By Ikechukwu Okaforadi
Senate yesterday took further steps to restrict the manufacturing, sale, smoking, advertising, sponsorship and promotion of tobacco products in Nigeria, saying this has become necessary considering the health interest of citizens.
Specifically, part II of the new legislation provides for prohibition of tobacco products smoking and usage in public places, prohibition of supply of tobacco to young persons, as well as stricter package information requirements.
Also, part three of the new legislation prohibits promotion, advertisement and sponsorship of tobacco and its products, as well as strengthening the enforcement procedure.
Speaking after the debate, the Senate President, David Mark, said there is need to regulate the use of tobacco in Nigeria, considering the inherent dangers it pose to the citizens.
“We would have gone one step further to well ban it also, but when it goes to public hearing then we will get public opinion on that. My prayer is that this time around, once we pass this Bill, I hope that it will be signed because we were just left hanging at the moment.
“Hopefully, this time around, the executive would be able to sign it. But let me remind us also that this Bill is not just a Nigerian Bill. It is far more important because there are a lot of countries that have tried to debate the issue of total ban on cigarette and smoking.
“Powerful groups are behind the Bill and I remember that in the Sixth Senate, a lot of lobbyists were all over the place when this Bill was being debated. So I am not surprised that we eventually didn’t sign it but we should have courage to at least do something. I don’t think we should just leave it that way this time around”, Mark said.
Earlier in his lead debate, the sponsors of the Bill, Ifeanyi Okowa, said part five of the legislation provides for protection of tobacco control policies from commercial and other vested interests, in as much as interaction between government and tobacco industry is required to be transparent.
Okowa, who is also the chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, further pointed out that first and second schedule of the legislation provide for both the kind of caution messages to be displayed on the tobacco packages and the prohibited smoking areas.
“Tobacco industry sells a highly addictive product that unequivocally has been scientifically proven to cause death, disease and disabilities”, he said.
Meanwhile, during their debate, the senators were united on the need to regulate the sale and use of tobacco products, and ban of public usage, even though they were divided on outright ban of tobacco products.