Policy analysts and industry groups have strongly canvassed against the outright banning of tobacco production in Nigeria.
Banning the legitimate production and distribution of tobacco products, the groups argue, will spark off a series of developments, including smuggling and criminal money laundering, whose consequences will portend far worse problems for Nigeria, they warned.
This l is coming following deliberations held on the proposed tobacco bill in the National Assembly.
The proposed bill seeks to regulate the production and consumption of tobacco products in Nigeria. While Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, Majority Leader of the Senate and other Senators canvassed balanced regulation of the tobacco industry, some members of the Upper Legislative Chamber canvassed for an outright ban of tobacco production in Nigeria.
Head of Research and Advocacy at the Initiative for Public Policy Analysis, IPPA, an independent policy research organisation based in LagosOlusegun Sotolasaid “What we are saying is that the legislation should be such that is enforceable and its outcomes, realistic and predictable.”
He said “banning the production and consumption of cigarettes will affect legitimate producers in Nigeria and lead to a closure of factories and losses of thousands of jobs with serious economic backlash on many families.”
He continued: “This approach will defeat the goals of the stakeholders which is to seek a balanced regulation of the industry. Banning legitimate tobacco production will compound and render ineffective the bill when it becomes operational.
Lawmakers should be mindful of the fact that industry players who have roles to play in addressing the concerns over tobacco consumption will no longer have a stake.
At the same time, the industry’s quest for safer alternatives to regular cigarettes will wane. The key objective for lawmakers is to seek regulations that will protect non-smokers and smokers from the effect of cigarette consumption.
He added that banning the production of cigarettes in Nigeria is not likely to curb the demand for cigarettes as those who smoke will continue to smoke.
“Demand for cigarettes,” he said, ” Given our porous borders will simply be met by smuggling of cigarettes into Nigeria, which could worsen the security challenges in the country.
Using examples from other countries that had in the past attempted to impose draconian regulations on tobacco production, Sotola explained that the rate of cigarette smuggling went up drastically in such countries as a consequence.
“An outright ban will leave Nigeria’s borders wide open for smugglers to fill the vacuum because no legislation can stop or eliminate smokers’ demand for cigarettes,” he counselled.
Also Campaign for Social Justice, CSJ, Tony Ogbulafor posited that “An important point the legislators should ponder is why any government hasn’t banned the sale of cigarettes.”
“Demand for cigarettes cannot be legislated upon.
Since laws cannot create demand, it is incumbent on the legislators to draft laws that will along with industry players help smokers to quit and promote the wellbeing of Nigerians as well as the society, rather than one that, while seeking to promote public health on one hand, undermines the very essence of what they seek to achieve.” He added:
“As long as smoking cannot be legislated out of existence, legislators should strive to protect smokers and non-smokers, the economy as well as the security of the country from the more damaging effects of cigarette smuggling.”
Similarly, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, MAN, had stated at the Public Hearing on the National Tobacco Control Bill, organised by the Committee on Health of the House of Representatives in July, that the legislators should be wary of any legislation that they seek to enact, so that such legislation does not lead to harm than the good it seeks to bring about.