Thursday, July 30, 2009
I stand this day, before, not only you, fellow colleagues and executives, but before my conscience and the inscrutable eyes of History. I stand condemned, lampooned and almost lifeless.
I am resigning my position as Chief Executive Officer of the Western Cigarettes International Company here, knowing now that the party for me, for us and the illegal trade of the most advertised, yet one of the most dangerous substances known to man, is over. And because the weight in my heart can no longer allow me to continue to work as CEO.
I’ll tell you a story before I walk out the door this cold and uncomfortable morning.
Last night, my eight-year old son who attends the British Make-Over Worldwide School here in Lagos walked up to me, hands akimbo.
“Daddy, is it true that you are a murderer?” He asked.
I was shell shocked, but mustered the strength to ask him “Why, Brandy? Who the hell put that idea in your small head?”
“It’s Johnny, my class mate. He said his Daddy told him that you make a product that kills people, and that you have already killed millions of people world wide. Dad, do you kill people for a living?”
Before I could collect myself, my son proceeded to give me a lecture in morality, and queried why I sell packaged death. But unlike his mother (from whom I am now divorced, any way), I couldn’t shout him down and argue my way through. I was caught in a trough of condemnation.
With unsteady hands I walked into my study, slumped into a chair, and the result of the soul searching that followed is the paper I hold in my hand today.
(Oh, yes, I divorced his mother for pissing me off all the time, yelling at me to get out of the controversial business of marketing disease and death through addiction. And she never failed to remind me daily that I neither smoke nor allow our son to, yet work day and night to addict other people’s children. Two years ago, I filed for divorce).
You may I am throwing in the towel particularly because of the nightmarish turn of events in Nigeria , our biggest market in Sub-Saharan Africa. In your minds, you may have already condemned me, thinking it’s because of the recent hearing at the National Assembly on the National Tobacco Control Bill, a huge bad news for our business if allowed to be passed because it will mean stricter legislation, no doubt, what with high taxes, gory pictures of cancerous bodies on tobacco packs, ban on smoking in ALL public places, and the stuff that just anybody could sue us for damage.
You might even have assumed that it’s because of the outcome of our last meeting when, in despair, we analyzed the impact of the recent Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act passed by the US Congress which will empower the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate tobacco like hard drugs! No doubt, it is historical and will bring a sweeping change not only to tobacco use in the USA , but send ripple effects world wide. It perhaps fulfills, in installment, the prophecy of one of our repentant former executive that tobacco will be outlawed one day. But that is not exactly why I am leaving.
I haven’t related this fully before, but the fact is that I have killed people, old and young, in installments, for three decades. I started out in North Carolina , the biggest tobacco farming state in the USA as a salesman. So immense was my marketing skill that in five years, I had enlisted 10 of my friends and 12 family members into the smoking club (by the way, five are already dead of lung cancer), emerged as the district’s ‘Best Marketer of the Year’ thrice and had been employed as a senior marketing personnel in St. Moses Incorporated. That was about 30 years ago, a decade after the US Surgeon-General, for the first time, declared that smoking was dangerous to health. In the 20 years that I worked in the USA , we battled all kinds of opposition in the face of emerging knowledge. But we found ways round the missiles including the 1971 ban on tobacco advertising on television and radio and the 1988 rules against smoking on airline flights. And of course, the 1998 $206 Billion “Master Settlement” agreement that seven tobacco companies reached with 46 states in 1998 to resolve lawsuits and change their marketing practices. The media hawks were also on our necks, revealing secret industry documents which outlined how we planned to addict youngsters, the use of the different flavours to attract target groups, the cliché about 60 carcinogens and 4,000 toxins in cigarette smokes bla bla bla. Life itself is a battlefront, isn’t it?
But we soldiered. Soon we discovered the developing nations with their low level of health education, weak legislations and ‘flexible’ government officials would provide economic shoulders to weep on.
And, in no time I was easily spotted as one with the business acumen to explore the vast and fertile Chinese market. By the time I left China , five years later, the Asian giant had become one of our greatest success stories, with billions of dollars rolling in yearly. But in retrospect now, I remember that we had also contributed significantly in preparing China to grow into the epicenter of a tobacco epidemic. As at the last count, if you remember, the WHO says China has the highest rate of tobacco-related mortality globally with one million people dying every year from cancers of the lungs, bladder, heart disease, stroke, emphysema, gangrene and countless other tobacco-induced ailments. Not to talk of the thousands of others sickened and killed via second hand tobacco smoke.
