Director General of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), Dr Garba Abari, has disclosed that his agency is willing and available to work with the tobacco control community to ensure that tobacco products are effectively controlled in the country.
The Director General made this commitment on Thursday, August 18, 2022, when a delegation of tobacco control advocates from the Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance (NTCA) paid him an advocacy visit at the agency’s headquarters in Abuja.
Akinbode Oluwafemi, the NTCA Board Chairman and leader of the delegation, thanked the DG for making time for the meeting. He said about 16,000 people die annually in Nigeria as a result of tobacco use but added that the figure is conservative and the actual number from an updated survey will most likely be higher.
This, he said, is as a result of the proliferation of shisha in the Nigerian market which tobacco companies market as a safer alternative to conventional cigarettes; an assertion that science has debunked as untrue.
Oluwafemi stressed that shisha has a higher concentration of chemicals, most of which are known to cause cancer and is twice as deadly as conventional tobacco products.
He also spoke about the placement of tobacco products in movies and other entertainment products as a form advertised by tobacco companies thus violating the provisions of the National Tobacco Control Act, 2015 which bans tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.
This, he said, presents a challenge because young people are negatively influenced to take up smoking which often becomes a gateway to the use of hard drugs. He concluded by saying that the smoking and public health menace has a direct link to the security problems bedeviling the country.
Nigeria is a party to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and has gone a step further towards implementing the recommendations of the convention through the enactment of the National Tobacco Control Act in 2015 and the approval of its Implementing Regulations in 2019.
The NOA with its strategic mandate and national reach has a clear duty of public education and awareness in the fight to ensure that Nigeria is tobacco-free.
The delegation therefore requested to partner with NOA to take the tobacco-free message to local communities and all Nigerians.
In his response, the Director General said that the issue of tobacco control is very important because of its devastating impact on society. He said tobacco control requires critical attention because Nigeria’s youth population is very high, and many youths are impressionable and easily influenced by who and what they see in movies. He agreed that smoking and consequent drug use is a vice that permeates all levels of society, causing rifts, sickness and hardship.
He, therefore, pledged to open the doors of the agency for a full throttle collaboration on effective tobacco control.
The Director General gave this pledge while in company of his management team, comprising the Director, Planning, Research & Strategy, Mr. Samuel Soughul; the Director, Reform Coordination & Service Improvement, Mr Samuel Attah; the Director, Orientation & Behaviour Modification, Barr. Theresa Nnalue; the Overseeing Director, Public Enlightenment & Mass Mobilisation, Mrs Theresa Maduekwe; and the Overseeing Director, Documentation, Translation & Publication, Mrs Victoria Kansa.
The delegation from the Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance had Philip Jakpor, Director of Programmes, CAPPA; Mr Chibuike Nwokorie, Project Officer, NTCA; Paul Ashibel, Communication Officer, NTCA; and Abayomi Sarumi, Digital Media Manager, CAPPA.