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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Nigeria Tobacco Control Bill, the world is watching

The lackadaisical attitude of our lawmakers on the National Tobacco Control Bill (NTCB) has generated concern among serious-minded Nigerians within and outside the country. The Senate Committee on Health chaired by Senator Iyabo-Obasanjo Bello was given two weeks by Senate President David Mark to produce a report on the Public Hearing organised by the same Committee. But the Committee is yet to produce the report for adoption at the plenary of the Senate.

The action of the lawmakers calls for obvious questions, such as 'when would the bill be passed?' Would the law makers allow the tobacco industry to continue to exploit the innocent youths? How long would it take the lawmakers to pass a crucial bill that has to do with health? No one can deny the dangerous effects of tobacco use. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), tobacco currently kills 5.4 million people every year globally, and if left unchecked, this number will increase to 8 million with devastating results for developing countries like Nigeria which will contribute about 70 percent of that casualty. In the 20th century, the tobacco epidemic killed 100 million people, and according to WHO estimates, it could kill one billion people in the 21st century.

The Public Hearing was an eye-opener for Nigerians, including David Mark, and participants. Over 45 Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), including local and international organisations, made presentations in support of the bill. Since the Public Hearing in July 2009, Nigerians and others stakeholders in public health including Babatunde Osotimehin, former health minister; Umar Modibbo, former FCT minister and Kayode Soyinka, WHO representative, among other eminent Nigerians, have waited for Senator Iyabo-Obasanjo Bello's committee to return the bill to plenary for adoption. But the wait and hope of 150 million people seem dashed.

If the bill is passed and enforced, two outcomes are possible: The level of national savings will increase and other forms of consumption expenditure will be substituted for tobacco expenditure. Studies in several countries have examined the potential economic impact of the complete elimination of tobacco use and production. The evidence shows that elimination of tobacco will not affect the economy. This is because tobacco use has many externalised costs (costs not paid for by smokers or tobacco manufacturers). This involves healthcare costs incurred by governments to take care of smoking -related diseases. When people no longer spend their money on tobacco, they will spend their money on other things. This alternative spending will stimulate other sectors of the economy. If the money is saved rather than spent, the increased savings are likely to have stimulatory macroeconomic effects.

But our government's lack of attention in calculating the economic losses of tobacco has contributed largely to the expansion of BAT in Nigeria. In 2006, a survey from 11 government- owned hospitals in Lagos State revealed that at least two persons die of a tobacco-related disease daily. It also revealed that same year, there were 9750 tobacco-related cases reported in these hospitals. To that end, the state averred that it spent N222, 000 subsidising the cost of treatment of each tobacco-related case. Each individual, the report said, also spends an additional N70, 000 treating the same disease. From the foregoing, the Lagos economy lost N2, 847,000,000. Note that this amount is higher in the northern parts of Nigeria where the smoking prevalence doubles that in the south.

The second outcome has to do with loss of production, an aspect which has not been fully addressed. There are three ways in which smoking affects production: one, it reduces life expectancy - thus the productive years of workers; secondly, it increases the number of the permanently disabled who will end up as a burden to our social system - consuming more and producing nothing. Thirdly, it increases absenteeism from work as a result of intermittent illnesses. Smoking, through its adverse health effects, reduces the quantity of goods and services produced and thus reduces the society's consumption potential.

The world is watching the efforts of those who have contributed tirelessly to this bill, and also those who would rather watch the country engulfed in a preventable epidemic. No contribution to the public health debate will be forgotten in a hurry. Nature will not forget in hurry too. To redeem our name is to save peoples' lives by passing into law the bill to regulate the activities of tobacco companies.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Group urges NASS on Tobacco Bill

 Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth (ERA/FoEN) has called on the National Assembly to pass the National Tobacco Control Bill into law, saying further delay could lead to the loss of more lives in the country.

A statement by the organization’s Head of Media, Philip Jakpor, said the non-passage of the bill was responsible for smoking among young people in the country as reflected in the recently released Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS).
“While we acknowledge the commitment of the Senate to the delivery of good governance and promotion of public health, your intervention and further action to save the bill will be appreciated. It is now time to act to save the lives of our youths,” he said.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Smoking - 250 Toxic Chemicals Identified

