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Tuesday, April 21, 2009


On February 4, 2009, the National Tobacco Control Bill 2009 scaled through Second Reading at the Senate. The Bill sponsored by Senator Olorunnibe Mamora seeks to regulate the manufacturing, sale and distribution of tobacco products in the country. Essentially, the bill domesticates the provisions of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco (FCTC) which Nigeria signed on June 28, 2004 and ratified on October 20, 2005.

Senate President David Mark, apparently encouraged by the overwhelming support fellow senators accorded the bill during the Second Plenary Reading and in accordance with legislative practice, referred the bill to the Senate Committee on Health for fine-tuning before its passage. The Senate President and indeed several other distinguished senators who took the floor during the Second Reading spoke in favour of the quick passage of the bill. They enumerated the positive impacts the bill promised for public health and its potential for saving the lives of millions of Nigerian youths from tobacco addiction.

Specifically, the Senate President closed the plenary with an admonition to his fellow senators to shun every overture by Big Tobacco to undermine or delay the passage of the bill. He predicted that the tobacco industry will certainly do all within its powers to distract the Senate from working for speedy passage of the public health bill but that the Senate should stand firm for public health and the well-being of Nigerian.

True to the Senate President's prediction, since February the tobacco industry since February has deployed strategies to undermine the bill. The industry has engaged media spin doctors to feed Nigerians with a pot pouri of lies and propaganda. They have recruited surrogates and hatchet men to distort scientifically documented data on the impact of tobacco use on public health, the economy and the environment.

Page 60, THISDAY, Vol. 14, No. 5112Tuesday, April 21, 2009