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Friday, August 28, 2009

Cigarettes: Ban production not smoking

-Ahmed Raji

MOST people detest smoking. Even the "Turkish" smoker knows that it is not a healthy habit. That smoking poses a grave health hazard to both the actual and passive smokers is beyond argument. And what is more, nobody has been able to identify any benefit derivable from smoking.
Even medically, some say a daily glass of beer is good for the system. They say it clears the bowel. Nothing good is attributable to smoking. I challenge anyone to come up with any benefit derivable from smoking. The entire world over, it is being recommended that all cigarette packets should carry the warning: "Smoking is dangerous to health". Of late, other measures are being rolled out to discourage smoking. Some accounts have it that the death of over 20 million people yearly is traceable to smoking. In Turkey, which is the home of smoking, smoking is about to be banned in almost every public area.
In most parts of the Western world, smoking is not allowed in "public places". Anti-smoking law is about to be rolled out in Abuja and some other parts of Nigeria. But do all these measures constitute any enough deterrence to smoking considering the gravity of damage it does to humanity? I think not. All these prohibitions have not affected the cigarette market in any major way. People still smoke their lives away. It needs not be repeated, the nexus between cigarette smoking and hard drugs like cocaine, cannabis, heroine etc.
A once and for all pragmatic solution will be to outlaw the production of the product in all forms. And that will amount to tackling the problem from root rather than attending to the effect. A grace period of not more than 12 months should be given to all producers of cigarettes to wind down while a comprehensive diversification scheme should be put in place to switch them over to other lines of business. Our pharmacologists and social scientists should be tasked on how to carry out the required therapy on chronic smokers and addicts. It will not be a misstatement to contend that the proposed diversification exercise programme will not cost the world up to five per cent of what the Iraqi war consumed.
Banning the smoking of cigarette while production of cigarette is allowed looks like "a collective mockery of our collective intelligence". The world should rise up to the challenge. Banning the production may also assist in the war against global warming. Nigeria can show example by outlawing all forms of cigarette making in Nigeria and also banning importation and smoking of same. Even the World Trade Organisation (W.T.O.) won't dare complain if we close our borders to cigarette.
And I take this opportunity to appeal to our "smoking leaders" to see this as a sacrifice for the greater good of all. It is a fact that smoking is not an easy habit to quit. But with determination, it is achievable just as this writer took his last stick in 2006.
Notwithstanding doubts as to the sustainability of some of the recent law suits in Nigeria against the major cigarette producers, we must commend the ingenuity of both the plaintiffs and their counsel. Their efforts have further confirmed the menace which production of cigarettes constitutes to our healthy living. Even non-smokers face the danger of passive smoking.
Distinguished senators and very honourable members of the house, the health of the nation is in your hands. If only you can pass a bill banning production of cigarette and allied products Nigerians and the world will forever remember you. You should resist the professional lobbyists with deep pockets who may not be bothered by the death of fellow human beings. Save life please. Initiate the bill today and pass it with the same dispatch with which the Senate passed the 2009 appropriation bill.
Smoking can be a terrible addiction. There is this good but nasty friend of mine who promised his wife that when their first child was "delivered" he would quit smoking. When reminded of his solemn promise after the arrival of the first child, my friend told the wife that he did not "deliver" a baby as a man cannot so do hence he has continued to smoke his Benson & Hedges in spite of all appeals. Despite his blood pressure problem, my friend is yet to quit up till this moment. And his health suffers! Production of cigarette must be outlawed to save the life of millions in my friend's shoes.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Tobacco use kills 6 million annually

by Joanne McCarthy

Tobacco use kills an estimated six million people a year, and costs $500 billion annually, the 2009 edition of The Tobacco Atlas has revealed.

The Tobacco Atlas, published by the American Cancer Society and World Lung Foundation and released at the Livestrong Global Cancer Summit currently taking place in Dublin, describes Ireland as ‘among world leaders in tobacco control’.