In any case, I went on to consolidate our company’s success in India . Our experiment with ‘refined bidi’ and also other forms of smokeless tobacco became the model for the horde of international companies converging and feeding fat on other Third World economies. But I had to leave four years later despite the breakthroughs there. It was also too obvious that India was about exploding: one billion sticks of cigarettes up in smoke every day; highest incidence of oral cancer in the world; One third of all cancer patients in the world based in India ; 1 out of 10 Indian adults dying of tobacco related diseases. These WHO-backed statistics were more than we could chew and the activists’ bickering became more than we could swallow, so I picked my suitcase and left.
It was then I got called on the Nigerian mission. And the rest, you know, is recent history.
I have understandably been so mad by the activities of the irritants here called the anti-tobacco activists, to erode the monumental success we‘ve recorded in less than a decade of our re-entry into Nigeria . As you know, Mr. Sanjo, the ex-while ruler spoilt us silly. Of course in 2000, he left behind state matters to come to our head office in order to sign our MOU bringing us to his country as ‘foreign investors’. I remember that night, the other executives and I had a loud Champaign party in London and wondered if Africans would ever learn. We couldn’t help but marveled how a country would give us such a presidential welcome when we were being driven from ours! Who were his advisers? Anyway, that was his business. After all, ours was cigarette making and marketing.
And, you still remember all our marketing gimmicks, how we targeted youths through musical and sporting events, women through fashion shows, and bombarded everyone through aggressive advertising. We also hyped our corporate image through a contrived CSR. Whenever our activities are questioned, we put up the usual defense about smoking being a matter of choice. But, c’mon, it’s no secret that when someone comes into contact with a nicotine-laced cigarette, he no longer has a choice other than to drag and drag and drag until he/she is dragged into the grave! I am still amazed the world bought that dummy from us in the first place.
Well, I must say in the last seven years I have enjoyed the famous Nigerian hospitality. In the office here, I have enjoyed your cooperation, your camaraderie and team spirits. But today, I leave this question for you; ‘Are you prepared to ask the stigma-tainted question that I couldn’t face last night?’ For sooner or later, they will ask you. You may want to ruminate on that, and walk out the way that I soon will. Or sit still, in shame.
I cannot be a part of my son’s future, for that future is full of questions, stigma and naked shame. But please tell him, by the time I am gone, that I died a broken and remorseful man. Tell him that I really was a murderer, but then I died a repented murderer. Perhaps he can right the wrongs by salvaging his generation, by telling them about the death that lurks in tobacco use, the same death I marketed for three decades. No, I am not fit to live.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Monday, July 27, 2009
Single sticks go fast at 7 cents each — an especially good price point for kids. And while Yakubu says he doesn't sell to children, other shopkeepers do. About 25% of teens — some as young as 13 — use tobacco in some parts of Nigeria, double the smoking rate of Nigerian men, and many pick up the habit by age 11. That's a demographic powder keg, one that means big trouble if you're a health expert and big promise if you're a tobacco executive. Both sides agree on one thing, though: across all of Africa, cigarettes are set for boom times. (See pictures of vintage pro-smoking propaganda.)
In recent years, the world has increasingly been cleaving into two zones: smoking and nonsmoking. In the U.S. and other developed countries, Big Tobacco is in retreat, chased to the curbs by a combination of lawsuits, smoking bans, rising taxes and advertising restrictions. Fewer than 20% of adult Americans now smoke — the lowest rate since reliable records have been kept — and a tobacco crackdown is under way in Europe, Canada and elsewhere. In April, Congress boosted federal cigarette taxes threefold, from 32 cents a pack to $1. In June, President Barack Obama signed a law giving the FDA the power to regulate cigarettes like any other food or drug.
But the West is not the world, and elsewhere smoking is exploding. In China, 350 million adults are hooked on tobacco, which means the country has more smokers than the U.S. has people. Smoking rates in Indonesia have quintupled since 1970. In Russia, boys as young as 10 start lighting up. This year, tobacco companies will produce more than 5 trillion cigarettes — or 830 for every person on the planet.
It's in Africa, however, that the battle for the hearts, minds and lungs of new smokers is being waged most aggressively — and Nigeria offers a telling look at how the fight is unfolding. For all the woes that beset the continent, Africa still enjoys the lowest smoking rates in the world, largely because most people just can't afford it. In Ghana, the male smoking rate (which in most places in the world is higher than the female rate) is only 8%; in the Democratic Republic of Congo, it's 14%; in Nigeria, it's 12%. Compare that with 31% in India, 56% in Malaysia and a whopping 61% in China. But the tobacco industry abhors a vacuum, and in recent years, industry players — principally London-based British American Tobacco, Switzerland- based Philip Morris International and the U.K.'s Imperial Tobacco — have been working hard to fill it. "We've done this before," says Allan Brandt, a professor of the history of science at Harvard University and the author of The Cigarette Century. "When something gets regulated here, we move the risk offshore." Says Michael Eriksen, a former policy adviser for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Africa is in play." (See how many people smoke around the world.)
