By Mashe Umaru Gwamna
The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) and other civil society groups have urged the federal government to commence immediate inauguration of the Tobacco Control Fund as recommended in part in 3,Section 8(1) of the NTC Act 2015.
This was disclosed at a press briefing jointly organised by the ERA/FoEN and NTCA, yesterday in Abuja,saying “we are started on a good note with gazetting of the National Tobacco Control (NTC) Regulations 2019 following its gazette in January 2020.
The groups also recommended the implementation of the ban of sale of cigarettes to minors, ban of sale in single sticks and Pictorial Health Warnings.
Speaking at the event, ERA/FoEN Deputy Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi, commended the Federal Ministries of Health and Justice for the strategic roles they played to ensure the gazetting but added that it was not yet time to celebrate since the tobacco industry was still on the prowl.
Oluwafemi revealed that the tobacco industry was still ingenious, working on new tactics to remain relevant and true to their bidding of stifling any form of regulation and that for months public health experts have noticed an up-tick in so-called Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities at state and national levels and on the social media space.
He explained that British America Tobacco Nigeria Foundation (BATNF) was out to confuse Nigerians by claiming to promote the UN Strategic Development Goals #2 which seeks to end hunger through partnership with government and farmers through its sponsorship of the World Food Day commemoration, including that of 2019.
“Through such a move, they position themselves as stakeholders in Nigeria’s agricultural sector and subtly want to forge a relationship with the SDGs office. The foundation is also aggressively targeting the youth through such initiatives as the Wealth is Here which it claims, is targeted at young entrepreneurs and the unemployed and has enjoyed wide media coverage.”
He cautioned that Philip Morris was also toeing the path of British America Tobacco Nigeria (BATN) and eyeing the agricultural sector through its Foundation for Smoke-free World (FSFW) which it had written to government to be circumspect about.
Earlier, Sub-regional Coordinator of the CTFK, Hilda Ochefu, expressed happiness that the gazetting of the NTC Regulations 2019 as a welcome development.
While cautioning that delay in its enforcement would make the tobacco industry more daring and creative hence government at all levels must be wary and act with urgency.
Ochefu called for inter-governmental agency collaboration to enforce the NTC Act and its Regulations and drew attention to provisions of the NTC Act 2015 which limits and requires transparency of interactions between government and the tobacco industry.
Similarly, the Programme Coordinator of the NTCA, Oluseun Esan, who stayed that one of the strengths of the Regulations is the yearly renewal of licenses which tobacco corporations must do as this would compel them to abide by Nigeria’s laws.
Esan, advocates for the immediate inauguration of national tobacco committee and the implementation of the ban of sale of cigarettes to minors and single sticks and pictorial health warnings .A legal expert with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK), Michael Olaniyan, throw more light by reading through the letters of the Regulation, explaining that the key provisions that would make the tobacco corporations behave responsibly include licensing, even as he added that government must also inaugurate the Tobacco Control Fund.
“ it is time we take full implementation of tobacco act now .“