The requirement to rigorously abide by and implement the National Tobacco Control Act of 2015 and its Regulations of 2019, both of which call for the placement of graphic health warnings on tobacco packages, has come to the attention of the federal government.
The National Tobacco Control Act of 2015 and its Regulations of 2019, mandate that the Federal Ministry of Health prescribe a new set of health warnings and messages every two years for use on the packaging or labeling of tobacco products after the initial period for the first batch of graphic health warnings. Therefore, the initial round of graphic warnings released on June 23, 2021, must be updated by June 23, 2023.
Again, gazetting of the National Tobacco Control Regulations in December 2019 signaled the beginning of a change in the design of cigarette packs and other tobacco products in Nigeria. Prior to the current graphic health warnings regime, cigarette/tobacco packs carried a text warning that read: ‘The Federal Ministry of Health Warns that smokers are liable to die young’.
Sadiq was a cigarette addict and chain smoker until he suffered a chronic respiratory disease which made him think twice. “After my lungs were examined at the hospital and I saw it’s bad state, I had to take to the advice given to stop smoking. It wasn’t easy, but as a matter of life and death issue, I had to give it up.”
A member of the Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance, Paul Ashibel told me the tobacco text warning had pitfalls as it did not properly situate the statement as an admission of the damaging effects of tobacco products by tobacco companies.
“Article 11 of the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, recommends that parties to the convention should ensure that product packaging and labelling do not promote tobacco products and should carry pictorial and text warnings which clearly describe the health dangers associated with tobacco use,” he said.
Applauding the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission on enforcement of the policy, the agency in partnership with the Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance has carried out enforcement exercises in the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos, Kano and Cross River states, Ashibel stated, adding that post enforcement surveys showed a significant improvement in compliance with the policy.
He disclosed that on June 23rd, 2023, the new set of graphic warnings ought to be rolled out. “Questions on the readiness of the federal government to ensure that there is no lacuna in the implementation of this policy have become increasingly common within the tobacco control community.
“The Federal Ministry of Health must at this time intensify engagement with the Standards Organisation of Nigeria and other relevant government agencies, to ensure that this opportunity to strengthen tobacco control is not missed,” he noted.