Yinka Kolawole

Osogbo — A medical health researcher with the College of Health Sciences , Osun State University , Dr. Olanrewaju Onigbogi, has identified 250 chemicals that are toxic and carcinogenic in nature to human health that are endemic in smoking.
According to him, second hand smoke equally causes respiratory discomfort and allergic symptoms on the short term and cardiovascular disease respiratory illness, and lung cancer which is responsible for an estimate of 40,000 deaths in non smokers annually in Africa .
Consequently, to reduce the danger inherent in smoking, the researcher has called on government to enforce a law that would make it mandatory on management of public institutions to designate clearly marked "No smoking" areas in enclosed spaces and encourage clients to keep the laws.
The health researcher, who made the call yesterday at the public presentation of result of Survey of Second Hand Smoking Status (SUSHS) conducted in September, 2010 in Osogbo, Ilesa and Ile-Ife all metropolitan towns in Osun State, said air quality of smoking was monitored by using the TSI SidePak AM510 Personal Aerosol Monitor (TSI, Saint Paul, Minnesota).
He noted that though smoking could be restricted to open air places in the hospitality industry yet, partially enclosed spaces are still dangerous to the health of the workers and should therefore not be encouraged.
Dr. Onigbogi opined that 44.1% of the people are aware of any law prohibiting tobacco smoking in public places in Nigeria while 34.1% were aware of similar law through radio and television adding that short-term exposures to secondhand smoke may increase the risk of heart attack.
He however insisted that secondhand smoke causes long and short term health risks saying that no level of secondhand smoke are safe and should therefore be eliminated in all public places.
According to him, "eliminating smoking in indoor spaces fully protects nonsmokers from exposure to secondhand smoke, separating smokers from nonsmokers, cleaning the air, and ventilating building cannot eliminate exposure of nonsmokers to second smoke".
The researcher noted that 81.8% have expressed support for the current measure at enforcing the tobacco control law particularly in Osun State while 84.2% supported the introduction of additional measures in terms of enforcement and implementation of tobacco control law in Osun State .

This Day (Lagos)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

ERA petitions Senate President on Tobacco Bill

By Omafume Amurun

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has implored Senate President, David Mark to follow through his remarks last year on the readiness of the Senate to speedily pass the National Tobacco Control Bill (NTCB) into law, cautioning that further delay on the draft legislation will cost the nation more lives.
ERA/FoEN, in a petition to the Senate President made available to the Niger Delta Standard today 11th October, 2010  and signed by its Executive Director, Pastor Nnimmo Bassey, the group urged the Nigerian government to sanction the British American Tobacco Nigeria (BATN) for targeting young Nigerians in a bid to recruit them as replacement smokers through glamorization of smoking and ‘secret smoking parties’ held in Abuja, Lagos and other parts of the country.
According to the environmental justice group, the non passage of the Bill was responsible for the increased rate of smoking among young people in Nigeria as reflected in the recently released Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) and the mammoth sum that most states are now paying for healthcare of victims of tobacco-related illnesses.
The National Tobacco Control Bill, sponsored by Senator Olorunimbe Mamora went for Public Hearing July 2009 and received overwhelming support from members of the house but the report of that Hearing was yet to be returned to the Senate plenary for eventual passage into a law.
“The result of the Global Youth Tobacco Survey conducted in some states recently which revealed that many more school children fantasize smoking is indeed telling of what the tobacco companies have done to the psyche of our youth. In some areas in Adamawa State the youth smoking rate was put   to 33.9 percent, a very disturbing trend,” said ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Pastor Bassey.
According to Pastor Bassey, “It is saddening that even after the complimentary comments of the Senate President, who declared last year that action will be taken on the Bill within two weeks of the Public Hearing, nothing has happened even after a year.
ERA ‘s position is further reinforced by the fact that as Party to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the Nigerian government owes its citizens an obligation to domesticate the treaty.”
‘While we acknowledge the commitment of the Senate to the delivery of good governance and promotion of public health, your intervention and further actions to save the bill will be appreciated. It is now time to act to save the lives of our youth that now stand threatened by the activities of BATN and other tobacco merchants,” Pastor Bassey noted.
Among others recommendations, ERA is praying the Senate to, as a matter of national urgency commence debate on the report of the Public Hearing and pass the Bill into law