Spreading the ScourgeBig Tobacco's footprint in Africa has been hard to miss for a while. British American markets its wares — which include Dunhill and Pall Mall — in a vast crescent sweeping from South Africa to Congo and west to Ghana, as well as throughout North Africa. In 2003 the company planted its stakes deeper, building a $150 million factory in Nigeria. Philip Morris, whose brands include Marlboro and Chesterfield, has a smaller presence on the continent. "We are a minor, minor player," says spokesman Greg Prager. But that could change. The company does no business in Nigeria, but it controls about 15% of the market across North Africa and has a scattered 10% share elsewhere. It has also built a new factory in Senegal.
That expansion increasingly happens through the single-stick model, and that's the traffic that causes the most worry. People who buy cigarettes by the stick are typically the poor, the uneducated or the young — all groups less likely to have learned of the perils of smoking. "[A single stick is] much more affordable, and for young people, it's easier to conceal," says Babatunde Irukera, an antismoking lawyer working with the Nigerian government.
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What's more, though British manufacturers, like American ones, put warnings on cigarette packs, the labels do no good if a pack is something you never see. Like other antismoking activists, Irukera believes industry actively promotes single-stick sales (which also occur in Asia, the Americas and elsewhere in the world). But the companies answer that the matter is out of their hands. Says British American spokeswoman Catherine Armstrong: "If retailers choose to break [packs] up and sell them one at a time — which I believe is very widespread across Africa — that's not something we have any involvement with." Still, the sticks are getting out, and the companies are cashing in. According to Emmanuel James-Odiase, an antitobacco counselor in Nigeria, more than 200 teens in his country begin smoking every day. (Read "Why a Tobacco Giant Backs a Tough New Antismoking Bill.")
Making it harder to contain those numbers is the fact that the same multinationals that are Africa's cigarette suppliers are also its benefactors. Tobacco companies have jumped into the corporate-social- responsibility game, doing all manner of benevolent work across Africa and Asia. In 2005, Philip Morris paid $5 billion to buy Indonesian cigarette-maker Sampoerna, a company that was already pouring money into scholarships for local students. British American does similar work in Malaysia, and in Nigeria has devoted 1% of its local profits to improving access to drinking water, health care and vaccines. That kind of largesse buys the companies a measure of indebtedness.
"It's hard to tell a village, 'You shouldn't accept these new wells or bicycles because it's from industry,' " says Stella Bialous, an adviser to the World Health Organization. "[But] when it comes time to pass regulatory things the company doesn't think reasonable, they can call in their chips. They have all these little groups dependent on their money."
In some cases, those "little groups" include the government. In 2007 the Nigerian Customs Service signed an agreement with British American to work jointly on curbing the unlicensed tobacco trade — which diverts profits from industry. The company courted the government two years earlier, with a three-day retreat at a local resort. "It's not the industry's job to be in charge of government policy," says Bialous.
But Nigeria and Africa as a whole are starting to push back. In 2003 the World Health Assembly adopted the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, a treaty designed to attack smoking through a mix of methods including bans and tax hikes. So far, 164 countries have joined the pact, including 48 in Africa. The U.S. signed the treaty in 2004 but has yet to implement it, though the President is expected to seek Senate ratification soon, adding a very big player to the team.
If such antismoking strategies are to succeed, health experts warn that speed is essential. "The challenge for Africa is to adopt policies to reduce tobacco use before the epidemic sweeps across the continent," says Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. To that end, Nigeria is taking a page from the West's playbook, filing a $45 billion damages suit against British American, Philip Morris and the domestic firm International Tobacco, alleging what Irukera calls a "clear strategy to market their products to young people." The tobacco companies deny the charge.
For all the efforts of the lawyers, doctors and treaty writers, it's at the grass roots that the fight against tobacco will be won. On a hot Friday afternoon not long ago, a group of students in blue-and-yellow uniforms gathered for a lecture at the Shepherd Secondary School in Ketu, a poor neighborhood in Lagos. "Have you seen anybody smoking on TV?" asks James-Odiase, the antitobacco counselor. The class nods, and one boy admits that he admires the way male actors look when they smoke. "With each puff he takes," the counselor warns, the actor's "life reduces by five seconds." The kids of Ketu — new to such things — gasp at that.
Later in the day, Salau Moshood, 17, reflects on what he's learned. "I heard today that smoking is not good, especially for children," he says. "My advice to the people is that they should stop." That advice may or may not be heeded, but health officials everywhere will count it as a win if Moshood himself and millions of other Africans never start.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
The Senate has been hailed by international groups and non-governmental agencies for helping in the fight against tobacco smoking in the country.
