The federal government has announced plans to completely halt the advertisement of tobacco products in the country and fine persons who smoke in places designated as “non-smoking areas”, as part of efforts to ensure safer, tobacco-free environment.
Minister of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu, who disclosed this to newsmen after this week’s Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting said “the Council has approved a bill which seeks to ban tobacco advertisements and impose a 6-month jail term and/or N50,000 fine on people who smoke in areas due to be designated as non-smoking areas.”
Chukwu said a fund to be known as the Tobacco Control Fund will also be established by the Tobacco Control Bill which seeks to protect Nigerians against the harmful effects of tobacco and will be financed by the federal and state governments as well as individuals.
“We know that tobacco is dangerous, causes many deaths and illnesses. There are four main non-communicable diseases: cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory disorder and diabetics. Tobacco alone causes three of these four illnesses, particularly heart attacks, hypertension and stroke, in addition to cancer of various organs especially the lungs and also chronic respiratory disease,” he stated.
A 2008 global youth tobacco survey conducted in Nigeria showed 15 per cent of children between the ages of 13 and 15 years were already smokers and 55 per cent of children between the ages of 13 and 15 were passive smokers.
Among adults, ten per cent, that is one out of every ten Nigerian male adult, smoke while among the women, it is 1.1 per cent. Looking at a combination of men and women, almost six per cent of all adults in Nigeria smoke or use tobacco products, apart from 20 per cent of those who do not smoke but are exposed as passive smokers, Chukwu said.
The Tobacco Control Bill, if passed by the National Assembly, will also impose a fine of between one million and five million naira on companies that advertise tobacco products in the country.
Owners of such companies also risk a jail term of between one and two years.
According to Chukwu, the bill also seeks to require tobacco companies to place warnings on 50 per cent of the package about the use of tobacco.
In addition, the bill proposes to ban every form of sponsorship by any tobacco company of any public event by government, be they sports or seminars.
“We will not accept gifts from them. If a tobacco company wants to build a school, we will reject but we will accept when they have stopped producing and selling tobacco products,” he stated.