It confirmed that Ireland and the UK are among the countries with the strongest tobacco control policies, delivering both economic and health benefits. However, it revealed that the Irish economy lost US$980 million (€686 million) in 2007 because of tobacco use.

The economic costs emerged as a result of lost productivity, misused resources, missed opportunities for taxation and premature death. Because one in four smokers die and many more become ill during their most productive years, income loss devastates families and communities, according to the Atlas.

However, Ireland has benefited from positive steps to control tobacco, the Atlas said. It has ratified the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), a global treaty endorsed by more than 160 countries and recommended by the World Health Organization. The smoking ban in workplaces, tobacco tax increases, effective mass media campaigns, pictorial warnings on packages and advertising restrictions have all been of benefit. Irish people who want to quit smoking receive subsidised access to nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and certain clinical cessation services, the Atlas points out.

According to The Tobacco Atlas, more than two million cancer deaths per year will be attributable to tobacco by 2015. It highlights that the danger of tobacco is preventable through public policies, such as tobacco taxes, advertising bans, smoke-free public places and effective health warnings on packages.

The Tobacco Atlas has confirmed that the tobacco industry has shifted its marketing and sales efforts to countries that have less effective public health policies and fewer tobacco control resources in place.

As a result of this, most people who die from tobacco-related illnesses are in low and middle-income countries. Since 1960, global tobacco production has increased three-fold in low and middle-resource countries while halving in high resource countries.

The three-day Livestrong Global Cancer Summit is currently taking place in the RDS in Dublin. It is bringing together more than 500 world leaders, NGOs and individual advocates to showcase commitments to cancer control. Livestrong is an initiative of the Lance Armstrong Foundation.


Friday, August 21, 2009

RE: Much Ado About Tobacco

This sort of 'syndicated dare-devil' journalism will only stripe you of your pedigree. If only you have been following the year’s long campaign to make you and your families have the choice of breathing free air devoid of the contaminations from tobacco smoking, you will not be risking your precious integrity to publish syndicated materials from this merchant of death.

I read with disdain and pitying your ignorance on the importance of putting in place a new tobacco control laws in Nigeria. Wondering why the need to cook up assumption with regards to the Senate Committee on Health’s recent public hearing on the National Tobacco Control Bill 2009. This is another media stunt well done and for the 'dough', simple. That's not ‘just’ at all. It is with the same ‘damning all, throwing cautions to the wind attitudes’ with which you penned your name on this story that these tobacco manufactures are targeting your little children. Their strategy is simple; caught them young, use baits, hunt for financially pressed media voices to propagate falsehood and you know the rest. They are out orchestrating a device targeted at your children and you are saying ‘much ado about tobacco’, what kind of a father’s heart have you got?
Secondly, you need to know that journalists all the world over are playing prominent roles in the promotion of tobacco control advocacy because the pursuit of truth is just. It is sad therefore that you suddenly silenced your journalism ethic of objectivity in the face of Naira and to the detriment of your nation. Or was it in foreign currency you were paid to push this through and knowing it would malign the hard earned credibility of very newspaper. You could have written to carefully examine the matter from its economic and health perspective as the Distinguished Senate President David Mark spoke so profoundly while declaring the public hearing opened. But this undeserving as an editorial material underscores the importance of all the efforts. In other word, the investment of time and money expended by the Senate, the Senate Health Committee to deem it fit to repeal an old law with a more proactive one and in order to address a very critical dilemma is unnecessary.

Writing in assumption without taking a trip to Oke Ogun and other tobacco growing farms to discover the truth is unacceptable. Have you compared it with a similar antecedent of our Cocoa production era and its impact on national life? Now bring it down to the reality, if this is the experiences of the tobacco farmers BAT and her accolades are spending mega billions to sing and dance in the media they are creating jobs for. If you have consulted with the body of research done by World Health Organization, American Cancer Society and several other global agencies most trusted on the subject, then one would think maybe, just maybe, the anti tobacco movement got it all wrong. Nigerians also deserve to know from you if there are benefits acquiring from smoking. Your essay is biased and greatly lacked in details to the detriment of the good of all mankind.