The upper chamber of the National Assembly is working on the National Tobacco Control Bill and its Committee on Health on Tuesday held a public hearing on the bill.
Kayode Soyinka, a medical practitioner and representative of the World Health Organisation who was at the public hearing, applauded the Senate for helping in the fight against tobacco addiction and associated diseases.
"We fully support this effort, which is to domesticate the WHO- initiated Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Nigeria became a Party to this Convention in October, 2005, and this bill fully conforms to the provisions of the international treaty," said Mr. Soyinka on Friday.
Africa Tobacco Control Alliance, a collection of groups and institutions working on tobacco control in Africa stated in a letter signed by its chairperson, Racheal Kitonyo, that Nigeria is not alone in the quest to domesticate the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control provisions.
"Nigeria would be following the lead of other African countries such as South Africa, Kenya and Mauritius that have already began implementation of FCTC provisions."
"The Africa Tobacco Control Alliance challenged the Senate on a quick passage of the bill. We believe the bill is essential to improve the health of all Nigerians and we want to throw our weight as Africans behind the laudable move of your senate to achieve this," he said.
A United States based group, Corporate Accountability International also commended the country's move to domesticate the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, pointing out that urgent actions are needed to stem the rising tobacco - related deaths across the world, 80 percent of which occur in the Global South.
The Corporate Accountability Group, in a letter to members of the senate health committee, signed by its International Policy Director, Kathryn Mulvey, charged the lawmakers that Article 5.3 of the Framework incorporates measures to protect the tobacco control law from interference from tobacco industry.
"Full implementation of the FCTC in Nigeria and around the world will save millions of lives and change the way Big Tobacco companies operate globally," the group said.
Adeola Akinremi, the regional coordinator of Framework Convention Alliance, a global alliance of organisations working on tobacco control, who personally submitted a memorandum at the hearing described the bill as a great and bold step by the Nigerian senate to safeguard the health of Nigerians.
"This is one bold step to protect Nigerian citizens and the senate deserves commendation. However it is time for vigilance on the part of the senate and all Nigerians to ensure the current standard of the bill is not compromised when it is passed into law," he said
The bill sponsored by Olorunnibe Mamora, (representing Lagos East) is to regulate the manufacturing, distribution, sales, and consumption of tobacco products in Nigeria and is principally targeted at reducing the population of smokers and the effects of smoking on public health, the economy and the environment.
At the public hearing on Tuesday, more than 40 civil society groups sent in memoranda to support the bill. There were statements from the Minister of Health, Babatunde Osotimehin who was represented by Mike Anibueze; former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Umaru Modibo, former Attorney General of Lagos State, Yemi Osinbajo, the wife of the former Chief Justice of the Federation, Maryam Uwais among others.
She spoke through a protest letter to Senate President David Mark on the alleged prohibition of pupils from contributing to the bill on July 20 and 21.
The letter reads in part: "You may recall that a public hearing was held on the 20th and 21st of July on a proposed National Tobacco Control Bill, sponsored by Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora, which proceedings were held under the auspices of the Committee of Health, chaired by your good self.
"Several stakeholders, representing different organisations, interests and various jurisdictions of Nigeria participated in the hearing, which fact in itself, demonstrated the significance and timeliness of the contents of this very important piece of legislation.
"Being a member of the African Union Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, I was delighted when I noticed that there were young persons (from a senior secondary school class, as I was made to understand) in the audience, who signified that they intended to contribute to the discussions at the hearing.
"To my consternation, however, they were roundly rejected by no other person than you.
" Indeed, you proceeded to state, four times, what your reasons were for puncturing their enthusiasm in such a dismissive manner, even though from the first time (and each time) you spoke to the issue, you ended your statement with ‘no more will be said on this matter’.
"You declined any observations or contributions on the issue from the floor (or indeed, as I noticed, from your distinguished colleagues), concluding that you were correct in your assertions that pupils could not be permitted to participate in the discussions on the merits and demerits of the provisions of that bill.
"Your reasons, if I may recall, were that you were a mother yourself, and so felt the need to ‘protect’ children.
"You stated that you would not allow children to be ‘used’ or ‘paraded’ before the committee; and that even in the law courts, the evidence of a child would need to be corroborated during a trial.
"Besides, in your view, since adults were present and knew what the issues were, there was absolutely no need for a person under the age of 18 to participate in the proceedings.
"To further support your assertions, you added that at hearings in the Senate, persons who intended to contribute could be compelled to swear oaths on the scriptures relevant to their faiths, which in your understanding, was another excuse for denying them the right to be heard on an issue that concerns them.
