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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