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Groups urge govt to enforce smoke-free public places policy

Some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have called on the Federal Government to reinvigorate the enforcement of the smoke-free public places policy and the ban on Tobacco Advertising Promotion and Sponsorships (TAPS).

CAPPA
Executive Director of CAPPA, Mr Akinbode Oluwafemi (second right), speaking at the briefing

They made the call in Abuja on Monday, May 30, 2022, at a news conference in commemorating the 2022 World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) with the theme “Protect the Environment’’.

The organisations are Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance (NTCA), Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and Centre for the Study of the Economics of Africa (CSEA).

Executive Director of CAPPA, Mr Akinbode Oluwafemi, said that the theme of the Day highlighted that, throughout its lifecycle, tobacco polluted the planet and damaged the health of all people.

Oluwafemi urged the Federal Government to look inwards and revisit the status of tobacco control in the country.

“As Nigeria joins the global community in commemorating the 2022 WNTD, the Nigerian government and the public health community should look inwards and revisit the status of tobacco control in the country.

“Especially the enforcement of the smoke-free public places policy contained in the National Tobacco Control (NTC) Act 2015. The indoor public places where smoking is restricted listed in the Second Schedule of the Act.

“These include healthcare facilities, primary and secondary education facilities, shops, police stations and prisons, higher education facilities, transport facilities, theaters, cinemas and stadiums amongst others,’’ he said.

According to him, unfortunately, Section 9 of the Act provides for Designated Smoking Areas (DSA) to be created where there are sufficient number of rooms where smoking is prohibited.

“This provision falls short of the obligations of Parties implementing Article 8 of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) on providing effective protection from public and workplace exposure to tobacco smoke.

“WHO-FCTC completely prohibits smoking in all parts of all indoor public places; on all means of public transportation; and in specified outdoor or quasi-outdoor spaces,’’ Oluwafemi said.

According to the CAPPA chief, these are places where hazard exists due to tobacco smoke exposure.

He said that due to the lacuna in the Act, Nigerians, including children who are non-smokers, are exposed to secondhand smoke daily in many indoor public spaces.

“Non-smokers working in bars and restaurants where cigarettes, shisha and other tobacco products are brazenly displayed and consumed are also victims.

“In the light of the above, CAPPA recommends that Nigerian government should reinvigorate the enforcement of the smoke-free public places policy.

“Government should enforce the ban on Tobacco Advertising Promotion and Sponsorships (TAPS) as it pertains to the entertainment and movies sector,’’ Oluwafemi said.

According to him, it should promote inter-agency collaboration and synergy in the enforcement of the ban on TAPS and the smoke-free public places policy.

“Government should also initiate or strengthen schemes to make tobacco manufacturers responsible for the environmental and economic costs of tobacco product waste,’’ he said.

The Project Officer of NTCA, Mr Nwokorie Chibuike, urged government to provide support to tobacco farmers to switch to an alternative.

According to him, from cultivation which involves the use of pesticides that are harmful to tobacco growers, to the cutting and burning of trees for tobacco curing which leads to deforestation.

He said that more viable and sustainable livelihood to reduce the environmental impact of tobacco-growing, curing and manufacturing should be provided.

Mrs Hilda Ochefu, Sub-Regional Coordinator for West Africa, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, called for citizens’ advocacy and enforcement of the smoke-free public places policy.

Ochefu said that every Nigerian had a role to play in the advocacy and enforcement of the smoke-free public places policy.

She said that citizens’ participation would go a long way in preventing tobacco smoking from endangering the future and health of Nigerians especially children.

Mr Austine Iraoya, a Research Associate with the Centre for the Study of the Economics of Africa, urged the Federal Government to increase 25 per cent tax on tobacco to 75 per cent to meet WHO standard.

“Globally, tobacco smoking keeps reducing in other continents but in Africa, it keeps increasing due to lack of control and enforcement of the smoke-free public places policy.

“The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) tax on tobacco is 50 per cent while WHO standard is 75 per cent.

“Nigerian government needs to increase its 25 per cent to 75 per cent as part of measures to control tobacco smoking in Nigeria.

“It is imperative because tobacco is not only harmful to the environment but also endangers the health of consumers and non- consumers,’’ Iraoya said.

By Deji Abdulwahab

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