"In conclusion, you mentioned that the Child Rights Act did not allow for children to speak at such forum. I am constrained to join issues with you on your position, even because your assertions run contrary to known laws, norms and emerging trends when it comes to children and young persons, their freedom to express themselves and their participation in matters that concern them.
"The unfortunate statement that those young persons were ‘brought along’ to the hearing for the purposes of being ‘used’ or ‘paraded’ was presumptuous, to say the least, as they certainly did not look like they were coerced, uncomfortable or were present in the hearing room against their wishes.
But I will not say more on this point, as it would only distract from the aim of this letter.
"The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria guarantees every citizen, children inclusive, their freedom of expression under Section 39.
"The Constitution certainly does not preclude children from the enjoyment of this fundamental right, as I am certain you would agree that children are also persons. Indeed, the Child Rights Act, 2003, fortifies this position clearly by its Section 3.
"Moreover, S. 19 of this same Child Rights Act, 2003, categorically provides that:
(1) ‘Every child has responsibilities towards his family and society, the Federal Republic of Nigeria and other legalised communities, nationally and internationally. These responsibilities include, under (2) (c) & (d), placing his or her physical and intellectual abilities at the service of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, contributing to the moral well-being of the society and respecting the ideals of democracy, freedom, equality, humaneness, honesty and justice for all persons.’
"About 200 child rights clubs have been established all over the country, to promote representation, association and participation by building children’s capacities and competencies. This, it is hoped, would enable them act effectively as peer educators and would further boost their confidence and self-esteem preparatory to holding the sundry responsibilities of citizenship and adulthood. Children’s views on national issues have been encouraged through debates, essay competitions and art exhibitions, while special events and programs have been designed and supported by the Government, all with the aim of ensuring their effective participation in National life.
"Children and young persons have been involved in many governmental and non-governmental activities, including the promotion of the awareness of HIV/AIDS, reproductive health and the development of life skills among adolescents, while the electronic and print media have created specific spaces for children to express themselves.
None of the aforementioned efforts are considered harmful exposure, neither has any organisation or government body which involves children in its constructive activities, been accused of ‘parading’ children in pursuance of some unsubstantiated motive."
On oath taking, Mrs. Uwais said: "As a senator, you do know that a public hearing is an opportunity for interested stakeholders to participate in the business of lawmaking, even so that laws are made with input from those in whose interests the laws are made.
"A public hearing is, therefore, not a court of law, as you so strenuously sought to affirm. Indeed, heavy weather was made of proceedings relating to children in a courtroom, which points were not quite clear, despite your repeated references to that scenario.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) Country Representative in Nigeria, represented at the Public hearing by Dr. Kayode Soyinka, commended the Senate for taking steps to rescue the lives of millions of Nigerians from tobacco addiction.
"We fully support this effort which is to domesticate the WHO- initiated Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). Nigeria became a party to this convention in October 2005 and this bill fully conforms to the provisions of the international treaty," the WHO Representative said.
A leading tobacco control group in the United States, the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (CFTK), in a memorandum to the Public Hearing signed by its President, Matt Myers, expressed full support for the bill "in its current form" and urged the Senate to pass it swiftly.
CTFK said: "The National Tobacco Control Bill is essential to bringing Nigeria into compliance with its international obligations under the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which Nigeria ratified in October 2005.
"Under the FCTC, Nigeria is obliged, among other things, to protect the health of its citizens by prohibiting smoking in public places, workplaces, public transport, and other appropriate places; to impose a comprehensive ban on advertising, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco products; and to require strong and prominent health warnings on tobacco products."
Another US-based group, Corporate Accountability International (CAI) commended the Senate's move to domesticate the FCTC, pointing out that urgent and bold actions are needed to stem rising tobacco - related deaths across the world 80 per cent, which occur in the Global South.
The corporate accountability group, in a letter to members of the Senate Health Committee and signed by its International Policy Director, Kathryn Mulvey, however, urged the Senate to, in accordance with Article 5. 3 of the FCTC, incorporate measures to protect the tobacco control law from interference from tobacco industry.
"Full implementation of the FCTC in Nigeria and around the world will save millions of lives and change the way Big Tobacco operates globally," CAI stressed.
Also, the Africa Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA), the umbrella body of groups and institutions working on tobacco control in Africa, in a letter signed by its Chairperson, Racheal Kitonyo noted that Nigeria is not alone in the quest to domesticate FCTC provisions, noting; " Nigeria would be following the lead of other African countries such as South Africa, Kenya and Mauritius that have already begun implementation of FCTC provisions."
