A TOBACCO report known as “Tobacco vs the People” has shown that a quarter of minors below the age 18 have access to killer tobacco products without knowing that the act violates existing legal provisions.
The provisions of the 2015 National Tobacco Control Act include the prohibition of tobacco sales to and by minors, the prohibition of the sale of cigarettes in single sticks and the prohibition of tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship.
The report then recommends that stakeholders responsible for implementation should act fast.
Edo, Ekiti, Katsina and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) constituted the population sample for the survey from which the research volunteers mapped 2,088 tobacco points of sale including kiosks, restaurants, bars, supermarkets, and other retail outlets.
The report shows that one out of four vendors (25 percent) sell cigarettes to minors while FCT scoring highest among the 4 states, which has up to half, that is 49.6 percent of vendors selling cigarette to minors.
Research correspondents shared their personal experiences to buttress the alarming findings of the survey.
Isaac from Katsina said he met a man aged 60 who revealed that he had started smoking from the age of 13 and he was still smoking, now all of his children smoke and he could not stop them.
Temitope from Ekiti, said he found that retailers prefer to sell in single sticks because they make more profit. He also observed that most of the vendors who sold to minors were men, advising that advocacy should target male vendors more.
Temitope also noticed that cigarettes advertisement may not be making so much impact, especially in rural areas. “I saw tobacco displayed next to sweets in several shops, and kids are constantly exposed to it”
Given the outcome of the survey, a panel discussion themed “Protecting Minors and Consumers from Tobacco and its harmful consequences” was organised.
Members of the Panel were Barth Ugwu, Deputy Director of Operations the Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON), Emmanuel Abraham, Tobacco Control Unit of the Federal Ministry of Health, Oluwafemi Akinbode, Chairman Board of National Tobacco Control Alliance and a representative from the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).
Ayodamola Owoseye, Senior Reporter Health, Premium Times moderated the discussion.
Before reeling out questions to the discussants, Owoseye shared her own feel of the cigarette during her Childhood. “My uncle then smoked cigarettes. He would stand at the door striking a pose with a cigarette in his hands and ask me if I had gotten my lunch box ready for school. His cigarette-in-hand pose fascinated me. So I smoked cigarette at 5’’.
On implementation of existing tobacco control laws, Ugwu from SON said they launched an action for enforcement around September last year but they allowed the grace of 18 months before they would swing into action.
A representative of the Civil Defence Corps said his organisation intended to create a special unit to control the use of tobacco.
Also a staff member of the ministry of health, Abraham Emmanuel, said that the smokers were not the real problem but victims of the manipulative tobacco industries. “We need to target the industries,” he said.
He called for a multi-sectoral approach to fight against tobacco, saying that the ministry could not fight alone. Moreover, he emphasized the role of the media in the fight against illegal tobacco use. He said, “the knowledge of the existing laws is the first step to enforcement.”
He therefore appeals to media organizations to do advertisements as part of their Cooperate Social Responsibility to let Nigerians know about the danger of tobacco consumption.
The representative of the NSCDC mentioned lack of timely information as one of the challenges they are having with enforcement but the moderator did not seem to agree with this, saying that tobacco law breaking scenes were all over the place for the security to see.
The panel concluded that the campaign against tobacco is a fight for all and urged everyone to join the fight if Nigeria must succeed.
The event was organised in Abuja by Gatefield Nigeria, in partnership with National Tobacco Control Alliance (NTCA), and Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (CTFK).