Tuesday, January 23, 2018 4:35 pm
By Daniels Ekugo
The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) and National Tobacco Control Alliance (NTCA) has asserted that enforcing tobacco control laws in Nigeria is everyone’s duty; hence all hands must be on deck to ensure that the laws are implemented to the letter.
The groups expressed worries that there was yet no concrete action to show that the Federal Ministry of Health was determined to implement the Act, which was signed into law in 2015.
They lamented that three years after the Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, announced the commencement of the enforcement of nine key provisions of the Act, the Tobacco industry was having a field day addicting Nigerian kids into smoking.
Aside cigarettes, a growing fad among the youth is water-pipe tobacco otherwise known as shisha. It may interest you to know that while the promoters of shisha are very silent on the constituents, medical experts have warned that the content of shisha, like cigarettes, includes nicotine, tar, carbon monoxide, arsenic, lead and other poisonous and cancer-causing chemicals and some contain heroin and cocaine.
Just like cigarettes, the side effects of smoking shisha may not be immediately noticeable. But with time, the toxic vapors slowly damage vital organs of the body of the smoker, culminating in illnesses and death.
As we speak, Kano, Lagos Abuja, Port Harcourt and other cities across the country now have thriving shisha bars patronized by the elite, celebrities and supposed role models who not only smoke the product, but also circulate pictures and videos of their shisha parties on social media, feeling cool and hype.
They cited a Guardian UK report of August last year, which indicted British America Tobacco (BAT) of paying militias instead of taxes to governments and introducing illegally huge amounts of money into war-ravaged Democratic Republic of Congo for fraudulent transactions.
The report also indicted BAT of collaborating with rebel groups to conduct businesses and providing firearms to its employees, among others while claiming to adhere to the highest business and ethical standards.
“Phillip Morris was even more convert and daring. A Reuters report linked the tobacco giant to years of a secret global campaign to undermine the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC.)
“It was also enmeshed in controversies of a co-called Foundation for Smoke-Free World, which it would fund to the tune of $80 million over a period of 12 years. It is remarkable that WHO distanced itself from that foundation and asked global governments to do the same,” the groups said.
They, therefore, tasked the government at all levels to begin the enforcement of the nine key provisions of the NTC Act that do not require regulations such as smoke-free public places, restriction on underage access and ban of sale of single sticks, among others.
“Relevant government agencies such as the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) and security agencies should begin clampdown on infractions. There is need for the commencement of mass public education to be spearheaded by the Ministry of Health and the National Orientation Agency (NOA).
“The Ministry of Health should urgently send the draft regulations to the National Assembly for approval as soon as they receive it, while Nigeria should imitate Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda that have banned shisha use and bars,” they stated.