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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

'Anti-tobacco bill is still alive'

By Michael Orie and Wole Oyebade

ANTI-TOBACCO activists, under the aegis of Environmental Rights Action / Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), have debunked the purported 'death' of the National Tobacco Control Bill (NTCB) at the National Assembly, insisting that the bill was still under consideration before the Senate Committee on Health.
Their reaction came in the wake of Senator Kamaldeen Adedibu's insinuation to the effect that the bill, which has passed the public hearing stage, "is dead."
At a media briefing in Lagos yesterday, Programme Manager, ERA, Oluwafemi Akinbode, said: "Contrary to the lies and deception of the statements credited to the senator, the NTCB bill is not dead. The bill scaled through the second reading in the Senate in February 2009 and at that reading, all the senators present and who spoke at the plenary expressed strong support for the bill.
"Indeed, Senate President David Mark, while referring the bill to the Committee on Health, enjoined the members to expedite action on it because of the intense lobbying power of the tobacco industry, which seeks to derail the enactment of law that would protect the lives of Nigerians and also curtail the industry's criminal activities."
ERA described Adedibu's comments as "inflammatory, albeit deceitful, reckless, misleading and totally false."
The National Tobacco Control Bill 2009, sponsored by Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora (Lagos East), seeks to provide the regulation or control of production, manufacture, sale, advertising, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco or tobacco products in Nigeria and other related matters.
The bill also seeks to prohibit sale of cigarette to persons under 18; sale of tobacco products through vending machines; and sale of cigarette in single sticks;
It also seeks to prohibit all forms of tobacco advertisement, sponsorship and promotion, endorsements or testimonials, sale promotions; and smoking in public places, among others.
Akinbode also disclosed that a two-day public hearing was organised by the Senate Committee on Health headed by Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello on July 20 to 21, 2009, with the Federal Ministry of Health leading government agencies to lend support for the bill.
His words: "In all, over 40 Non-Government Organizations (NGO) presented memoranda supporting the bill and asking for its speedy passage. Besides, there were words of commendation and support for the bill from five International NGOs; Campaign for Tobacco Free kids (CTFK), Framework Convention Alliance (FCA), Corporate Accountability International (CAI), African Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA) and the African Tobacco Control Regional Initiative (ATCRI).
"Besides the tobacco Industry, only Senator Adedibu, who represents the Oyo South Federal Constituency, expressed his opposition, hinging his reason on loss of jobs and vowing to oppose the bill even if that would be the only thing he would do in the Senate.
"The committee has not presented the bill to the plenary and we know for a fact that there was supposed to be a retreat on the result of the public hearing but for the recent political developments in the country. Therefore the bill has not been voted on by the Senate plenary, how then did it die?"
African regional coordinator, Framework Convention Alliance, Adeola Akinremi, disclosed that the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that tobacco kills 5.4 million people every year and if current trend continues, it would kill more than eight million people.
In 2006, from a survey carried out in 11 Lagos State government-owned hospitals, it was discovered that at least two persons die each day from a tobacco-related disease. Also in one single year, about 10 000 cases of tobacco-disease was recorded in Lagos.
Akinremi said: "All we need to do is extrapolate that figure all over the country and we will have an idea of the epidemic we are dealing with.
"ERA/FoEN wishes to condemn in its totality the activities of Senator Adedibu. We demand that he immediately cease from making such statements and ask the Senate leadership to investigate his allegations.
"However, while we still have trust in the Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello-led committee, we are constrained to be apprehensive about the long delay in presenting the bill at plenary. This is the time to complete work on this public health bill. This is the only way to show the world that the committee has not been compromised by the tobacco industry as Senator Adedibu has insinuated.
"Nigerians are dying by the seconds due to tobacco addition while tobacco manufacturers smile to the banks. Every delay is more deaths, more ill-health."

