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Monday, December 20, 2010

Tobacco: The ruthless killer next door 1

Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye, a notable essayist and columnist says that smokers are burning their lungs...

Today, as I allow my mind to endure the oppressive thought that tobacco still remains the ruthless killer next door, what then shall we call its producers and distributors? The answer can only be simple and straightforward: They are people who prosper at the expense of other people’s lives. They make their billions by ruining other people’s health, and eventually terminating their lives. They should therefore not complain if anyone refers to them as proud, happy, licensed murderers

Packs of Killer Poison

How these people are able to deaden their conscience to go on prospering and sustaining their own lives by producing and marketing a scientifically confirmed poison whose only benefit is its ability to cruelly terminate the lives of their fellow human beings beats me hollow? Tobacco never adds even the tiniest value to life; it only destroys it completely. Without mercy. This is a fact nobody has even attempted to deny.

The Nigerian president should put the concern for the lives of many Nigerians above his often whispered personal tastes and habits and take another look at the massive freedom granted by his predecessor to tobacco companies to fill Nigeria with their neatly wrapped and attractively packaged killer poison called cigarettes. If he cannot immediately ban the production of cigarettes in Nigeria, he should, at least, put in place stricter regulations that would ensure that tobacco manufacturing would automatically become a very unprofitable venture in Nigeria. 

I call on Nigerians with lively conscience and genuine friends of Nigeria, to join this clearly winnable battle, to flush these heartless fellows out of Nigeria. The question I have always asked cigarette producers is: can they boldly come out in the open and assure me that the commodity they manufacture and distribute to hapless individuals cannot be rightly classified as poison? Again, they should tell me one single benefit the human body derives from smoking cigarettes. Has it not been convincingly proved everywhere, and publicly admitted even by tobacco producers, that tobacco is a merciless killer, an unrelenting cannibal that devours a man when his life is sweetest to him?  If then tobacco is a proven killer, can’t those who manufacture and circulate it in society be classified as murderers? Hasn’t even our own Federal Ministry of Health been shouting and warning us with passion, sense of urgency and alarm that TOBACCO SMOKERS ARE LIABLE TO DIE YOUNG?

What the Health Ministry here is saying is very simple: Anyone offering you a cigarette is only wishing you an untimely death. In fact, he is just saying to you: May you die young! That is exactly what tobacco companies, including the government that issued them the license to transact their deadly trade in Nigeria are wickedly wishing their Nigerian victims! Yes, tobacco companies manufacture products that make people to die young. How wicked and heartless could they be!

Before now, these tobacco companies would erect fresh, beautiful billboards, and fill several pages of newspapers and magazines with glossy adverts. Unfortunately, that option is no longer available to them, because of the ban on outdoor advertising of their lethal products. I am glad that those pleasant pictures of vivacious achievers smiling home with glittering laurels just because they were hooked to particular brands of cigarette which used to adorn glossy billboards and magazine pages, and which had proved irresistible baits to several people, especially youths, have now vanished from the public domain. 

As a youth, the elegant, gallant, athletic rodeo man whose image marketed the 555 brand of cigarette was my best idea of a handsome, hard-working winner. My friends and I admired him, carried his photographs about, and yearned to smoke 555 in order to grow up and become energetic and vivacious like him. One wonders how many youths that have been terminally impaired because they went beyond mere fantasies or obsession with their cigarette heroes and became chain-smokers and irredeemable addicts. Managers of tobacco adverts are so adept in this grand art of monumental deception that their victims never suspect any harm until they have willingly placed their heads on the slaughter slab. Indeed, only very few are able to look beyond the meretricious pictures and the pernicious pomp of cigarette promotional stunt and see the blood-curdling pictures of piecemeally ruined lungs and other sensitive organs, murky, chimney-like breath tracts and heart region, the looming merciless and spine-chilling fangs of an all devouring cancer, tuberculosis, sundry lung and heart diseases, and their associate unyielding killers. 