Monday, October 11, 2010



ERA calls for passage of tobacco control bill into law

ERA petitions Mark on Tobacco Bill

Friday, October 8, 2010

Pass Tobacco Control Bill, NGO Urges NASS

A non-government organisation, NGO,  based in Ogba, Lagos State, Environmental Rights  Action, has called on the National Assembly to pass the National Tobacco Control Bill  into law without further delay.
Addressing a press conference to mark the 10th International Week of Resistance Against  Tobacco in Lagos on Monday, the NGO’s director of corporate accountability compaigns, Mr.  Akinbode Oluwafemi accused a particular tobacco firm which controls about 80 per cent of  the market of continued threat and misleading the yoouth into consumption of tobacco.
Akinbode claiemd that the tobacco company arranged secret smoking parties in different  parts of Nigeria especially in Ajegunle and Victoria Island in Lagos State. He said the  company was planning more tobacco smoking parties during the Yuletide from November this  year.
Akinbode said the tobacco companies have been lobbying political office holders with  partnership on public health issues, pretending to help farmers, retailers in order to  frustrate the passage of the law on tobacco control.
“It is important that while youth smoking continues to be on the increase, tobacco  companies continues to addict our youth they organise all over the country yet the  tobacco control bill is presently lying idle before the NASS,” Akinbode regretted. He  urged members of the NASS to be wary of the tobacco companies before they kill more of  our youth through uncontrolled consumption of tobacco.

Youth Cautioned On Tobacco Addiction

-Zacheaus Somorin

Youths around the country have been warned to desist from smoking as the world marks the International Week of Resistance. At a press briefing held in Lagos, the Director, Cooperate Accountability Campaign and Administration, Environmental Rights Action (ERA), Mr. Akinbode Oluwafemi, stated that this year's event is aimed building momentum in the run-up to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) meetings in Uruguay in November.

The meetings are planned for a unified, international action to prevent the tobacco industry from derailing the FCTC's lifesaving measures.
He stated that "FCTC entered into force in 2005 and has since been ratified by more than 170 countries, representing close to 90 per cent of the world's population" saying that the "treaty aims to reverse an epidemic that today claims the life of one in 10 adults".
He explained further that "the single greatest obstacle to the treaty's success is tobacco industries' interference in public health policy - a practice that Article 5.3 of the treaty effectively forbids".

"Smoking especially among youths in Nigeria over the last few years has continued to rise. A survey conducted in 2001 shows that 9.1 per cent of Nigerian youths smoke cigarette. The figure by another survey conducted in 2008 has jumped to between 17 per cent and 27 per cent.Akinbode stated that the report on Global Tobacco Treaty Action Guide is intended to keep governments alert and make them anticipate and thwart attempts by the vested commercial interests of the tobacco industry to undermine the implementation of tobacco control policies. He said further that the report reinforces the need for governments to insulate their public health policies from interference by tobacco companies.
"In fact, a recent survey in four local governments of Adamawa state put smoking rate among the youth at 33.9 per cent. While smoking rate has been on the increase the Senate has been foot-dragging in passing the National Tobacco Control Bill," he posited, calling on the National Assembly to pass the National Tobacco Control Bill.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

ERA raises alarm over smoking parties in Lagos

Implementation of tobacco treaty will save 200m people –Report

No fewer than 200 million people in the world will be saved by the year 2050 if the tobacco treaty is implemented, a report by the Environmental Rights Action, Friends of the Earth, Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) and Corporate Accountability International has said.
The report also alleged tobacco companies interference in the implementation of the global tobacco treaty formally known as the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
“Tobacco companies interference remains the single greatest obstacle to this objective and a centerpiece of discussion at the November meeting,” the report said.
Director of Corporate Accountability International, Gigi Kellet, said tobacco companies initially tried to bully the global community out of advancing the treaty and that it is now attempting to bully countries out of enforcing it.
According to the report, each year, tobacco kills more than five million people and that 80 per cent of the victims are in underdeveloped countries.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tobacco firms impede implementation of FCTC, says ERA