At the public hearing, which ended on Tuesday, over 40 civil society groups sent in memoranda to support the bill. The Public Hearing also featured statements of support from eminent Nigerians including Nigeria's Minister of Heath, Professor Babatunde Osotimehin represented by a Director at the Ministry, Dr. Mike Anibueze; former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Alhaji Umaru Modibo, former Attorney General of Lagos State, Prof. Yemi Osibajo, the wife of immediate past Chief Justice of the Federation, Mrs. Maryan Uwais, among others. SOURCE
Group hails senate over tobacco bill
APPLAUSE came the way of the Senate yesterday over its public hearing on National Tobacco Bill held this week from both local and international organisations. The World Health Organisation (WHO) Country Representative in Nigeria, represented at the Public hearing by Dr Kayode Soyinka, commended the legislative chamber for taking steps to rescue the lives of millions of Nigerians from tobacco addiction.
" We fully support this effort which is to domesticate the WHO- initiated Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). Nigeria became a Party to this Convention in October 2005 and this bill fully conforms to the provisions of the international treaty," the WHO Representative said.
A leading tobacco control group in the United States, the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (CFTK) in a
memorandum to the Public Hearing signed by its President, Matt Myers, expressed full support for the bill "in its current form" and urged the Senate to pass it swiftly. CTFK said: "The National Tobacco Control Bill is essential to bring Nigeria into compliance with its international obligations under the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which Nigeria ratified in October 2005."
"Under the FCTC, Nigeria is obliged, among other things; to protect the health of its citizens by prohibiting smoking in public places, workplaces, public transport, and other appropriate places; to impose a comprehensive ban on advertising, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco products; and to require strong and prominent health warnings on tobacco products," it added.
Another US-based group, Corporate Accountability International (CAI) commended the Senate's move to domesticate the FCTC, pointing out that urgent and bold actions are needed to stem rising tobacco - related deaths across the world 80 per cent of which occur in the Global South.
The corporate accountability group, in a letter to members of the Senate Health Committee and signed by its International Policy Director, Kathryn Mulvey, however, urged the Senate to in accordance with Article 5. 3 of the FCTC incorporate measures to protect the tobacco control law from interference from tobacco industry. SOURCE
Thursday, July 23, 2009
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The bill seeks to ban smoking in public places and forbids persons under the age of 18 to sell and buy tobacco products.
The proposed law, which would amend the 1990 Tobacco Control Laws of Nigeria, also forbids communication between the manufacturers and consumers.
The bill, if passed into law, "will force legal tobacco companies out of business because they will be forced to shut down their operations", a representative of British American Tobacco Nigeria (BATN), Tony Okwoju, told a public hearing, organised by the senate committee on health.
He said that certain provisions in the bill were "either extreme and would have unintended consequences or will only make it difficult or impossible for the legal industry to operate without necessarily achieving the desired objective of reducing the impact of tobacco on public health".
"The effect of passing a law that is not adequately considered is that it will undermine its own intentions by placing tobacco outside of the control of the regulator, thereby leaving those who continue to smoke at the mercy of smugglers," said Okwoju.
BATN, a subsidiary of the British American Tobacco group, locally produces international brands such as Benson and Hedges, Rothmans, St. Moritz, Dunhill, London Kingsize and Consulate.
A representative of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Segun Kadri, said that manufacturers were opposed to the bill because it allegedly ignored the positive contribution of tobacco firms to the society.
"MAN is of the strong view that the senate should handle this bill with the necessary caution it deserves in order not to send a wrong signal to potential Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in other sectors of the economy," Kadri said.
A member of the senate committee, Kamorudeen Adedibu, said that the National Tobacco Control Bill (2009) will run down the tobacco companies and result in unemployment in the country.
But some local civil society groups expressed support for the bill and called for is speedy passage because of the health hazards tobacco-smoking poses.
A suit filed by the Nigerian government against tobacco companies operating in the country to seek damages for health hazards is pending in court.
BATN Area Head of Regional Affairs, Tony Okwoju, made the pledge before the Senate Committee on Health headed by Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello.
The committee concluded its two-day public hearing on a bill to enact National Tobacco Control at Tuesday's sitting.
Okwoju said in addition to paying N80 billion tax, the company in 2002 established the BATN Foundation which to date has completed 77 community projects in 34 of the 36 states in Nigeria.
On the proposed bill, Okwoju explained that much as it supported the enactment of the bill, there were areas that create real concerns.
"There are provisions in the bill, which we believe are either extreme and would have unintended consequences or will only make it difficult or impossible for the legal industry to operate, without necessarily achieving the desired objective of reducing the impact of tobacco on public health.
"We have seen cases where extreme regulation has resulted in an increase in the levels of illicit trade", he said, adding: "we believe every law should be crafted in a manner that will ensure that the desired results are achieved.
