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Monday, July 20, 2009

Ban on tobacco: Senators to vote by name, says Mark

Ayodele Adegbuyi

Senate President, David Mark, has said that when the decision on whether to ban tobacco smoking would be taken at plenary, "every senator will vote... by name."
Mark, who declared open a two-day public hearing on the amendment of Tobacco Control Act 1990, also said that the vote of senators will depend on where each stands between health and economy.
He, however, noted that there was intense pressure from either side, but cautioned those allegedly spreading the rumour that the legislators might have been gratified to sway their vote on the bill.
He said: "Every senator will answer his name. It is not a Bill to be decided by voice vote. Everybody will be made to say 'yes' or 'no' so that the pubic will know where we stand on topical issues like this.
"For a serious bill like this to go through the next reading, people will have to really say where they stand.
"We stand between health and economy that is the truth of the matter. People who are against it are worried about the impact on the health of Nigerians and people who are for it are saying well, the nation stands to benefit from it. The simple question is, 'when do you begin to worry about economy is it when you are dead or when you are alive? And we have to take that decision.
"For me, I am very neutral in this exercise, absolutely neural, and thank God, I don't vote. But the fact remains that all over the world, there appears to be some level of resistance against smoking and people are told in very clear terms that if they do, they take a personal risk.
" Of course, individuals have a right to do what they want. But whether an individual has a right to do something that will affect his life and at the end lead to death is another.
"I admit that there are strong lobbyists on both sides. No doubt about that. The manufacturers are lobbying, likewise those who are against it.
"There are so many things to be considered. Trying to stop Nigerians from smoking is one thing, getting the industry going so that people can be gainfully employed is another thing."