If this bill is not just, then the series of ‘evil-intended’ publications going about in the media, obviously sponsored by those who are threatened by the mere mentioning of the National Tobacco Control Bill 2009 and aimed at pitching two Nigerian patriot against the other to discredit the collective will and genuine intention to guarantee the rights of smokers and non-smokers in this country. Perhaps, if there exist ‘plenty noise about nothing’, it is the continuous fabrication of falsehood by your kind working for the Big Tobacco (Merchant of Death) to blindfold truth. Your refusal to see any significant goal portray you as an enemy of the people in that you are only interested in maintaining the status quo for BAT and others merchants. If we listen to you, then we would be sending the next generation of Nigerian youths into drug dependency, we would be licensing cigarette manufactures to keep killing our loved ones, to make us spend more on healthcare treating preventable illness as well as dependants of the dead – deaths caused by tobacco smoking.

What is sinister about a bill conceived with all genuine intention to repeal another because the reality demands for it? This is the reason you consented that ‘this kind of bill should be seen as a good thing…’ It is confusing that you commended the Tobacco Control Act 1990 and refuse to see the need for its replacement with a proactive one even when such is expedient. More than you can imagine, these tobacco companies knows what they are doing. By successfully using you as a willing ally to push these ‘white lies’ shows their desperation and callousness at playing the game. Their entire move to suppress truth, to delay the passage of the bill and distort reality with massive advertising strategies is just ‘buying time’ to kill more Nigerians. You should have requested for the recording of the public hearing and see how BAT trembled and shake discovering that the civil nature of the bill also have criminal appeal.

For a reminder, the singular act of penning your name against falsehood will go down in history. Let's imagine that you even smoke and want your children or relatives to do so. That is yours and their rights. As you quoted, "equity follows the law if it is just", where then is the right of the non-smokers and smokers should the later decide to seek redress in the court of law for damages resulting from taking a product made by BAT? Is tobacco not classified under drug and why should it be sold by an ‘Aboki’ and to a minor. Or don’t you think, all of these are missing in the Tobacco Control Act 1990, and that, it is in order be just (putting tobacco in proper perspective, economy versus health, weighing the gains over loss to the Nigerians) that the Senate thought it fit to review this provision. More so, the position of the Nigerian Senate on this bill is clear and just. These efforts deserved to be commended even as the bill scale through its final path to passage.

