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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

ERA seeks passage of tobacco bill


THE Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) yesterday called on the National Assembly to pass into law the National Tobacco Control Bill, saying its delay has further promoted the activity of tobacco industries in the country.
    The call was made in the wake of the 10th International Week of the Resistance Against Tobacco Transnational, to expose the ever-evolving tactics of the tobacco industry to undermine public health through its lethal products.
   According to the Director, Accountability Campaigns and Administration, Environmental Rights Action, Oluwafemi Akinbode, the bill had been foot-dragging for the past two years without a particular reason for the delay.
  “We have an increase worries on why the bill has not been passed, as there is a clear indication the delay might have a political undertone,” he said.
   The one-week event that started yesterday is aimed at building momentum in the run-up to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) meetings in Uruguay in November this year for a unified international action to prevent the tobacco industry from derailing the FCTC’s life-saving measures.
    Akinbode, to prove the menace the delay has caused, said “in solidarity with our allies and NGOs across the globe taking part in several actions to expose some of the tobacco industry tactics to undermine the FCTC, ERA/FoEN has released a report from tobacco industry watchdog  – Corporate Accountability International – documenting persistent and ongoing efforts to obstruct the FCTC on the African continent and around the world. The report points to tobacco industry interference as the single greatest obstacle to the treaty realising its full potential.”
   He added that the report is intended to keep governments alert and make them anticipate and thwart attempts by the vested commercial interests of the tobacco industry to undermine the implementation of tobacco control policies.
   According to Akinbode,  Nigeria which is among the first few countries that signed the FCTC in 2004 and ratified it in 2005 is still foot-dragging in totally domesticating the treaty through the National Tobacco Control Bill which was hailed by local and international groups at the public hearing organised by the Senate Committee on Health in July 2009 as a step to curbing “the gale of deaths which tobacco has wrought on this nation.”
“British America Tobacco (BAT) which controls over 80 per cent of the Nigerian cigarette market has continued to undermine the treaty by deliberate misinformation and illicit actions targeted at the youth.  For instance, in the last two months the company has held several secret smoking parties targeted at new smokers. Two of such parties were held in Ajegunle and Victoria Island, both in Lagos, and the company has announced plans to seize the opportunity of the upcoming yuletide to organise more.” 
   According to ERA, on June 15 this year the company had announced a position for Regulatory Affairs and External Communications Executive Staff to be based in Lagos. The job announcement which described a potential candidate as one who can “establish BAT as a trusted partner of regulators and a leading authority on tobacco control issues across Nigeria,” was said to have outlined that the company was looking for someone “to provide advocacy that ensure(s) that engagement is relevant to tobacco control thinking, both current and future in order to maximise transaction with stakeholders and demonstrate deep knowledge of tobacco control in the real world.”