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Monday, May 3, 2010

ERA praises Australia for banning cigarettes in glamorizing packs

ERA: Press Release, May 2, 2010

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has hailed the Australian government for promulgating a law which prohibits all forms of promotional texts and pictures glamorizing smoking on cigarette packs saying the move will discourage potential new smokers and is worth emulating by the Nigerian government.

The Australian government last week announced that by July 2012, all cigarettes sold in that country will have to be in plain packaging – meaning no tobacco industry logos, no brand imagery, no colours, and no promotional text other than brand and product names in a standard colour, position, font style and size.

Article 11 of the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) requires each Party to the protocol to adopt and implement, within a period of three years after entry into force of the FCTC for that Party, effective measures to ensure that tobacco product packaging and labelling carry large, rotating health warnings and do not promote tobacco products by false, misleading or deceptive means.

It also requires that tobacco product packaging and labelling contain information on relevant constituents and emissions of tobacco products as defined by national authorities.

In a statement issued in Lagos, ERA/FoEN Programme Manager, Akinbode Oluwafemi said, "The Australian government’s move complements global efforts to curb the gale of deaths spurred by the deceptive promotional packs of the tobacco industry. It is highly commendable and timely in nipping the renewed efforts to woo underage persons into smoking through beautiful packs, colours and logos."

Akinbode explained that " The move by the Australian government is a step further in implementing Article 11 which ensure that all packets of tobacco products, and any packaging and labelling used in retail sale of tobacco products, carry rotated series of health warnings which must describe the harmful effects of tobacco use, and other appropriate messages that should cover at least 50 percent on average of the principal display areas"

"This enviable move by the Australian government should ginger our lawmakers to expedite action on the National Tobacco Control Bill (NTCB) currently stagnating in the hallowed chambers of the National Assembly. It is ironic that Nigeria which signed the FCTC in 2004 and ratified in 2005 is still lagging behind and prevaricating on domesticating the FCTC in form of state and national laws," Akinbode noted.

The National Tobacco Control Bill was sponsored by Deputy Minority Leader Senator Olorunnibe Mamoora and scaled the second reading in February 2009.

A public hearing on the bill was also held on July 20 and 21 last year by the Senate Committee on Health, Chaired by Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello.

The committee is expected to send the reports of the public hearing to the Senate plenary after which a vote will be taken on the bill. Senate President, David Mark had also hinted that the Senate will vote individually as against the usual practice of a voice vote.