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Monday, August 23, 2010

ERA tackles BAT over ‘Bursting with Flavour’ promotion

ENVIRONMENTAL Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, ERA/FoEN, has frowned at British America Tobacco Nigeria, BAT’s ‘Bursting with Flavour’ promotion , saying it’s offensive to public taste.

Reacting to a smoking party organised by BAT for promoting Pall Mall brand of cigarette in Lagos,

ERA/FoEN threatened that it would “mobilise youths to storm and disrupt any other attempt to enlist our youths into smoking.”

In a statement issued in Lagos, ERA/FoEN, alleged that inside the hall, skimpily-dressed girls were assigned the roles of welcoming youngsters who were christened ‘consumers’.

The girls were said to have offered the consumers the Pall Mall brand of cigarette and immediately light it up.

The group noted that while the party was on with heavy plume of smoke from cigarette, officials of BAT were at the upper floor of hall cautiously observing the activities below.

“We hope the National Assembly is taking note of this objectionable activity of BATN. It is now time for our lawmakers to expedite action on the National Tobacco Control Bill which will compel tobacco companies in Nigeria to halt their double standards of operation,” said ERA/FoEN Director, Corporate Accountability Campaigns, Akinbode Oluwafemi.

In the last two years BAT has staged the smoking parties in Sokoto, Kano, Ilorin, Akure, Abeokuta, Ibadan and other parts of the country. The latest party was held recently at Ajegunle area of Lagos.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Cigarette smoking habits among adolescents in northeast Nigeria

Monday, August 16, 2010

Tobacco Companies Are In A Losing Battle, Say Govt Lawyers

THE resolve of the Federal Government to seek legal redress against tobacco companies, for targeting children and underage smokers and overburdening the health system, continues with a suit that is still in its preliminary stage after two years. While government has demanded compensation of £22 billion for expenses on tobacco-related diseases, concerned companies have maintained that the figure is unjustifiable and other allegations are unproven.

But government lawyer, Babatunde Irukera of SimmonsCooper Partners, describes tobacco as an anomaly because “it doesn’t comply with the general product-liability theory of liability, which mandates a company to take responsibility for injuries that arise from the use of its product when it is used in the manner and for the purpose it was set out to be used.”

“Tobacco is the only product I know, that, used exactly the way it was designed to be and for the purpose for which it was designed, causes injury or fatality. I wanted to know why consumers were interested in using a product, which they know serves no other purpose other than to injure or kill? I wanted to know why manufacturers would not modify a product designed in this manner. So, I did researches on history of the product and its liabilities, the litigation in US, the discoveries, the misrepresentations, and the fraud. I doubt if there’s anyone out there who will start where I started, review what I have reviewed, arrive where I am now, and will not be outraged. The only reaction I consider appropriate is outrage, even from defence counsels.”

But there are arguments that tobacco smoking is a matter of choice, and as such, the whole noise about cigarette is unnecessary. He disagrees: “It is not a matter of choice, for the vast majority of smokers. There is a very common Latin theory of law, which means voluntariness should not result in injury. You cannot make a choice to voluntarily accept to do something and then hold someone else responsible for the resulting injury. But that’s just the way it looks upfront. As you go a little further down, you see that choice is a matter of entire control.

“In making a choice, you must exercise control over the entire factors and dynamics of the choice-making process. But that doesn’t happen in the smoking game, because as a matter of law, a minor is incapable of making choice, because of the way minors think and the kind of choices they would make. That is why they can’t vote, because we don’t think that they have the capacity to exercise choice in a manner that is consistent with appropriate life expectation. So, the tobacco companies target these minors, who are not in a position to look at something from a risk analysis standpoint. So, if you can get a minor to smoke, the question of whether they are making a choice on what is dangerous or not does not occur.”

So, when minors become adults and are aware of the dangers, why don’t they quit? “The business model of tobacco companies,” Irukera explains, “is to target minors and addict them in such a way that it becomes a dependency issue. So, even when minors become adults, they are dependent. So, in all of these, the element of choice is completely eliminated.

“But one last thing about choice is that you make a mistake to think that the only person who is at risk of injury is the smoker. What about other people in public places, or family members, whose exposure to tobacco smoke makes them no less susceptible to serious diseases or death, than the smoker. And the argument may arise that it is in his home. I haven’t seen anywhere in our laws where a man can take prerogative of the right to kill his child. Or, where a woman, exercising her prerogative, chooses to become pregnant, yet under law loses that prerogative to determine whether to abort that child or not. So that whole question of choice is a contrived defence by the industry.”

IRUKERA would have none of claims by Catherine Armstrong, BAT’s spokesperson in London, that government’s £22 demand for tobacco-induced expenses “does not add up.” “The question I would have loved Mrs. Armstrong to answer is how £22billion in profit adds up to five million people dying annually. You know, there are certain situations you are in, and you know frankly that silence is just better than any response. We are talking about tobacco companies that have said they should be appreciated, because when people smoke and die, the government is socially responsible to lesser number of people. Those are the questions Mrs. Armstrong should be addressing. However, what the government is talking about is damage that has occurred and is occurring, and extrapolating what the future damage would be.”

The way out, he says, is to make tobacco companies accountable to the society. “Since we are starting from way behind, as a developing country dealing with myriads of developmental issues, from malaria in the 21st century, to polio, infant mortality, maternal mortality, child education, illiteracy and governance, the most effective social approach is to hold the industry accountable. We don’t have the resources to start now, and then meet up down the line. We are talking about a society where there’s so much poverty, where some people still do not have water to drink. If a tobacco company puts up a well, what do you expect? We must get tobacco companies accountable; at a minimum, they must adhere to standards that have been adopted against them and for them in their own countries, because their business cannot run in England or US the way it runs in Nigeria.”

