Leave a legacy, approve Tobacco Control Regulations before you leave, groups urge 8th NASS

THE Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria(ERA/FoEN) and the Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance (NTCA) have called on the leadership of the National Assembly to approve the draft National Tobacco Control Regulations before the end of the 8th assembly on June 6.

This was the thrust of a peaceful protest organised by the two Non-Governmental Organisations at the entrance of the National Assembly complex on Wednesday, to reawaken the consciousness of the lawmakers to the necessity of approving the regulations which would further strengthen the enforcement of the National Tobacco Control Act signed into law by former President Goodluck Jonathan just before he left office in 2015.

In a letter jointly signed by Akinbode Oluwafemi, the Deputy Executive Director of ERA/FoEN, and Oluwaseun Esan, Programme Monitor of NTCA, and addressed to both the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, the groups charged the lawmakers “to resist attempts by tobacco corporations and their allies to water down the provisions of the regulations, and to ensure its speedy passage”.

A protester displaying an anti-tobacco placard.

As a signatory to the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), Nigeria “is bound by that convention’s article 5.3 to place public health and tobacco control above the commercial interests of the tobacco companies and their allies”, the letter read.

“We are aware that the current session of the National Assembly will end on June 6 thereby necessitating that the National Assembly needs to approve the draft Regulations within weeks.

“Nigerians will count this as a legacy achievement of the current leadership and members of the National Assembly.”

    The draft national tobacco control regulations were mapped out by the federal ministry of health, headed by Isaac Adewole, in order to enable better enforcement of the Tobacco Control Act 2015. But the regulations would require the approval of the National Assembly in order to become enforceable.

    Some of the protesters on the road leading to the National Assembly.

    The regulations include:

    1. Prohibition of the sale of tobacco products to and by anyone below the age of 18.
    2. Ban of the sale of cigarettes in single sticks; cigarettes must be sold in packs of 20 sticks only.
    3. Smokeless tobacco shall be sold in a minimum of a pack of 30 grammes.
    4. Ban of sale or offer for sale or distribution of tobacco or tobacco products through mail, internet, or other online devices.
    5. Prohibition of interference of tobacco industry in public health and related issues.
    6. Prohibition of smoking anywhere on the premises of a childcare facility, educational facility, and healthcare facility. Other places prohibited for smoking include playgrounds, amusement parks, plazas, public parks, stadia, public transport, restaurants, bars, and other public gathering spaces.
    7. Prosecution of owners or managers of any of the places listed above who permits, encourages or fails to stop smoking in the above-listed places.
    8.  Prohibition of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship of any kind.
    9.  Compliance with specified standards for content.

    Among other things, the National Tobacco Control Act 2015 provides for a fine of between N50,000 and N200,000 for persons who are found guilty of violating sections of the Act, or a prison sentence of not more than 6 months.

    Also, companies or businesses that go against certain provisions of the Act are liable to fines of between N200,000 and N4,000,000.

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