Adeyinka Olugbade
Programme Manager

Much ado about tobacco

-Mobolaji Sanusi

What is the big deal about a Tobacco bill? This is the multi-million Naira question that followers of controversies trailing the above bill before the Senate Committee on Health may be seeking answers for. The bill is aimed at repealing the Tobacco (Control) Act 1990 and to enact the National Tobacco Control bill 2008. Its stated goals like the 1990 one are laudable – to provide for the regulation or control of production, manufacture sale, advertising, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco or tobacco products and other related matters.
The bill is sponsored by Senator Adeleke Mamora, a medical doctor, ostensibly in tandem with some groups of lawyers in the country. Ordinarily, this kind of bill should be seen as a good thing considering the fact that since the tenure of military president Ibrahim Babangida, the late Professor Olikoye Ransome-Kuti who was then Minister of Health, championed the battle for regulation of tobacco smoking. It was then that the issue of public smoking and compulsory inscription of ‘tobacco smoking is dangerous to your health’ on packet of cigarettes, on billboards and other forms of advertisement were enforced.
Thus, the current bill is not out to achieve any significant goal different from what Professor Olikoye Ransome-Kuti achieved during the military era. But the bill that is still at the public hearing, stage in the Senate is generating so much controversy and this has attracted intense public attention. Many are wondering why there is no much ado about this new Bill for an Act to repeal the Tobacco (Control) Act 1990.
For this reason, I have taken time to look for the bill, got a copy and have since realized that the bill is as needless as the artificial controversy surrounding it. Certain provisions of the bill (sections 40-45) question the professed altruistic motive of most promoters of the bills: it is important to ask whether most promoters of bills put national interest over personal gains in their pursuits of legislative enactments. Whatever their motives, it is also germane to point out that that is why there are levels of checks in legislative drafting – first, second, and third readings and even the stage of public hearings in legislative enactment processes. But does the National Assembly legislators adhere to this in the overall interest of the nation or just see it as something just there for being there sake? Could it be that the effort by the Senate Health Committee to play by the rules and not allow arm twisting actually led to the on-going controversy on the matter?
What I do know is that there is something sinister about the purport of the bill which might not completely be in the overall interest of the nation. The issue of Child Rights that came out of the bills public hearing that has generated heated debates between Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello and Mrs. Maryam Uwais might be a decoy aimed at blackmailing somebody so that the bill can enjoy easy passage.
Let us get it right ab initio that cigarette smoking is without equivocation dangerous to the health of both young and old persons. This is acknowledged by the Tobacco companies that agreed with the legislation that compels them to inscribe the warning that cigarette smoking is dangerous to health. Professor Ransome-Kuti himself was a chain smoker of cigarette and this warning would not even deter him and many others in his shoes from smoking. There are several people in high places, including state governors whose governments are suing Tobacco companies who are today chain smokers too. What moral right do these sets of people have to sue the cigarette producing companies? Among the downtrodden in this country, millions engage in legal cigarette smoking. It is at least better than smoking of marijuana and other illicit drugs. The present cases before the court are stalled because of unfavourable rules of evidence which the bill is avariciously planned to cure when passed in to law.
Some of these curious provisions in the bill attempt to empower the government to sue and make claims from tobacco companies for cost incurred from treating tobacco related ailment victims. For example, this provision presupposes that there are free medical services in the country. This is a fallacious assumption as the social safety nets in the country are almost zero. So, the proposed recourse to legal actions by states through the services of certain group of lawyers is laughable. This is not within the jurisprudential sociological theory of law espoused by Rosco Pound. These state governments and their ambitious lawyers behind the bill should also study more of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Realistic School of legal Jurisprudence. Any piece of law worth its salt should be made for the society and not vice-versa. Any law or provisions of it that is out to force itself on the society would only benefit few individuals for a short while before subsequently roiling into oblivion.
The all important legal principle; volunti non fit injuria (voluntary assumption of risk) in the Law of Tort applies in the case of smokers of cigarette. If after the warning and other precautions, people still go ahead and smoke, nobody or entity should be blamed but the smokers themselves.
Morally, some of the state governors who engage in smoking with some of their cabinet members should not have approved the suits being pursued on their behalf by some lawyers in the first instance. Within the Presidency today, there are smokers who are not ready to quit the habit. Would the state be right to claim compensation on behalf of leaders and others no matter their ages who voluntarily take to smoking as habit? I hope this bill is not out to benefit few lawyers who are its covertly promoters?
Most parents smoke cigarettes and even send their wards to buy same for them. These children copy the habit from them. Should anyone or an entity be blamed for this? This is why the issue of prohibiting communications of any form by entities producing cigarettes becomes deluding or the selling of cigarettes within particular radius from certain public places hypocritical. One, it is through advertisement on the danger of smoking that smokers can be more aware of the risk they voluntarily put upon themselves.
Not allowing sale within a certain radius or outright prohibition would make illegal tobacco sale business thrive thereby making monitoring difficult. Tobacco smoking would be a difficult thing to eradicate in any country. In Christianity as well as Islam, it is one thing that is not prohibited but strands condemned because of its hazardous health implications. There should be moderation in the mode of its legislation. What the country should bother about is the creation of standard and effective monitoring through agencies like the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and the Consumer Protection Council (CPC). One of the tobacco companies, British-America tobacco, reportedly had paid tax in excess of over N80 billion since 2001 and gives employment to hundreds of Nigerians from its 150 million dollar factory. This is aside its corporate social responsibilities that gulped hundreds of millions of Naira too.
The question is: Can Nigeria afford to trade off the sector at this point through this draconian bill that might send companies operating therein out of business via needless, avoidable law suits- at a time most big companies are relocating to neighbouring countries? The answer is in the negative

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Do you watch your intake?

