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Thursday, February 12, 2009

ERA lauds Senate over anti-tobacco bill

Press Release
February 12, 2009

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has commended the Senate for giving overwhelming support to the National Tobacco Control Bill 2009, which scaled the second reading last Wednesday, saying the bill, when passed into law, will have "far-reaching" implications on the well-being of Nigerians.

ERA/FoEN, in a reaction to the Senate mandate to its Committee on Health to process a bill to control the manufacture, sale and advertising of tobacco products, among others, said the decision marks a "turning point" in the torturous campaign to put a rein on tobacco-related deaths in the country.

The bill makes it an offence to sell or market tobacco products to persons under the age of 18 and imposes a fine not exceeding N50,000 or imprisonment of a term not exceeding six months or both on violators. It also prohibits sale of cigarettes by the sticks, all forms of advertisements, sponsorships, testimonials and promotion.

Senate Deputy Minority Leader, Olorunnimbe Adeleke Mamora who sponsored the bill noted strongly that while the much-hyped British American Tobacco Nigeria (BATN) operations have provided jobs for less than 1,000 Nigerians, it is responsible for the death and ill-health of several thousands .

"This is a positive rhythm coming from the Senate because the overwhelming support the bill received is a clear indication that the Distinguished Members of the Senate have acted in tandem with the wishes and aspirations of Nigerians that appropriate legislation are urgently needed to curtail the activities the tobacco industry and rescue millions of Nigerians from the pangs of tobacco addiction," said ERA/FoEN Programme Manager Mr. Akinbode Oluwafemi.

Oluwafemi said that the Senate opted for a fast-track of the passage of the bill shows they understand the magnitude of the tobacco menace on the lives of Nigerians and particularly the under-aged that are conscripted into smoking through dubious marketing tactics.

"This laudable step by the Senate strengthens our belief that our campaign to ensure that government domesticates provisions of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) which Nigeria signed and ratified alongside over 160 countries will become a reality as soon as possible.

"We urge Members of the Senate not to allow themselves be to distracted by tobacco industry lobbyists and look forward to a complete ban on sale of cigarettes in sticks and the introduction of warning labels that will cover 50 per cent of cigarette pack and ultimately, high taxes on tobacco products, Oluwafemi noted.

Philip Jakpor
Media Officer