Monday, April 19, 2010

Senator Adedibu and burden of history

Senator Kamarudeen Adedibu representing Oyo South Constituency has been in the news recently not for sponsoring a bill or contributing to a worthwhile debate but for doing something that leaves a burnt taste in the mouth.
Recently at a public relations event by the British American Tobacco Nigeria (BATN) in Iseyin, Mr. Adedibu said categorically that the National Tobacco Control Bill (NTCB), sponsored by respected and distinguished Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora, is dead. Curiously, he went ahead to say the ‘dead’ bill is intended to close down the tobacco industry and with it the jobs of over 600,000 Nigerians who directly derive livelihood from the tobacco industry.
Earlier in July 2009, at a two-day public hearing on the bill organised by the Senate Committee on Health, Mr Adedibu had made the same allegations. Let me state categorically that the statements credited to Mr Adedibu are in bad taste, anti public health and irresponsible of a federal legislator.
The allegations he made are baseless.
Firstly, the NTCB is not about closing down the tobacco industry but about regulating the operations of a company whose product kills 5.4 million people every year. It is about protecting the lives of millions of Nigerian children, who are being targeted to become smokers, those who also labour on a twelve hour shift in the tobacco plantations in Oyo State, represented by Mr. Adedibu.
The bill is to domesticate the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) a treaty of the World Health Organisation (WHO) that seeks to protect the lives of the people from the dangers of tobacco use. Every responsible government the world over has passed one law or another on this.
President Obama has signed two bills into law in one year, limiting the activities of the tobacco industry.
Secondly, the Senate Committee on Health is still working on the bill, which is due to be presented to the House plenary any time from now. How did the Senator get his information that the bill is dead? His motive is to rubbish and tarnish the image of the members of that committee and influence the outcomes of the report to favour the tobacco industry. He has grossly erred against his colleagues and the leadership of the Senate must call him to order immediately.
He has mischievously insisted that the bill is to close down the industry. That means he has not seen even the cover of the bill. Nowhere in the bill was it suggested that the industry should close down. The tobacco industry itself has praised the bill and acknowledged it was not aimed at closing it down. At the public hearing the industry representatives made that clear.
Thirdly, the tobacco industry represented by Tony Okonji at the public hearing stated that it employs less than 1,000 Nigerians. Mr Adedibu has lied to his constituency and Nigerians. I now join the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth to call on him to voluntarily tender his resignation if he has any honour left in him.
How much lower can a senator go? If Mr. Adedibu has turned against the popular culture of investing in the health of the people, of curtailing the activities of the tobacco industry and limiting the inherent dangers, why should we not accuse him of doing the dirty jobs for the tobacco industry? Why should we not ask him to step down while his constituency asks for an account of his stewardship in the Senate?
What about the children age 5-21 years wasting away their prime on the tobacco farms in Irawo Owode. Mr Adedibu should be ashamed of himself for fighting against a bill that would change that situation and for his blind support for the tobacco industry, a rogue industry condemned and ostracized all over the world for the death and disease its products have been shown to cause, but embraced and loved by Mr Kamarudeen Adedibu representing Oyo South Federal Constituency.
Seun Akioye is a media officer at the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Anti-tobacco group calls for resignation of senator