Nigerian parliament debates tobacco restrictions

New tobacco control legislation is being debated in the Nigerian parliament with strong backing from anti-tobacco groups and health organisations.

The debate was brought about after an initiative by anti-tobacco campaigners to counter growing cigarette smoking, particularly among teenagers.

It is believed about 25 percent of Nigerian teenagers, which is double the smoking rate among men, are hooked on tobacco,

Individual cigarettes in Nigeria sell for seven cents each, and the Nigerian parliament is responding with a tobacco control bill that would impose smoking bans, increase taxes and impose advertising restrictions.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Nigeria Considers Tough Tobacco Control Legislation

-Gilbert da Costa

The Nigerian parliament is currently debating sweeping new tobacco control legislation in a bid to break the growing tobacco addiction in the country. The bill has strong backing from anti-tobacco groups and health organizations.

"Change starts from now. I dare to be different. I will remain smoke-free. I am the future, and the future starts now, So help me God. I am smoke free!!!," recite students at Shepherd Secondary School in Ketu in Lagos.

Students of the Shepherd Secondary School in Ketu, a poor neighborhood in Nigeria's sprawling city of Lagos, recite a "no-smoking pledge" at the end of a two-hour anti-tobacco lecture. The program is part of a grassroots initiative by anti-tobacco campaigners to counter growing cigarette smoking, particularly among teens in Nigeria.

About 25 percent of Nigerian teens, some as young as 10, are hooked on tobacco, double the smoking rate among men.

Salau Moshood, a 17-year-old student, told VOA what he learned."

I heard that smoking is not good for people at the age of 10 years and upwards," said Salau Moshood. "It makes them to die young, and makes them not to reach the place they supposed to reach. My advice for people that smoke is that they have to stop it because, if they don't stop it, they will have something that will affect them in their future."

Individual cigarettes sells for as little as seven cents each, and analysts fear that tobacco use in Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation of 140 million people, could continue to rise.

The Nigerian parliament has responded with a tobacco control bill that would impose smoking bans, increase taxes and impose advertising restrictions. If passed, this could be the biggest tobacco crackdown in the history of Nigeria.

The sponsor of the bill, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora, told VOA that the assembly has a duty to protect the health of Nigerians."

Under Section 14 of our constitution, we have an obligation, which we all swore to, in terms of upholding the provisions of the constitution," said Senator Mamora. "That section says, the welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government. So, we just need to safeguard the welfare of the people. It is important to us."

Even the Nigerian government, which previously granted generous concessions to tobacco companies, has withdrawn its support and filed a $45-billion suit against tobacco companies for allegedly targeting young Nigerians.

Senator Mamora says of the tobacco industry:"

They are no more than merchants of death, as far as I am concerned," he said.But not everyone is enthusiastic about a tobacco crackdown in Nigeria. A group of tobacco farmers from the southwest issued a passionate appeal to the senate committee on health during its just-concluded public hearing on the bill. The farmers asked legislators to consider the plight of thousands of poor tobacco farmers. Okeke Abiola spoke for the group.

"Our concern is that, if tobacco growing is banned without any alternatives - and I must mention quickly that we don't have any industry in Okeogu area, nothing other than this tobacco growing - we are concerned that without any alternatives, we will be the ones to bear the brunt," said Okeke Abiola. "For instance, if tobacco growing is banned, instantly 300,000 farmers will be affected.

"The World Health Organization says more than 80 percent of tobacco deaths will be in developing countries by 2030.