Group seeks quick passage of anti-tobacco bill



The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria on Sunday stated that the passage of the National Tobacco Control Bill by the Senate was being stalled by the absence of the Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello.
The bill which, according to the group, was sponsored by Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora from Lagos State, was scheduled to be presented for third reading last Thursday but was stood down due to the absence of Obasanjo-Bello.
The bill has been in the Senate since 2008 and is a comprehensive law that will regulate the manufacture, sales, distribution and marketing of tobacco products in Nigeria.
A statement by ERA/FoEN’s Director (Corporate Accountability and Administration), Mr. Akinbode Oluwafemi, said it was disturbing that the bill had suffered another setback. The group urged the Senate to give it proper treatment.
He said it was a comprehensive law that would save the lives of millions of Nigerians, if passed.
Oluwafemi said, “We find it disturbing that the National Tobacco Control Bill should suffer this setback again. We think the Senate should accord the bill the importance it deserves. It is a comprehensive law that is designed to save millions of lives now and in the future.
“The tobacco control bill is a bill for the next generation and it should be treated with the utmost importance that it deserves. We are sad that once again, we seem to have missed a very important opportunity.”
Oluwafemi, however, praised the efforts made on the bill so far adding. “We salute the courage of the members of Senate who have worked on the bill in the last two years, we commend the maturity displayed by members of the health committee and especially the Senate President, David Mark, for his support. We hope the Senate will continue deliberations on the bill at the earliest opportunity.”

Monday, November 29, 2010

The African Tobacco Control Consortium Launches a Virtual Resource Centre for Tobacco Control

Lagos - The African Tobacco Control Consortium (ATCC), a coalition of public health organizations focused on preventing  the tobacco epidemic in Africa,  coordinated by the American Cancer Society in partnership with the Africa Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA), Africa Tobacco Control Regional Initiative (ATCRI) Framework Convention Alliance (FCA), Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK), and the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) is unveiling its virtual resource centre today -

Visitors to this multilingual website will find extensive information on a wide range of tobacco control issues and highlights on various happenings around tobacco control in the sub-Saharan African region. More so, the trilingual (English, French and Portuguese) website provides information about the different components of the ATCC project including grants, technical assistance and how it plans to support tobacco control advocates and organisations in this part of the continent.

Furthermore, this unique  one-stop e-warehouse for tobacco control resources  dedicated to sub-Saharan Africa houses a virtual library in which materials relevant to tobacco issues and its control specific to 
this region can be accessed. It is planned that the site will be interactive in the nearest future in order to stimulate debates on current and pertinent tobacco control issues, as well as provide space for experience sharing among tobacco control stakeholders in the region.

Above all, the site shall be updated regularly and shall highlight tobacco control profiles of the 46 countries of the sub-Saharan African region as defined by WHO as well as offer an in-depth knowledge on each country through collated researches and studies. 

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Reducing tobacco-related deaths in Africa

-Alexander Chiejina

As stakeholders advocate passage of Nigeria Tobacco Control Bill

African nations seem poised to undergo the highest increase in the rate of tobacco use among developing countries. This is as about 90 percent of people on the continent, perhaps, remain without meaningful protection from second-hand smoke.
Earlier this year, it was estimated that smoking will claim the lives of six million people globally in 2010, 72 percent of whom reside in low and middle-income countries, Nigeria inclusive. However, it is believed that if current trends continue, tobacco may kill seven million people annually by 2020 and more than eight million people annually by 2030.
Following health risks associated with tobacco consumption, which according to health experts is the second leading cause of death (after hypertension) and currently responsible for the death of one in 10 adults globally, experts are of the view that enacting effective policies towards reducing tobacco consumption in Nigeria will go a long way in saving the lives of people.
In an interview with BusinessDay, Akinbode Oluwafemi, programme manager, Environmental Rights in Nigeria/ Friends of the Earth, said cigarette contains about 4000 toxic and cancer-causing chemicals which are responsible for most cases of lung cancer.
While acknowledging the fact that smoking causes various forms of cancer, Akinbode noted that measures aimed at reducing smoking in Europe and America has driven the tobacco industry to developing countries like Nigeria, where the industry continues to flout regulations, marketing to young and impressionable youths, and ity, there is the need for Nigeria to key into WHO”s FCTC which seeks to protect people from the consequences of tobacco consumption by reducing the demand for and supply of tobacco, call for stronger tax and price measures, regulation of tobacco advertisements and the introduction of strong health messages on tobacco packages, adopting protective measures against exposure to tobacco smoke, the lives of Nigerians would greatly be protected.
It is noteworthy to state that in about less than two years, Kenya and Niger Republic enacted national smoke-free policies, and South Africa, which has been smoke-free since 2007, demonstrated that smoke-free laws could work in Africa. In what seemed as a first for the region, Mauritius recently passed a law that hooking them on smoking.
“Several African countries are fighting against the tobacco industry‘s aggressive campaigns to stop public health interventions by putting smoke-free laws into place, probably protecting more than 100 million more people since 2007. Smoke-free public places are one example of a low-cost and extremely effective intervention that must be implemented now to protect health,” he observed.
For Tosin Orogun, programme manager, Africa Tobacco Control Regional Initiative, Nigeria, “the World Health Organisation insists that strong worldwide enforcement and implementation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) could save 200 million lives by the year 2050.”
Orogun stated that though Nigeria signed the FCTC, which had been ratified by over 168 countries since 2005, there have been deaths relating to tobacco, especially cancer.
As parties to the global tobacco treaty begin their biennial meeting in Uruguay, the African Tobacco Control Consortium (ATCC), a coalition of global and African public health organisations focused on preventing the tobacco epidemic in Africa, there is the need to ensure that adoption of effective guidelines on Article 9 & 10 of WHO’s FCTC which seeks to promote smoke- free environment which tobacco multinationals’ are alleging to scuttle.
At the moment, only Osun, Cross River States and the Federal Capital Territory have passed the law prohibiting people from smoking tobacco in the public in Nigeria. Giving this realCancer
and challenge of management in Nigeriais close to meeting the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control standards, ranking among the most robust anti-smoking measures in the world.
The National Tobacco Control Bill (NTCB), which seeks to prohibit tobacco smoking in places and is now before the National Assembly, saw over 45 non-governmental organisations (NGOs), including local and international organisations, making presentations in support of the bill.
Since the Public Hearing in July 2009, Nigerians and other stakeholders in public health including Babatunde Osotimehin, former health minister; Umar Modibbo, former FCT minister, Nigerians are expecting Senator Iyabo-Obasanjo Bello, chairman, Committee on Health at the National Assembly to return the bill to plenary for adoption. But for how long will the hope of 150 million people be eventually realised?
Stakeholders are of the view that when 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.


Barring a last-minute problem in plenary today, delegates can go home with the satisfaction of having collectively stood up to the biggest tobacco industry assault on the FCTC process that we have seen to date.

Over the last year, the tobacco industry has orchestrated a global public relations campaign to head off adoption of (partial) guidelines on Articles 9 & 10. This involved outlandish claims that “WHO bureaucrats” were trying to ban burley tobacco, or that restrictions on additives used to make cigarettes attractive to children would put burley farmers out of business.

In the end, despite the press conferences, “studies” and extensive lobbying by the industry and its front groups, despite the demonstrations outside the conference venue, Parties were not fooled. After some drama last night in Committee A, they found compromise language to satisfy China and the guidelines were accepted.
Shortly thereafter came a second victory for tobacco control: Committee A accepted the idea of a working group on Article 6, which deals with price and tax measures. The European Union, which had opposed the idea only 24 hours earlier, not only bowed to the collective will of numerous developing countries but announced it would participate in the group, possibly even as a key facilitator. China and Japan, the only other opponents, dropped their objections without comment.

This is potentially a major gain for the FCTC: the working group should help integrate finance ministries into tobacco control. Tobacco tax increases are the single most effective short-term measure to reduce tobacco consumption, but are often blocked by lack of awareness in finance ministries of the added revenue (and public health gains) to be made. Of course, setting up the working group is only the first step – now delegates will have to work hard to ensure the right people get sent to the meetings, and we can assume the tobacco industry will lobby very hard, at COP-5 or COP-6, against the adoption of strong and effective Article 6 guidelines.

As Committee A drew to a close, there were further gains, with the important decision to initiate work on Article 19 to support Parties in effective liability strategies, as well as steps forward in the FCTC reporting system.

With these victories, as well as the approval of Articles 12 and 14 guidelines and measures to combat tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship on Thursday, Committee A delegates can go home tired but satisfied.

Committee B delegates have a little more work to do. While progress was made yesterday, with the adoption of important decisions on financial resources, mechanisms of assistance and international co-operation, and South- South co-operation, a final decision on the budget must be made this morning. Substantial lack of clarity in last night's session will make this a difficult task.

But there were also encouraging signs, with extra budgetary contributions announced and a creative solution found to make up the US$600,000 deficit expected in the proposed zero nominal increase budgets. Today, Committee B is urged to adopt a budget that matches Committee A's commitment and supports the vision of the FCTC.

-Extracted from the FCA COP 4 bulletin – issue 110 (front page)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

New report exposes how tobacco companies undermine WHO health policy : Uruguay proposes resolution calling for unity in face of tobacco industry interference

 A new investigative report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists
 exposes a wide range of tactics employed by the tobacco industry to undermine advances being made by the global tobacco treaty – Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). Threats to health policy include aggressive lobbying and legal intimidation, to charitable donations and even outright payoffs.

Even as Parties- including delegates from Nigeria’s ministry of health and other countries are discussing how to overcome such obstacles – the primary threat in advancing a treaty the World Health Organization projects could save 200 million lives by 2050 – industry tactics have followed countries to this week’s treaty negotiations in Uruguay.

Not only are dozens of tobacco industry representatives from Philip Morris and British America Tobacco (BAT) crowding the halls of the negotiation each day, they are also playing a role in the seating of delegates in attendance. These delegates are the eyes, ears, and voice piece of an industry that has otherwise been prohibited from directly participating in the negotiations and health policy under a core provision of the treaty.

One example is Zimbabwe, a non-Party observer. Despite being cash strapped the country somehow mustered the funds to send 10 delegates to Uruguay days after a prominent tobacco industry front group disparaged guidelines being negotiated this week to the Wall Street Journal. To put this in perspective, more than 35 ratifyingcountries were unable to send even a single representative. Worse, though the treaty requires that health policies and negotiations being protective from “commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry,” Zimbabwe’s delegation includes representatives from the Tobacco Industry Marketing Board, as well as ministries whose priority is either trade or agriculture.

“A reminder is needed that we are here to devise solutions to save people’s lives,” said Sam Ochieng of the Network for Accountability of Tobacco Trans-nationals and Consumer Information Network Kenya. “Progress is not possible if the long arm of industry is able to reach into and manipulate a conversation that rightly excludes Big Tobacco.”

“The report by the International Consortium of Investigative  Journalists is revealing. It is not surprising that Philip Morris is instituting a suit against the Uruguay government for introducing warning labels on cigarettes sold in the country or the presence of tobacco industry representatives in the halls during negotiations. Parties must however be be vigilant to the avowed intentions of the industry to fight provisions that prohibit them from interfering in the process,” said Philip Jakpor of Environmental Rights Action. 

Tobacco growing countries like Zimbabwe may be the most brazen, but are not unique when it comes to sending representatives from ministries whose objectives may be at odds with the treaty’s guiding principle that the public’s health be prioritized over trade. Of the 438 Party delegates listed in the provisional list of participants, 74 delegates represent ministries other than health. Egregious examples include Macedonia’s delegation which has no health ministry representation. Of its 19 member delegation, China sent five delegates from its state-owned tobacco corporation.

While some non-health ministries may have legitimate reason for inclusion in a delegation, such as representation from finance ministries in anticipation of discussions regarding tobacco taxation; for others such appointments further expose the primary obstacle to treaty implementation – the fact that industry has a voice it shouldn’t within government in deciding health policy.      

“This is not to say the vast majority of countries here are not acting with integrity, just that parties must be unified in challenging tobacco industry interference for the treaty to progress,” said Corporate Accountability International’s Latin America Director Yul Francisco Dorado.

In this vein, Uruguay has proposed a resolution calling for parties to stand together in confronting the manner of legal intimidation it and other countries are now facing from Philip Morris International.

Corporate Accountability International and its partners which ERA is part of, are pushing for the inclusion of a provision giving the secretariat representing the parties to the treaty a voice during legal proceedings.