By Ben Ezeamalu

A nongovernmental organisation, the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), has called for the resignation of Kamorudeen Adedibu, a senator representing Oyo West Senatorial district.
The group alleged that the senator lied to his constituency and the Nigerian populace that the National Tobacco Control Bill (NTCB) currently before the National Assembly is dead.
Mr. Adedibu, who was recently at Iseyin Oyo State, to present the keys of a tractor to a farmer as part of the Farmers’ Tractor Scheme of the British American Tobacco Iseyin Agronomy, had earlier alleged that the aim of the bill was to close down tobacco companies in the country, the group said.
‘Baseless and misleading statement’
The nongovernmental organisation, in a statement issued in Lagos, described the senator’s statement as ‘baseless and misleading’ and intended to deceive his constituency and rubbish the Senate.
“This is extremely disappointing of a senator. That Mr. Adedibu who was at the public hearing still continues to feed the public lies that the bill will close down the tobacco industry shows that he did not read the contents of the bill and therefore is not competent to comment on it,” said Akinbode Oluwafemi, ERA/FoEN’s Programme Manager.
Mr. Oluwafemi said that the senator has shown utter disregard for one of the most important life saving bills and questioned his competence.
“It is on record that even the United States government under President Obama has signed into law two bills protecting the young and vulnerable (from) the dangers of tobacco smoking in just one year of his administration. How come Mr. Adedibu is daily wishing Nigeria more deaths from tobacco smoking?” he asked.
Mr. Oluwafemi noted that the senator’s comment is an indication that Nigerians are in for another season of lies, adding that “at a time he said the jobs of 400,000 people was on line because of the bill. Now he is saying 600,000. Where is he getting these spurious figures from? Let him show Nigerians where he obtained the figures.”
Passage of bill imperative
Reiterating ERA/FoEN’s call for the National Assembly to expedite action on the NTCB, Mr. Oluwafemi maintained that the text of the bill does not in any way indicate a closure of tobacco companies, but rather, is in line with global trend which has linked declined tobacco-related deaths with strict tobacco control laws.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Anti-Smoking Bill: How Senate saved .6m jobs

By Oseheye Okwuofu

The Senate says it saved over 600,000 jobs through the Anti-Smoking Bill.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Industries, Kamoru Adedibu, spoke at the weekend in Iseyin, in Oyo State.
Adedibu said 600,000 workers would have lost their jobs.
The senator spoke after presenting a tractor to a farmer in the Farmers’ Tractor Scheme of the British American Tobacco Iseyin Agronomy (BATIA).
He said the Senate reduced the tax regime which had scared away investors.
Adedibu said the Senate also reviewed the bail-out for the textile industries from N200 billion to N300 billion.
"Instead of closing down the tobacco companies, we can regulate the consumption of alcohol in the country, because the closure could affect the lives and fortunes of some people’’, he said.
He advised beneficiaries of the tractor scheme to pay on time to allow others benefit.
Adedibu commended BATIA for contributing to the nation’s economic growth.
Earlier, Head of Leaf BATIA, Thomas Omofoye, said the Iseyin Agronomy has support 850 registered tobacco farmers.
He said 12 farmers have benefited since its inception 10 years ago.
"This is in line with our belief that our business partners should have the opportunity to benefit from their relationship with us’’, Omofoye said.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Anti-smoking Bill Dead, Says Adedibu

-Tunde Sanni in Ibadan.

Chairman, Senate Committee on Industries, Senator Kamoru Adedibu has hinted that the much-touted Anti-smoking Bill, which has entered the third reading stage at the upper legislative house, is dead.
Adedibu, who spoke with newsmen in Iseyin, Oyo North senatorial district expressed fear that the success of the bill could impact negatively on the socio-economic fortunes of the country.
Speaking shortly after presenting key of a tractor to a farmer in the Farmers' Tractor Scheme of the British American Tobacco Iseyin Agronomy (BATIA), argued that the rate of unemployment coupled with the downturn in the nation's economy were not favourable on the timing of the bill.
He stated that the upper legislative chamber in order to facilitate investment friendly environment has reduced the prohibitive tax regime, which hitherto has been scaring investors away from the country.Adedibu contended that the Senate has also reviewed upward the bail out for the textile industries, which has been allegedly hanging between the Federal Ministry of Finance, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Bank of Industries (BOI) from N200 billion to N300 billion.
He hinted that the success of the bill could spell doom for about 600,000 workers who are eking their living from the tobacco companies in the country.
“Instead of closing down the tobacco companies, we can regulate the consumption of alcohol in the country because the closure could affect the lives and fortunes of some people.He advised the beneficiaries of the tractor scheme to ensure prompt repayment of the money to allow other farmers benefit from the scheme.
Adedibu commended BATIA for contributing to the economic growth of the country with its employment status of Nigerians and assured that the country has benefited immensely from the establishment of the tobacco company in the country.Earlier in his speech, the Head of Leaf BATIA, Thomas Omofoye hinted that the Iseyin Agronomy has provided direct support to some 850 registered tobacco farmers.


Friday, April 9, 2010

Will ban on cigarette logo stop smoking?

By Imaobong Udo

GOVERNMENTS across the globe have continued to take concrete steps to reduce deaths associated with cigarette smoking.

For instance, the United Kingdom (UK) is planning to ensure that cigarettes are sold in plain packets under new plans to halve the number of people who smoke.
The UK Health Secretary, Mr Andy Burnham, said the government would reduce the number of nicotine addicts by eight to four million in the next 10 years.
He said: “Now that we have banned advertising and will soon see an end to attractive displays in shops, the only remaining method of advertising tobacco is the packaging. So, we will carefully consider whether there is evidence for making tobacco companies use plain packets.”
He added that the packets would only show the brand name in text.
The UK Government also wants to target the estimated 200,000 young people who take up smoking every year.
Burnham said: “Government should and will do everything in its power to protect young people.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that tobacco caused 5.4 million deaths in 2004 and 100 million deaths over the course of the 20th century.
Similarly, the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention described tobacco use as the single most important preventable risk to human health in developed countries which also include about 600,000 premature deaths per year, numerous crippling illnesses and economic losses.
According to WHO, smoke contains several carcinogenic pyrolytic products that bind to DNA and cause many genetic mutations. There are over 19 known chemical carcinogens in cigarette smoke. Tobacco also contains nicotine, which is a highly addictive psychoactive chemical. When tobacco is smoked, nicotine causes physical and psychological dependency. Tobacco use is a significant factor in miscarriages among pregnant smokers, it contributes to a number of other threats to the health of the foetus such as premature births and low birth weight and increases by 1.4 to 3 times the chance for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
The effects of smoking on human health are serious and in many cases, deadly. There are approximately 4,000 chemicals in cigarettes, hundreds of which are toxic. The ingredients in cigarettes affect everything from the internal functioning of organs to the efficiency of the body's immune system.
When people think of cancers caused by smoking, the first one that comes to mind is always lung cancer. Most cases of lung cancer death, close to 90 per cent in men, and 80 cent per in women are caused by cigarette smoking. There are several other forms of cancer attributed to smoking as well, and they include cancer of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, bladder, stomach, cervix, kidney and pancreas, and acute leukaemia.
The list of additives allowed in the manufacture of cigarettes consists of 599 possible ingredients. When burned, cigarette smoke contains over 4000 chemicals, with over 40 of them being known carcinogens.
Speaking on the issue, the Project Officer, Environmental Rights Action (ERA), Mr Philip Jakpor, said the issue was not about the change in logo.
He said: “The real issue is ensuring that there are appropriate labels that are legible. Health warnings and pictorials that are legible enough and cover at least half of the cigarettes pack. So it is not really the issue of logo. As we know, most of the cigarettes pack that we see bears in the body, 'the Ministry of Health says smoking is injurious to your health.'
“We believe that is not appropriate enough because the tobacco companies have not taken the responsibility seriously. They are not telling you that smoking is dangerous, but they are telling you that the Ministry of Health says so.
“What they should do is to tell us that the product can kill, it can cause cancer, it can cause impotency in men, and that tobacco use leads to diseases affecting the heart and lungs, with smoking being a major risk factor for heart attacks, strokes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, and cancer (particularly lung cancer, cancers of the larynx and mouth, and pancreatic cancer). It also causes peripheral vascular disease and hypertension, all developed due to the exposure time and the level of dosage of tobacco. The higher level of tar content in the tobacco filled cigarettes causes the greater risk of these diseases. Due to higher levels of tar content in Third World countries, people who smoke in the developing countries are more vulnerable to diseases. Poorer nations also lack the inclusion of filters that richer nations have. However, the mortality rate does not show a significant decrease due to filters as many people, filter or no filter, die due to the main reason being their addiction and intake of tobacco.”
Jakpor added that Nigeria was signatory and ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). The law on the tobacco health warnings is in Article 11 which requires each party to the FCTC. It requires effective measures to ensure that tobacco products packaging and labelling carry large, rotating health warnings and do not promote tobacco products by false, misleading or deceptive means.
According to him, studies have shown that when people are informed and have the right of choice, they will decide to smoke or not and that when people know the dangers of smoking, they are likely not to smoke, but those who cannot read and write, when they see the bold pictures that are shown on the cigarettes packs, which shows what smoking is likely to result in, they are likely to refrain from smoking.
“But we are operating in the system where those things are not put in place and as such people do not have choice. People will just see beautiful cigarette packs and without reading the content, they start smoking it. “Tobacco companies glamorise smoking. Even in movies, we are made to believe that those who are hyper are actually the ones smoking, but in reality, these things are not so and unfortunately smoking has cut short so many lives, like top musicians, actors, journalists, doctors, commissioners, and top politicians.
“Even in countries like Canada, they make sure they put small pamphlet inside their cigarette packs which read: 'You can quit smoking,' and adds that; 'Tobacco products are highly addictive.' The implication now is your choice on whether to smoke or not. But with the kind of tobacco companies we have in Nigeria and their products, these things are not there, people are not informed rather what they do is to organise smoking parties and encourage people to smoke and called it Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
“Social responsibility is all about giving back to the society. But you can ask yourself what are the tobacco companies giving to the society other than death. What they are giving to the society is death, so if they give death to the society and they go to one community in Oyo State and give the farmers fertiliser, what they are doing is for the farmers to continue to grow their products and they called that CSR.
“So, our position is that Nigeria signed the FCTC and they should be able to domesticate it so that we will be able to reduce the tobacco-related deaths.
“I had an opportunity of talking with a man in Mbodiene in Senegal when I saw his teeth being completely rotten and damaged because of smoking. Merely looking at his teeth, it was all gone, I now asked him, 'Do you know that what you are doing is bad? The man said he knew, but he could not stop smoking.
“I asked him again; “Will you like your children to smoke? He said he would do everything to stop them from smoking.
“In every cigarette stick, you have contents like nicotine which is what get people so addicted to smoking and other deadly chemicals like formaldehyde which is the chemical that is used to preserve dead bodies in the mortuary. We also have carbon monoxide, methane and other dangerous chemicals. Naturally, anybody you tell that a stick of cigarette contains all these dangerous chemicals should be able to withdraw from smoking. But some of them find it very difficult to stop because of the nicotine which is the addictive substance which tobacco companies deliberately infuse in it to get people hooked to it,” Jakpor added.
According to him, WHO says if health warnings and pictorials are on cigarette packs, it will reduce the number of people who smoke because they will now see the contents of what they want to inhale.
The ERA project officer also called for the domestication of the FCTC and its provision which Nigeria signed in 2004 and ratified in 2005.
He said: “Once we domesticate it and start to implement, enforce and monitor it, this will actually help to reduce the number of smokers.
“We succeeded in getting Abuja to go smoke-free last year, now you cannot smoke publicly in Abuja. All over the world, we have what we call smoke-free public places. For instance, people do not smoke in schools, buses, restaurants, parks, even at airports and every other open place. If you travel out of the country, you find out that this is exactly what is happening. It is not that people don't smoke, they do, but they smoke in certain hidden places. But unfortunately, because of the weak laws we have in this country, you see people smoking anywhere they like. But if there is a strong law and the law is enforced like what we did in Abuja which was very successful, Nigeria will a be better place for all to live.”