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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Pass National Tobacco Control Bill now, ERA Urges N/Assembly

On the occasion of the 5th anniversary of the coming into force of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has decried the lack-lustre approach of the National Assembly to the speedy passage into law of the National Tobacco Control Bill, saying further delay in the passage of the bill may cost the nation more tobacco related deaths.
The FCTC which has been signed and ratified by over 168 countries including Nigeria came into force in 2005 and is the first treaty negotiated under the auspices of the World Health Organisation (WHO) to draw global action against tobacco-related deaths.
The WHO says tobacco-related deaths stand at 5.4 million people annually and projects this will increase beyond 8 million over the next two decades, with the majority of lives lost in developing countries. It therefore insists that strong worldwide enforcement and implementation of the FCTC could save 200 million lives by the year 2050.
Nigeria which signed the FCTC in 2004 and ratified in 2005 has been recording more deaths relating to tobacco, especially cancer.
“The fifth year of FCTC entering into force calls for sober reflection for us as a nation because in the last five years little progress has been made in domesticating the FCTC. This has not been without a grave impact on the citizenry because within this period we have lost talented musicians, journalists and even doctors, no thanks to nearly no regulation of an industry that markets a lethal product in beautiful wraps, ” said ERA/FoEN Programme Manager, Akinbode Oluwafemi.
Oluwafemi pointed out that “Nigerians are unhappy with the slow response of government to public health protection , especially with the way the tobacco control bill has been neglected after the public hearing held in July 2009. We are further dismayed that there is an alleged clandestine moves by tobacco lobbyists to compromise our law makers with the intent of thwarting the passage of the national tobacco control bill.”
“How else can you explain our law makers’ foot-dragging on the bill nearly one year after the public hearing? This action is anti-people and seriously compromises our democracy. Our lawmakers should stand by the people who have spoken in unison at the public hearing and abide by the principles of the FCTC which has reduced tobacco-related deaths in countries that have implemented the provisions”
In the February 26 anniversary speech, Director General of the WHO, Dr. Margaret Chan, said recent studies estimates that full implementation of just four cost-effective measures set out in the FCTC could prevent 5.5 million deaths within a decade.
Similar sentiments were echoed by tobacco control groups across the world. The Framework Convention Alliance (FCA), a network of tobacco control groups from across the globe said that countries that have implemented the FCTC provisions like ban on tobacco advertisingand sponsorships have gone a long way in reducing deaths.
FCA Director, Laurent Huber, noted however, that “tobacco use remains high in low and middle income countries and is increasing among women and young people...We have had five years of good progress on policy but deaths due to tobacco use continue to rise. Governments need to fund their policy promises to stem the tide of tobacco deaths”
Another group, Corporate Accountability International, warned on the tobacco industry’s track-record of trying to water down on the implementation of the FCTC.
The organisation’s Director, Campaign Challenging Big Tobacco, Gigi Kellett, revealed that “In July 2009, during an international protocol negotiating session, Parties identified and kicked tobacco lobbyists out of the process - a move made possible by Article 5.3., a provision of the FCTC which protects the treaty from tobacco industry interference in any guise. By that action, parties safeguarded the negotiations against the tobacco industry's fundamental and irreconcilable conflict of interest, sending a strong message to the industry.”
The FCTC entered into force in 2005. Parties are expected to domesticate the treaty by implementing national tobacco control coordinating mechanisms, prohibiting the sales of tobacco products to minors, and take measures to protect public health policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry.