaningful cause,” she said.

“And that’s what we want young Nigerians to emulate. Because there are a lot of young, passionate, talented people out there who are just latching onto every kind of opportunity whether it is good or it is bad.”

Jude Ivon, one of the winners of the dance contest, said that he has gained a better understanding of the effects of smoking.

“I’ll tell smokers the bad effects. I don’t really have friends who smoke and I can talk to people within my environment about the dangers of smoking,” said Mr. Ivon, 22, a student at Ambrose Ali University, Edo State.

Although the approach of the 2015 general elections appear to dim the chances of passage of the Tobacco Control Bill, the advocacy group say they are optimistic that the chances of success are “still 50-50.”

“We’ve been on this for a long time. And we have seen enough progress to encourage us. At least, there was public hearing just last month, and a lot of support,” Ms. Ogundipe said.

“We are very positive. We will not fold our hands and say that the House will close down because elections are coming. We’ll just continue to try and if we are unable to make it in the seventh assembly, we’ll go forward and ensure that the very next assembly makes it a priority.”

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