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Monday, July 20, 2009

Groups rally support for tobacco bill

Over 40 civil society groups, legal practitioners and public healthadvocates are gearing up to storm the Senate Hearing Room of theNational Assembly Complex, Abuja, on July 21 and 22 to present theirmemorandum in support of the National Tobacco Control Bill (NTCB).

This is coming barely 24 hours after the Senate Committee on Healthcalled for interested members of the public and stakeholders to sendin a list of interested members to appear before it. Groups that have already indicated interest include the NigerianHeart Foundation, Nigerian Cancer Society, Smoke-free Foundation,Abuja, Nigerian Tobacco Control Alliance, Environmental Rights Action,and the Nigerian Association of Nurses and Midwives among others.

International groups that have also rallied in support of the billand sent in a memorandum are the Africa Tobacco Control RegionalInitiative, Framework Convention Alliance (FCA), U.S.-based Campaignfor Tobacco-Free Kids and the Corporate Accountability International.

The bill, sponsored by Deputy Minority Leader, Senator OlorunimbeMamora, will completely domesticate the WHO Framework Convention onTobacco Control (FCTC), which Nigeria signed in 2004 and ratified in2005 but is yet to fully domesticate in Nigeria.

It will make also it an offence to sell or market tobacco products topersons under the age of 18 years and impose a fine not exceedingN50,000 or imprisonment of a term not exceeding six months or both onviolators.

It also prohibits all advertisements, sponsorships, testimonials andpromotion of cigarettes in the country.

According to the Programme Manager, Environmental RightsAction/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), Akinbode Oluwafemi,“the public hearing is another landmark development in efforts tocheckmate a gale of deaths induced by tobacco products after theoverwhelming support that the bill received in the Senate some monthsago.”