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

ERA seeks passage of tobacco bill


THE Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) yesterday called on the National Assembly to pass into law the National Tobacco Control Bill, saying its delay has further promoted the activity of tobacco industries in the country.
    The call was made in the wake of the 10th International Week of the Resistance Against Tobacco Transnational, to expose the ever-evolving tactics of the tobacco industry to undermine public health through its lethal products.
   According to the Director, Accountability Campaigns and Administration, Environmental Rights Action, Oluwafemi Akinbode, the bill had been foot-dragging for the past two years without a particular reason for the delay.
  “We have an increase worries on why the bill has not been passed, as there is a clear indication the delay might have a political undertone,” he said.
   The one-week event that started yesterday is aimed at building momentum in the run-up to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) meetings in Uruguay in November this year for a unified international action to prevent the tobacco industry from derailing the FCTC’s life-saving measures.
    Akinbode, to prove the menace the delay has caused, said “in solidarity with our allies and NGOs across the globe taking part in several actions to expose some of the tobacco industry tactics to undermine the FCTC, ERA/FoEN has released a report from tobacco industry watchdog  – Corporate Accountability International – documenting persistent and ongoing efforts to obstruct the FCTC on the African continent and around the world. The report points to tobacco industry interference as the single greatest obstacle to the treaty realising its full potential.”
   He added that the report is intended to keep governments alert and make them anticipate and thwart attempts by the vested commercial interests of the tobacco industry to undermine the implementation of tobacco control policies.
   According to Akinbode,  Nigeria which is among the first few countries that signed the FCTC in 2004 and ratified it in 2005 is still foot-dragging in totally domesticating the treaty through the National Tobacco Control Bill which was hailed by local and international groups at the public hearing organised by the Senate Committee on Health in July 2009 as a step to curbing “the gale of deaths which tobacco has wrought on this nation.”
“British America Tobacco (BAT) which controls over 80 per cent of the Nigerian cigarette market has continued to undermine the treaty by deliberate misinformation and illicit actions targeted at the youth.  For instance, in the last two months the company has held several secret smoking parties targeted at new smokers. Two of such parties were held in Ajegunle and Victoria Island, both in Lagos, and the company has announced plans to seize the opportunity of the upcoming yuletide to organise more.” 
   According to ERA, on June 15 this year the company had announced a position for Regulatory Affairs and External Communications Executive Staff to be based in Lagos. The job announcement which described a potential candidate as one who can “establish BAT as a trusted partner of regulators and a leading authority on tobacco control issues across Nigeria,” was said to have outlined that the company was looking for someone “to provide advocacy that ensure(s) that engagement is relevant to tobacco control thinking, both current and future in order to maximise transaction with stakeholders and demonstrate deep knowledge of tobacco control in the real world.”


Report accuses Big Tobacco of blocking treaty

Tobacco industry watchdog, Corporate Accountability International, and its allies, on Monday, released a report documenting widespread tobacco industry interference in the implementation of the global tobacco treaty (formally known as the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control).
The report’s release kicks off a string of grassroots actions in dozens of countries leading up to November’s treaty meeting in Punta del Este, Uruguay. At stake are nearly 200 million lives - the number of lives the World Health Organisation projects would be spared by 2050 if the treaty takes full effect - and the tobacco industry interference remains the single greatest obstacle to this objective. During this year’s 10th International Week of Resistance to Tobacco Transnationals, which began on Monday, the anti-tobacco groups say that their actions will expose industry obstructionism in countries around the globe which they hope would build momentum going into the November meeting.
Showing solidarity
The Week is also an opportunity for the global community to speak out in solidarity with Uruguay; Philip Morris International is suing Uruguay for implementing a treaty provision requiring stronger cigarette pack health warning labels. “Big Tobacco first tried to bully the global community out of advancing this treaty. Now it’s attempting to bully countries out of enforcing it,” said Gigi Kellett, the Director of Corporate Accountability International’s campaign Challenging Big Tobacco. “Still, our findings indicate that the industry’s resolve to defy the law is matched only by civil society’s resolve to end industry intimidation,” he said.
The report cited some of the tactics used by the tobacco industry to undermine treaty implementation to include the donation of $200 million to the Columbian government by Philip Morris International following the adoption of treaty implementation legislation to “address areas of mutual interest;” the appointment of a former British American Tobacco executive, Kenneth Clarke, as Justice Minister - he would oversee a recent lawsuit by BAT and its competitors against a new law cracking down on tobacco product displays; and engaging in a string of lawsuits regarding tobacco product displays, packaging, and health warning labels from Australia and the Philippines to Norway. All of these tactics, the groups say, are in direct defiance of the treaty, specifically its Article 5.3, which deems such industry interference to be in fundamental conflict with the treaty’s public health aims.
Slow progress
The report also finds that Article 5.3 is being used to great effect globally to insulate the treaty’s implementation against the tobacco industry. Action ranges from Mauritius becoming the first country to ban all tobacco industry “corporate social responsibility” schemes to Panama’s prohibiting government agencies and officials from accepting tobacco industry contributions. “Those countries, large and small, that refuse to be intimidated, are emboldening others to follow their lead,” said Philip Jakpor, spokesperson for Environmental Rights Action in Nigeria and the Network for Accountability of Tobacco Transnationals (NATT).
“The success of the November treaty meeting will be measured by the number of Parties that return to their countries with a plan to root out industry interference. Millions of lives are on the line,” Mr Jakpor said. In Nigeria, the Senate Committee on Health held a Public Hearing on the Tobacco Control Bill in July last year and the bill is still awaiting passage into law at senate’s plenary. Each year, tobacco kills more than five million people and 80 percent of those deaths are in low-income countries, where treaty implementation represents some of the first efforts at tobacco control.
One hundred and seventy-one countries have ratified the global tobacco treaty since its entry into force in 2005. Today, the treaty protects more than 87 percent of the world’s population.