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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Imperatives for a smoke free Nigeria

On March 15, 2011, the Senate had in a unanimous vote passed the National Tobacco Control bill which was sponsored by Senator Olorunimbe Mamora representing Lagos East Senatorial District. By this act, it is now a punishable offence to engaged in smoking in public places. The current bill is a comprehensive law providing for regulations of supply and demand measures of tobacco products. The bill was presented on the floor of the senate for second reading in February 2009 and a public hearing was conducted in July 2009 before its eventual passage. The National Tobacco Control Bill (NTCB) repeals the Tobacco Control smoking Act of 1990, which was promulgated under the military and championed by former Health Minister, late Olikoye Ransome Kuti.
Nigerians have waited patiently, for our constitutional and God given rights for a smoke free environment and protection of the weak and venerable in the society against second hand smoke, which the National Tobacco Control Bill is set to enforce. The Nigeria Senate has risen to protect public health and etched its name in gold under the leadership of Senator David Mark for passing the National tobacco control bill. The bill will ensure a reversal of increasing deaths.
The need to protect the non smoking public from the dangers associated with cigarette smoking makes it necessary for the enforcement of the ban of smoking in public places. There is overwhelming medical evidence that shows exposure to second hand smoke can cause diseases and death. Second hand smoking is a combination of the smoke which a smoker exhales and the one that comes out of the burning end of a cigarette.
Also known as the Environmental Tobacco Smoke (EST), it is a mixture of about 4,000 cancer causing chemicals that are extremely harmful to the body. It has been established that for every eight smokers who die, one innocent bystander also dies from second hand smoke and if one is exposed to second hand smoke for about 2 hours, then the person must have smoked an equivalent of four cigarettes. Second hand smoke is as deadly as the real tobacco smoke.
But we should not rest on our oars after this victory. This is just the beginning of the campaign for a totally smoke free Nigeria and the defense of the constitutional and God given rights to live in a safe environment. Massive media enlightenment campaign to inform residents about the enforcement of the provisions of this bill should begin now. Also, there is need to educate the Nigeria police to monitor compliance with the ban. But the greatest responsibility is on every resident of Nigeria to make sure that the law is strictly adhered to. To ensure our nation is completely smoke free, we must jointly monitor the implementation of the ban on smoking in public places.
A smoke free Nigeria will put public health above profits made from selling cigarettes. It will reduce the rate of smoking especially among the young and underage people. Smoke free public places will even make the environment clean and residents can breathe safe air. It will also help towards achieving the Millennium Development Goal (MDG), of having poverty halved by 2015, because money spent on tobacco product will be help provide food and shelters for families.
The bill is also an affirmation of commitment of Nigeria to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). It is an international tobacco control treaty developed by the World Health Organization (WHO). The treaty was built on the evidence from different country experiences which formed the recommendations in developing the FCTC. It requires all ratifying countries to adopt effectives smoke free policies. The FCTC has been ratified by over 150 countries including Nigeria.
Article 8 clearly states that "Each part shall adopt and implement in area of existing national jurisdiction as determined by national law and actively promote the adoption and implementation of effective legislative, executive, administration and/ or other measures providing for protection from exposure to tobacco smoke in indoor workplaces, public transport, indoor public places and as appropriate, other public places"
Everyone has the right to breathe clean air, free from the proven dangers of second hand smoke. Second hand smoke is a proven health hazard, not just a nuisance. Nigeria should go smoke free.

-Owoeye Akinsola