The Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) on Thursday urged the Nigerian government to be cautious and have nothing to do with tobacco industry recommendations on so-called harmless alternatives to cigarettes.
The group’s call came on the heels of the recent letter from the Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance (NTCA) asking the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment to reject a ‘Draft Policy on Conventional Tobacco and Non-Combusted Alternatives to Cigarettes’ which the tobacco industry allegedly sent to the ministry for consideration.
Last week, Philip Morris International’s (PMI) Sub-Saharan Africa Managing Director, Bahman Safakish, said the company was not ready to stop manufacturing of cigarettes because “ending cigarette sales would automatically create a niche market for competitors and illicit traders who do not appreciate the need to replace the combustible hazardous smoking with the electronic vapour-producing device.”
The statement was syndicated across several news organisations.
In a statement issued in Lagos, CAPPA stated that the media hype on so-called safe alternatives to cigarettes and the draft policy recommendation promoting the idea are orchestrated to mislead the public and policymakers, and ultimately undermine the implementation of the National Tobacco Control Act 2015 and its Regulations 2019.
“PMI does not fail to amaze us with their drama and half-truths,” said Akinbode Oluwafemi, CAPPA’s executive director.
“In one breath it claims it is transitioning to the much-discredited so-called less harmful alternatives; in another breath we hear it is raking in billions of dollars from the manufacturing of cigarettes. Then before we could catch our breath, the company is making recommendations to legislate tobacco control. Is that not ironic?”
Mr Oluwafemi explained that at a time when the public health community is worried about the delay in the implementation of the NTC Act and its Regulations, the tobacco industry is still busy scheming and scripting how to ensure Nigeria remains in the firm choke-hold of the tobacco addiction and death.
The CAPPA boss cautioned that the Nigerian government should not fall for the bait of PMI and other tobacco entities advancing policies for alternatives to cigarettes.
He suggested that Nigeria should begin immediate implementation of the NTC Act and Regulations and also emulate countries who have banned e-cigarettes such as Brazil, Brunei, Cambodia, Ethiopia, The Gambia, India, Iran, Lebanon, Macau, Mauritius, Singapore, and Uganda, among others.
“The time for diversionary tactics is over. We must act decisively to block all loopholes that the industry exploits and will exploit to thwart or delay implementation of the NTC Act and Regulations.
“We cannot continue to gamble with the lives of the youth who are made vulnerable by the day as PMI and other tobacco entities unveil new schemes to remain in the business of grabbing their lungs. Now is the time for the Nigerian government to discountenance industry scripted recommendations. Now is the time to side with public health.”