The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria has urged the Nigerian government to gazette the National Tobacco Control Regulations 2019 to enable the immediate enforcement of its provisions.
Akinbode Oluwafemi, deputy director, ERA/FoEN, said at a press conference in Lagos Monday that although some of the provisions fall below the expectations of tobacco control advocates, the Regulations has strong provisions to discourage smoking and protection of non-smokers.
“We believe strongly that the delay in the gazette of the NTC Regulations 2019 is being exploited by tobacco multinationals to entrench their hold on the Nigerian market.”
Nigeria’s tobacco control legislation came into existence in 2015, signed into law by former President Goodluck Jonathan after nearly a decade of delay.
But its implementation has been stalled due to a controversial clause in the law which says it requires parliamentary approval of regulations – which cover about 70 per cent of implementation needs of the Act – before enforcement.
Less than a week before it wound down on May 29, the eighth National Assembly approved the draft NTC Regulations.
The Regulations – which includes ban on the sale of cigarettes in single sticks and prohibition of sale to anyone below age 18 among others – was introduced in 2017.
Osagie Ehanire, the health minister, was the minister of state for health when the Regulations was introduced; while Olorunimbe Mamora, the current minister of state for health, sponsored a tobacco control legislation in 2009 when he served as a senator.
Tobacco control advocates say they are hopeful the duo would reinvigorate tobacco control efforts championed by the health ministry.
“To block any lacuna that could be exploited by the tobacco corporations to continue to recruit our kids and loved ones into smoking addiction, we are urging the ministers to give the Regulation the urgent attention it deserves,” Mr Oluwafemi.
“We are requesting the swift gazette-ing of the Regulation so that enforcement of its provisions can commence immediately.
“The delay in gazette-ing the Regulations is discomforting to Nigerians who had anticipated that the passion exhibited by the National Assembly in its passage would equally drive timely commencement of its enforcement.”
Mr Oluwafemi said there has been an uptick in tobacco industry activities to portray themselves as stakeholders in public good. An example was last month’s British American Tobacco Nigeria Foundation partnership with the Lagos State government to organise the Lagos Farm Fair in commemoration of the 2019 World Food Day.
“As the yuletide sets in, we expect further escalation of tobacco industry activities to market their deadly ware,” Mr Oluwafemi said.
“Unfortunately, the target will again be our innocent youths that they want to conscript into smoking and hook for life as a replacement for an already dying generation of current smokers.
“It is for this reason that we demand a quick gazette and enforcement of the National Tobacco Control Regulations 2019 and full enforcement of the National Tobacco Control (NTC) Act 2015.”
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