Nigeria urged to start tobacco regulations implementation

Based on the official gazette of the National Tobacco Control (NTC) Regulations 2019, anti-tobacco advocacy groups working in Nigeria has called on the federal government to start the implementation of the tobacco control Act.

This call was made on Wednesday in Abuja by tobacco control advocacy groups – the Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance (NTCA) and the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN).

The groups had previously hailed the government for the gazette of the NTC Regulations 2019, saying it has given a legal framework to tobacco control activities in the country.

However, the group said gazetting the regulations is not just enough, and that the government needs to expedite actions towards its implementation.

The gazette regulations is a comprehensive legal framework for effective implementation of the NTC Act 2015.

ERA/FoEN deputy executive director, Akinbode Oluwafemi, said with the gazette of the regulations, the group anticipate enforcement will commence to keep the prowling tobacco industry in check.”

The gazette of the NTC Regulations 2019 by the Federal Ministry of Health is the final step that gives teeth to the law eight months after it was approved by the Eighth National Assembly.

Mr Oluwafemi, said despite the gazette, “we did not feel it is time yet for celebrations.”

He said with the gazette of the regulations, the group believe the industry will become more daring and creative in its tactics on going the youths addicted to tobacco products and as such, the government at all levels must be wary and act with urgency.

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Mr Oluwafemi said the tobacco industry in the country has not been sleeping, noting that operators have remained ingenious, working on new tactics to remain relevant and true to their bidding of stifling any form of regulation.

“For months, we have noticed an uptick in the so-called Corporate Social Responsibility (CRS) activities of tobacco industries in Nigeria at state and national levels and on the social media space.

“We have written to the government and the leadership of the institution to be circumspect about this dangerous proposal, he said.

While stating the demands of the anti-tobacco group, Mr Oluwafemi called for the inauguration of a Tobacco Control Fund as recommended in Part 3, Section 8 (1) of the NTC Act 2105.

“The provision was very specific that the Tobacco Control Fund, “shall consist of monies made available by the Federal Government from the annual budgetary allocation approved by the National Assembly…or from subventions,” he said.

In a similar vein, the Sub regional Coordinator for West Africa, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Hilda Ochefu, said the fight for tobacco regulations in the country has come a long way and will only be won when the government begins full implementation of the regulations.

Mrs Ochefu called for synergy and inter-governmental agency collaboration to enforce the Act and its regulations.

She said this enforcement must be done in conformity with the WHO stipulated guidelines which the country is a signatory to.

She also stressed that the implementation must be in conformity with the provisions of the NTC Act which limits and requires transparency of interactions between government and the tobacco industry.

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Among the key provisions of the regulations is the introduction of health warnings in cigarette packs that must constitute 50 per cent of the principal display area and will be increased to 60 per cent in another four years.

Tobacco manufacturers/importers/distributors must also submit a yearly report to the Health minister detailing quantity of tobacco products produced, audited annual statement of accounts, quantities of tobacco imported into or exported from Nigeria, and offers or payments made to political parties or candidates, among others.

The battle against tobacco is as a result of the health hazard it constitutes to the users and the society.

A report by the World Health Organisation showed that tobacco use directly causes about 2.4 million deaths globally.

The UN health agency, in a bid to control the harmful effects the product has on health, had called on its member countries to regulate the sale of tobacco products within their borders.

Nigeria, being a member of the UN agency, had signed up for the pact. Unfortunately, it is yet to effectively regulate the product or meet the regulation standard set by the UN health agency.

Research reveals that almost nine out of ten lung cancers can be prevented if current smokers would quit, which is a strong argument for making tobacco control a priority among the risk factor reduction strategies for cancer.

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