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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

ERA petitions Senate President on Tobacco Bill

By Omafume Amurun

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has implored Senate President, David Mark to follow through his remarks last year on the readiness of the Senate to speedily pass the National Tobacco Control Bill (NTCB) into law, cautioning that further delay on the draft legislation will cost the nation more lives.
ERA/FoEN, in a petition to the Senate President made available to the Niger Delta Standard today 11th October, 2010  and signed by its Executive Director, Pastor Nnimmo Bassey, the group urged the Nigerian government to sanction the British American Tobacco Nigeria (BATN) for targeting young Nigerians in a bid to recruit them as replacement smokers through glamorization of smoking and ‘secret smoking parties’ held in Abuja, Lagos and other parts of the country.
According to the environmental justice group, the non passage of the Bill was responsible for the increased rate of smoking among young people in Nigeria as reflected in the recently released Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) and the mammoth sum that most states are now paying for healthcare of victims of tobacco-related illnesses.
The National Tobacco Control Bill, sponsored by Senator Olorunimbe Mamora went for Public Hearing July 2009 and received overwhelming support from members of the house but the report of that Hearing was yet to be returned to the Senate plenary for eventual passage into a law.
“The result of the Global Youth Tobacco Survey conducted in some states recently which revealed that many more school children fantasize smoking is indeed telling of what the tobacco companies have done to the psyche of our youth. In some areas in Adamawa State the youth smoking rate was put   to 33.9 percent, a very disturbing trend,” said ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Pastor Bassey.
According to Pastor Bassey, “It is saddening that even after the complimentary comments of the Senate President, who declared last year that action will be taken on the Bill within two weeks of the Public Hearing, nothing has happened even after a year.
ERA ‘s position is further reinforced by the fact that as Party to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the Nigerian government owes its citizens an obligation to domesticate the treaty.”
‘While we acknowledge the commitment of the Senate to the delivery of good governance and promotion of public health, your intervention and further actions to save the bill will be appreciated. It is now time to act to save the lives of our youth that now stand threatened by the activities of BATN and other tobacco merchants,” Pastor Bassey noted.
Among others recommendations, ERA is praying the Senate to, as a matter of national urgency commence debate on the report of the Public Hearing and pass the Bill into law