Advocates and public health professionals have urged President Muhammadu Buhari to give priority to the enforcement of the National Tobacco Act 2015, in his second term in office.
Speaking during a press conference to mark the 2019 World No Tobacco Day with the theme, “Tobacco and lung health” yesterday in Abuja, the group unanimously lauded the approval of the Draft National Tobacco Control Regulations by the Senate and House of Representatives on May 28, 2019, describing it as a gift that will guarantee the wellbeing of current and future generation of Nigerians, saying it should be swiftly implemented.
The groups include the Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance (NTCA), Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), Cedars Foundation, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Center (CISLAC), and University of Abuja Smoke-free Club, amongst others.
Addressing journalists, an NTCA official, Oluseun Esan said the commemoration of the day serves as a reminder to the government that tobacco causes death to users while a safe air for breathing will result in good lung health and long life for all.
Esan said it was refreshing that after the long wait, the National Assembly will be leaving a lasting health legacy by gifting Nigerians the approval on May 28, the same day in 2015, when former President Goodluck Jonathan signed the National Tobacco Control Act into Law, contending that only a few provisions of the NTC Act such as prohibition of sale of cigarettes to minors were enforceable prior to the approval, a situation tobacco industry market explored to sell lethal products to kids.
Similarly, head of media and campaigns of ERA/FoEN, Philip Jakpor said that the 2019 WNTD reiterates the fact that smoking is responsible for over two-thirds of lung cancer deaths globally, adding, sadly, second-hand smoke, which most Nigerians are exposed to in daily engagements, increases the risk of developing lung cancer for non-smokers.
In her remarks, Hilda Ochefu of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK) commended the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon Yakubu Dogara for siding with Nigerians to approve the regulations, even as she praised the media for putting pressure on the government through incisive reports that exposed tobacco industry antics at frustrating tobacco control in Nigeria.
She recounted that all the steps leading to the approval of the regulations had been torturous starting with getting the Federal Executive Council to approve the the Act developed by the Federal Ministry of Health and her partners.
The groups asked for expedited action on the part of the Clerks of both Houses for production of clean copies that will be transmitted to the Federal Ministry of Health. They also want the Regulations published in the official gazette without delay as required by Section 22 of the NTC Act 2015, and full enforcement of the NTC Act by the relevant agencies of government.