"We believe that the purpose of a tobacco control law should be the reduction of the impact of tobacco on public health. It should not be to force legal tax-paying tobacco companies out of business".
He told the committee that the company is not a criminal organization, adding that a thorough amendment of the bill would ensure it avoids negative consequences.
The pro-tobacco lobby has come out strong against a proposed anti-tobacco bill to be discussed in the Nigerian parliament. The lobbyists include British American Tobacco Nigeria and the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria.
The bill seeks to ban smoking in public places and forbids persons under the age of 18 to sell and buy tobacco products. The proposed law, which would amend the 1990 Tobacco Control Laws of Nigeria, also forbids communication between the manufacturers and consumers.
A member of the senate committee, Kamorudeen Adedibu, said that the National Tobacco Control Bill (2009) will run down the tobacco companies and result in unemployment in the country. But some local civil society groups expressed support for the bill and called for is speedy passage because of the health hazards tobacco-smoking poses. A suit filed by the Nigerian government against tobacco companies operating in the country to seek damages for health hazards is pending in court.
FG To Lose N10bn Yearly Over Tobacco Ban
Leading tobacco manufacturers in the country, the British American Tobacco (BAT) has declared that the Federal Government stands to lose about N10 billion annually as revenue accruable to it should it succumb to pressures that a ban be placed on cigarettes production in Nigeria.
Presenting BAT’s position on the National Tobacco Control Bill at a public hearing organised by the Senate Committee on Health, the Area Head of Regulatory Affairs, Tony Okwoju, said the company remits tax of about N10 billion every year to government.
According to him, "Since 2001, British American Tobacco Nigeria has paid over N80 billion in taxes to government."
Mr. Okwoju said about 400,000 people stand to lose their sources of livelihood saying, "The company currently employs over 850 people directly and another 1700 indirectly. It also contributes to the livelihood of over 350 thousand people, including farmers, distributors and their employees, suppliers and retailers amongst others."
While expressing support for regulation of tobacco usage in the country due to health hazards, BAT said it does not support a section of the proposed tobacco bill which seeks to make process of litigation against tobacco companies easier.
"Altering and undermining established rules of evidence to make it easier for anybody to win lawsuits against the tobacco industry will not reduce the health impact of tobacco. It will force legal tobacco companies out of business," Okwoju said.
The company said such would lead to job losses and would not stop circulation of tobacco products in the country saying, "The vacuum created by the exit of legal companies will promptly be filled by smugglers."
In their presentation Association of Tobacco Farmers from Oke-Ogun in Oyo State called on the Senate Committee to halt plans to ban cigarettes smoking in the country because "We don't have any other means of livelihood than tobacco farming."
But in its presentation, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth said refusal to ban tobacco usage in the country would lead to death of about 5.4 million people annually.
"Tobacco currently kills over 5.4 million people yearly, about 70 percent of that casualty occurs in developing countries like Nigeria," the Friends of Earth said.
The National Tobacco Control Bill before the Senate seeks to among several other issues prohibit smoking of cigarettes in public places, ban sales to minors as well as create a frame work for legal action against tobacco industries in case of health hazards.
The non governmental organisation said tobacco manufacturers such as BAT were forced out of developed countries by stringent tobacco control laws forcing them to relocate to developing countries.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Monday, July 20, 2009
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."
Over 40 civil society groups, legal practitioners and public healthadvocates are gearing up to storm the Senate Hearing Room of theNational Assembly Complex, Abuja, on July 21 and 22 to present theirmemorandum in support of the National Tobacco Control Bill (NTCB).
This is coming barely 24 hours after the Senate Committee on Healthcalled for interested members of the public and stakeholders to sendin a list of interested members to appear before it. Groups that have already indicated interest include the NigerianHeart Foundation, Nigerian Cancer Society, Smoke-free Foundation,Abuja, Nigerian Tobacco Control Alliance, Environmental Rights Action,and the Nigerian Association of Nurses and Midwives among others.
International groups that have also rallied in support of the billand sent in a memorandum are the Africa Tobacco Control RegionalInitiative, Framework Convention Alliance (FCA), U.S.-based Campaignfor Tobacco-Free Kids and the Corporate Accountability International.
The bill, sponsored by Deputy Minority Leader, Senator OlorunimbeMamora, will completely domesticate the WHO Framework Convention onTobacco Control (FCTC), which Nigeria signed in 2004 and ratified in2005 but is yet to fully domesticate in Nigeria.
It will make also it an offence to sell or market tobacco products topersons under the age of 18 years and impose a fine not exceedingN50,000 or imprisonment of a term not exceeding six months or both onviolators.