Another government lawyer, Dapo Akinosun, thinks same of tobacco, saying that the industry will be regulated, no matter the duration of the legal tussle. “Tobacco is a dangerous product, and for many years, we were deceived into smoking it. I was a victim when I was younger. I was lucky to stop. I have no health defects because the human body can naturally repair itself, depending on the level of damage. But in some cases, damage can be irreparable.”

He also expresses confidence that the case will be won by government: “There is always the victory of right over wrong, of good over evil. Of course, tobacco companies have very deep pockets, but as you can see all over the world, they are in a losing battle; it’s only a matter of time. We know that if the society does not stop them, we will someday get to a level where four-year olds smoke.”
ALL efforts to get pro-tobacco lawyers to discuss the myriads of allegations against the product and their makers were met with polite reticence. Fourth defendant, Mrs. Funke Adekoya SAN, Managing Partner, AELEX Legal Practitioners and Arbitrators, when contacted on phone, said: “Well, I’m sorry. I’m involved in the litigation, so I’m not in a position to speak on it at all. No, I can’t say anything on it.”

Also, third defendant, Elias Gbolahan, declined to speak, saying: “I don’t even comment on cases that I am not involved in, not to talk of cases that…. It can’t happen now, it’s unprofessional. I have absolutely no comment sir. I’m sure there would be other people who would probably be happy to talk to you. I don’t think it is right to comment on the pages of a paper.”

Friday, August 13, 2010

Cigarette smoking tanker drivers to pay N.1m fine

- Bolaji Ogundele,

Tanker drivers have been warned to desist from unethical behaviour, as those who engage in smoking while driving will pay a fine of N100,000.
This warning was handed down by the national chairman of Petroleum Tankers Drivers (PTD), Apostle Timothy Ogbu, during an interactive session with members in Port Harcourt.
Ogbu said drink driving was not only an offence against the state, but also the union, adding that such attitude could tarnish the image of their profession.
The chairman cautioned members to obey road ethics and codes and ensure that their vehicle particulars are updated with their original driver’s licence in place.
The PTD boss said the executive members of the union was concerned over the recklessness of some tanker drivers, saying that was why he was on official visit to all depots to sensitise members of the need for attitudinal change.
Ogbu also alerted them to the danger in answering or making phone calls while driving and warned that any member caught in the act would be fined accordingly.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Battle for Hearts and Lungs

Sue Armstrong investigates the growing pressure on developing countries as tobacco companies battle for the hearts and lungs of new smokers. At the same time, some poorer tobacco growing countries like Malawi are becoming ever more dependent on tobacco as a cash crop. How do they resolve the dilemma between health and wealth?
Listen now (40 minutes)
In much of the rich world, smoking is on the wane in the face of rising taxes on cigarettes, bans on promotion and lawsuits against tobacco companies. Less than 21% of British people and 24% of Americans now smoke -the lowest rates on record. But elsewhere, smoking is exploding.
The World Health Organization predicts that tobacco will kill more than eight million people worldwide each year by 2030, with eighty percent of these premature deaths in low- and middle-income countries.
In China alone more than 300 million people smoke. That's equivalent to the entire population of the US, and one third of the world's smokers.
We hear about Malawi's growing dependency on tobacco as a cash crop. Although the government has tried to introduce minimum prices, small farmers like Elson Matope hardly cover their costs, and continue to live on less than a dollar a day, despite supplying the raw material for one of the richest industries in the world.
Malawi has not yet signed up to the WHO's international Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, and rules about cigarette advertising and promotion are lax compared to rules in the developed world. Are cigarette manufacturers trying to take advantage of poor regulation to build up new markets in Africa and elsewhere in the developing world, as smoking has declined in the developed world?
Producer: Ruth Evans
A Ruth Evans production for BBC Radio 4.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

ERA flays BAT’s smoking party

THE decision of the British America Tobacco Nigeria (BATN) to carry on with secret smoking parties where underage persons are conscripted into smoking is not only offensive but a strategy aimed at getting more girls into the smoking habit, the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has said.
ERA/FoEN, in reaction to a smoking party organised by BAT as part of its “Bursting with Flavour” promotion of the Pall Mall brand in Lagos, said the event was “a shameless disregard for public health and lack of respect to the laws of the country”.
According to a statement made available to the Nigerian Compass, ERA noted that in the last two years, BAT had staged the smoking parties in Sokoto, Kano, Ilorin, Akure, Abeokuta, Ibadan and other parts of the country.
The latest party was held last Saturday at the Abayomi Awodiora Hall, Cardoso Street, Ajegunle, Lagos.
While denouncing the act, the organisation said the event was criminal, and that the company as a corporation had been bent on ruining the lives of young Nigerians who are the major targets of the smoking parties.
“It is incredible that even with the growing number of Nigerians dying from tobacco-related illnesses and confirmed studies that tobacco use worsens poverty, the only fitting contribution of BAT to Ajegunle is a product that will gradually kill off its army of youths,” said ERA/FoEN Director, Corporate Accountability Campaigns, Akinbode Oluwafemi.
Oluwafemi said it was extremely disappointing that Terry G, a notable hip-hop artist and supposed youth role model who should be an ambassador of change in Ajegunle, performed live at the event, which started 10p.m. and ended 4a.m. the following day.