The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) and other public health groups have called on the Senate to approve the draft National Tobacco Control Regulations that the House of Representatives approved last week.
Making the call in a press briefing in Abuja yesterday, the groups said that the Senate should ensure strong provisions of the Regulations are retained and approved before the end of the tenure of the current Assembly on 6 June 2019.
Aside ERA/FoEN, other groups that made the demand are Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK), the Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance (NTCA), and Gatefield Limited, among others.
In his speech, Deputy Executive Director of ERA/FoEN, Akinbode Oluwafemi said that the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon Yakubu Dogara captured the grim situation succinctly when he recently said that about 17,000 Nigerians die annually due to tobacco-induced illnesses, even as he added that the deaths are needless and avoidable.
Oluwafemi stressed that more people die because the tobacco industry exploits the partial implementation of the National Tobacco Control (NTC) Act 2015 which was signed into law by former President Goodluck Jonathan and continue to unleash lethal and innovative products into the Nigerian market to entice kids and conscript them into smoking for life.
He commended the House of Representatives for approving the draft Regulations developed by the Federal Ministry of Health and other critical stakeholders, stressing that the Senate should take a cue by approving the Regulations before their tenure elapses.
Sub-regional coordinator, West Africa of the CTFK, Hilda Ochefu, said that Nigeria is still lagging behind on tobacco control compared with other African countries that signed and ratified the World Health Organisation –Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC). She listed Ghana and Senegal among countries that have strong provisions in their tobacco control law which Nigeria should emulate.
Oluseun Esan of the NTCA said that Nigerians are particularly interested in the draft Regulations and will want strong provisions retained and the weak ones improved upon to ensure Nigeria takes a lead in tobacco control on the continent.
LEADERSHIP reports that the NTC Act was signed into law in 2015 but is yet to be fully implemented because some of its provisions require Regulations, which were only approved on 7 May 2019 by the House of Representatives.
The groups said that though the approved draft of the House of Representatives contains some provisions that the tobacco companies may still explore to market their lethal wares such as the permission of government agencies to establish Designated Smoking Areas (DSAs), most of the provisions are strong.
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