To commemorate this year’s World No Tobacco Day, advocates and public health professionals around the world have called on governments to focus on policies proven to reduce tobacco use.
At a press briefing to mark the event in Abuja, Thursday, participants urged President Muhammadu Buhari to prioritise the enforcement of the National Tobacco Control Act (2015) in his next four-year term.
They said the approval of the Draft National Tobacco Control Regulations by the Senate and House of Representatives is a gift that would guarantee the wellbeing of current and future generation of Nigerians and should be swiftly implemented.
The draft Regulations were approved by the National Assembly, last Tuesday.
The 2019 WNTD is themed ‘Tobacco and Lung Health.’
The groups present at the event include the Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance (NTCA), Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), Cedars Foundation, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Center (CISLAC), and the University of Abuja Smoke-free Club, among others.
Oluseun Esan of the NTCA said this year’s WNTD theme reminds Nigeria and other governments that tobacco causes death to users while a safe air for breathing would result in good lung health and long life for all.
Mr Esan said until the approval of the draft Regulations, only a few provisions of the NTC Act such as the prohibition of the sale of cigarettes to minors were enforceable.
“The lacuna this created was exploited by the tobacco industry to market lethal products to kids,” he added.
Philip Jakpor, Head of Media & Campaigns of ERA/FoEN, said the 2019 WNTD reiterates the fact that smoking is responsible for over two-thirds of lung cancer deaths globally.
He further noted that second-hand smoke, which a lot of Nigerians are exposed to in daily engagements, increases the risk of developing lung cancer for non-smokers.
Mr Jakpor said the millions of deaths recorded due to tobacco use is the reason governments around the world are making commitments to promote lung health by protecting their people from the effects of tobacco use and strengthening implementation of the proven tobacco control measures contained in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC).
Hilda Ochefu of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK) commended the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara for siding with Nigerians to approve the Regulations, even as she praised the media for putting pressure on the government through incisive reports that exposed tobacco industry antics at frustrating tobacco control in Nigeria.
Around the world, tobacco companies and their marketing tactics remain the single greatest obstacle to curbing the global epidemic that kills eight million people each year.
More than 80 percent of those deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries that are being targeted by tobacco companies as promising markets for the growth.
Major tobacco companies like Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco are promoting themselves as part of the solution to the health problems resulting from tobacco use.
Matthew Myers, the CTFK president, described such moves as a “hypocrisy that must be rejected for the fable that it is.”
“Today, we call on governments around the world to see past these misleading re-branding attempts and prioritise implementing proven tobacco control policies that save lives,” Mr Myers said.
“Without urgent action, tobacco will claim one billion lives this century.”
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