Group says Nigeria’s weak tobacco regulations, poor enforcement exploited by industry players

CORPORATE Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), on Thursday, alleged that players in the tobacco industry were taking advantage of the nation’s weak Tobacco Control Act (2015) and its poor enforcement to promote tobacco products in the country.

Executive Director of the organisation Akinbode Oluwafemi, speaking during a briefing in Abuja, said public smoking and undue promotion of cigarettes in manners attracting underage children was still prevalent.

He kicked against what he described as the glamorising of tobacco on movie sets and music videos, stating that these required the urgent attention of regulatory bodies.

“The tobacco industry has for years exploited the entertainment sector to entice and conscript young people into smoking. This practice has long been documented across the globe and has informed the need for some form of regulations of contents accessible to the young,” Oluwafemi stated.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) Director for the Prevention of Non-Communicable Diseases Douglas Bettcher had, in 2016, criticised how movies displaying on-screen smoking enticed millions of young people globally.

He had stressed the need for such movies to be rated with additional warnings to save children from severe consequences of smoking – disability, and death.

“With ever tighter restrictions on tobacco advertising, film remains one of the last channels exposing millions of adolescents to smoking imagery without restrictions,” Bettcher stated, adding that “smoking in films can be a strong form of promotion on tobacco products. The 180 Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) are obliged by international law to ban tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship.”

A look at the National Tobacco Control Act passed in 2015 and the National Tobacco Control Regulations 2019 shows provisions prohibiting advertising, promotion and sponsorship of movies and entertainment, except few exceptions.

For instance, Section 12 (1) of the Act defines tobacco advertising and promotion to include “any form of commercial communication, recommendation, or action with the aim, effect or likely effect of promoting a tobacco product or tobacco use directly and indirectly.”

Besides, Section 15 (6) of the regulations also states that “any display or depiction of tobacco or tobacco use in a work of art, video, music, literature or any other means, that falls within the exceptions in Section 12 (4) of the Act shall, in the same scene or page, display in bold easy to read form the warning: tobacco use causes fatal lung cancer and other dangerous effects on the health of users and those close to them.”

In order to ensure strict compliance, the group tasked the National Broadcasting Commission, Nigerian Film and Video Censors Board, and other relevant regulatory bodies to enforce the law by ensuring compliance.

They also partnered with the Kannywood stakeholders, among other local groups, to ensure drastic reduction in the promotion of tobacco in movies.

    Some of their recommendations also included: adult-rating for films with smoking scenes, anti-smoking health warnings, a total ban on tobacco placements, and strong antismoking adverts.

    According to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), tobacco use is globally responsible for more than seven million deaths annually, while over eight million people may die annually from tobacco-related diseases by 2030.

    A WHO fact sheet says that tobacco kills half of its users.

    In Nigeria, a report from the Tobacco Atlas states that over 16,100 persons die as a result of tobacco-related ailments. “Still, more than 25,000 children (10-14 years old) and 7,488,000 adults (15+ years old) continue to use tobacco each day,” it states.

    Olugbenga heads the Investigations Desk at The ICIR. Do you have a scoop? Shoot him an email at [email protected]. Twitter Handle: @OluAdanikin

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