THE ENVIRONMENTAL Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has called on the Federal Government to expedite action on the enforcement of the National Tobacco Control (NTC) Act (2015) and the NTC Regulations 2019.
The environmental group on Wednesday at a press briefing in Abuja specifically called for the ban on sales of cigarettes to minors.
“Prompt enforcement of the NTC Act 2015 and NTC Regulation 2019, particularly the implementation of the ban of the sale of cigarettes to minors, ban on sale in single sticks and pictorial health warnings,” said Akinbode Oluwafemi, ERA/FoEN’s Deputy Executive Director.
He noted that the year 2020 started with the gazetting of the NTC Regulations 2019, which according to him, was commendable especially the roles played by the Federal Ministries of Health and Justice to ensure that the gazetting happened.
Oluwafemi, however, said despite the gazette, “we did not feel it is time yet for celebrations.”
“With the gazetting of the regulations, we believe the industry will become more daring and creative, hence government at all levels must be wary and act with urgency,” he added.
According to him, the tobacco industry in the country has not been sleeping noting that operators have remained ingenious, working on new tactics to remain relevant and true to their bidding of stifling any form of regulation.
“For months, we have noticed an up-tick in their so-called Corporate Social Responsibility (CRS) activities at state and national levels and on the social media, Oluwafemi said.
“We have written to the government and the leadership of the institution to be circumspect about this dangerous proposal.
“With the gazetting of the regulations, we believe the industry will become more daring and creative hence, government at all levels must be wary and act with urgency.”
Presenting the demands of the environmental group, Oluwafemi also called for the inauguration of a Tobacco Control Fund as recommended in Part 3, Section 8 (1) of the NTC Act 2105.
“The provision was very specific that the Tobacco Control Fund, “shall consist of monies made available by the Federal Government from the annual budgetary allocation approved by the National Assembly…or from subventions etc,” he said.
While calling for synergy and inter-governmental agency collaboration to enforce the Act and its regulations, he stressed that the implementation must be in conformity with the provisions of the NTC Act which limits and requires transparency of interactions between government and the tobacco industry.
The ICIR reported that former President Goodluck Jonathan in May 2015 signed the Anti-tobacco bill into law. But almost five years after, the implementation of the law dragged until 2019 when the National Assembly approved the regulatory documents.
In May 2019, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara lamented that over 17,000 people are reportedly killed due to tobacco-caused diseases while over 370, 000 children and more than four million adults use tobacco daily.
Dogara was speaking at the opening of an interactive session on the draft bill, National Tobacco Control Regulations, 2018, by the House Committee on Delegated Legislation at the National Assembly.
“It is noteworthy that the National Tobacco Control Act, 2015, has widened the areas where tobacco smoking is prohibited in Nigeria,” Dogara was quoted as said.
“This is in furtherance of the right of every person to a clean and healthy environment and the right to be protected from exposure to second-hand smoke.
“The areas that have now been designated as no-smoking areas are contained in the Second Schedule of the Act. The other areas that the law seeks to regulate are; the manufacture of Tobacco, packaging and labeling; advertisement and promotion; sale, as well as interaction between the government and the tobacco industry.”