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‘Ethiopia has set an example for what all African nations should to do curb tobacco use,’ says expert

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BINTOU Camara, Director of Africa Programs, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, has praised Ethiopia for passing a new regulation for tobacco, describing it as “historic public health legislation that will become one of Africa’s strongest laws on reducing tobacco use”.

The Ethiopian parliament on Tuesday passed unanimously the Food and Medicine Administration Proclamation which is expected to save lives and protect over 105 million people in Africa’s second most populous nation.

According to Camera, the new law requires 100 percent smoke-free public and work places, bans tobacco advertising and promotions, restricts the sale of flavored tobacco products and mandates pictorial warning labels covering 70 percent of the front and back of all tobacco products.

“The law also bans the sale of heated tobacco products, e-cigarettes and shisha, and prohibits tobacco sales to anyone under the age of 21,” Camera said in a statement.

“The impact of Ethiopia’s new law cannot be overstated. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids congratulates the Ethiopian government for this important public health victory.

“As tobacco companies continue to set their sights on Africa, Ethiopia has set an example for what all African nations can and should to do curb tobacco use, the world’s leading cause of preventable death.”

Camera said in Africa and around the world, tobacco companies fight hardest against the measures they know work to reduce tobacco use.

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She urged the Ethiopian government to implement the law as swiftly as possible and remain vigilant against attempts by tobacco companies to undermine this tremendous progress.

Tobacco use is a global problem and it causes more than seven million deaths every year, according to the World Health Organisation.  And close to 900 000 are non-smokers dying from breathing second-hand smoke.  Over the years, accumulated scientific evidence shows that tobacco smoking is a leading cause of heart disease.

In December 2016, WHO estimated that about 5.6 per cent of adults and 15.4 per cent of youths currently use tobacco in Nigeria.  Also the same year, Tobacco Atlas estimated that about 16,100 Nigerians die each year from tobacco-related diseases.

Nigeria signed its tobacco control act into law in 2015 but after more than three years, experts say the law has not been implemented to a level that will curb tobacco use.

Civil society organisations had accused tobacco companies of frustrating the implementation of the law by bribing government officials to advocate on their behalf, interfering in policy making through trade committees and third parties, and aggressively lobbying and bribing policymakers.

In 2017, at the celebration of last year’s World No Tobacco Day, Isaac Adewole, Minister of Health, announced nine new regulations for tobacco use in the country, including banning smoking in public space. But experts say there is no evidence of implementation of the policy.

 

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Chikezie can be reached at comeje@icirnigeria.org. Follow him on Twitter: @KezieOmeje

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