It also prohibits all advertisements, sponsorships, testimonials andpromotion of cigarettes in the country.
According to the Programme Manager, Environmental RightsAction/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), Akinbode Oluwafemi,“the public hearing is another landmark development in efforts tocheckmate a gale of deaths induced by tobacco products after theoverwhelming support that the bill received in the Senate some monthsago.”
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Monday, July 13, 2009
Friday, July 10, 2009
Prof. Osotimehin, who stated this at an interactive dinner, organized by Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora in conjunction with Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria, to support the ‘National Tobacco Control Bill’, said the time has come for Nigeria to do everything possible to ban tobacco production in the country.
The Minister of Health lamented the havoc cigarette smoking has caused the nation, saying that while tobacco companies employed about 20,000 people, their products kill an average of 100,000 people per annum, a development he said is unacceptable to Nigeria.He said on assumption of office, he made it clear to British American Tobacco (BAT) that visited him, seeking a working relationship, that there was no way such an understanding can take place because of the overall health interest of the people.
According to Osotimehin, “I want to tell you that I am very passionate about anti-tobacco legislation. The British-American Tobacco (BAT) people once came to talk to me on how we could work together but I said no! I cannot work with BAT people because the human cost of tobacco is enormous.We should do everything possible to ban tobacco smoking because it does not add value at all. Some people talk about the economic value of tobacco companies, but I don’t believe there is any economic value because when they employ 20,000 people, they kill 100,000.”
He, therefore, urged Nigerians, particularly those in positions of authority, to work hard to ensure that Nigeria do not add to the burden already being suffered from HIV infections. The minister, therefore, assured that the Federal Government through the Ministry of Health would throw its weight behind the Anti-Tobacco Bill.
Earlier in his address, convener of the interactive session, Senator Mamora, noted that the United States of America, the highest consumer of tobacco, had legislated against tobacco, stressing that the fact remains that a poison remains a poison no matter how it is coloured.
According to Senator Mamora, “It is worrisome that tobacco companies are leaving the developed countries for the less developed, particularly Africa with Nigeria being the largest market, owing to lack of adequate legislation to curb the danger it portends on the citizenry.
In her remarks, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, assured that her committee has put in motion necessary arrangements to ensure the passage of the National Tobacco Control Bill with a view to enthroning a regime of health safety in the country.
FG to Stop Tobacco Smoking
Professor Osotimehin who spoke at an interactive session organised by the sponsor of the Bill, Senator Olurunimbe Mamora in Abuja decried the huge impact of the harmful effect tobacco smoking is having on the citizens.
THE Minister of Health, Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin, has said the Federal Government is committed to enacting laws to check and control the consumption of tobacco in the country.
Also, the Senate Committee on Health said it had perfected arrangements to ensure the passage of the National Tobacco Control Bill with a view to enthroning a regime of health safety in the country.
At an interactive session convened by sponsor of the bill, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora, for stakeholders at the Transcorp Hotel in Abuja on Wednesday night, Osotimehin lamented the havoc done to human health by tobacco-smoking, noting that the government would do everything possible to get a law passed against tobacco consumption.
He said: "I want to tell you that I am very passionate about anti-tobacco legislation. This British-American Tobacco (BAT) people once came to talk to me on how we could work together. But I said 'no', I cannot work with BAT people because the human cost of tobacco is enormous.
"We should do everything possible to ban tobacco smoking because it does not add value at all. Some people talk about the economic value of tobacco companies, but I don't believe there is any economic value because when they employ 20,000 people, they kill 100,000. We should try as much as possible not to do things that will add to the burden we suffer from HIV. So, we will try and put our weight behind this bill".
In a remark, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, said her committee would give the bill a serious attention in view of the urgent need to rescue Nigerians from some unhealthy practices.
Citing Section 17 of the 1999 Constitution, Bello said the government owed it a primary duty to ensure the safety of its citizens, adding that this should include health safety.
Mamora, in his remark, noted that even the United States of America, which was the highest consumer of tobacco, had legislated against tobacco.
"One thing we cannot run away from is that a poison remains a poison, no matter what happens. There is no slight poison. And we are saying that tobacco is a poison", Mamora said.
Senator Jibrin Aminu on his part urged the Federal Government to simply close down all tobacco companies in the country because of their ill effects to the society.
Aminu, who said he quit smoking since 1963, advised the government not to adopt the United States' approach because, according to him, the U.S. simply increased the taxes paid by tobacco companies, a situation which he noted, would only transfer the tax burden to the consumers.
Aminu said: "I don't like that approach, we should discourage and prevent it completely. We should not be deceived by the sweet messages propagated by these tobacco companies".