The ERA Programme Manager, Mr Akinbode Oluwafemi, said at a press briefing in Lagos that bill which had passed the public hearing was not dead.
He said: “The tobacco bill is to regulate the manufacture, distribution, sponsorship and marketing of tobacco products in Nigeria. The bill scaled through the second reading in the Senate in February 2009 and at that reading, all the senators present spoke at the plenary expressed strong support for the bill.
“Senator David Mark, while referring the bill to the Committee on Health, enjoined the members to expedite action because of the intense lobbying of the tobacco industry which will seek to derail the enactment of laws that protect lives of Nigerians and also curtail criminal activities.”
Oluwafemi said over 40 Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) presented memoranda supporting the bill and asking for its special passage. Besides, there were words of commendations and support for the bill from five international NGOs - Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (CTFK), Framework convention Alliance (FCA), Corporate Accountability International (CAI), African Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA), and the Africa Tobacco Regional Initiative (ATCRI).
The ERA programme manager said: “Senator Mark, while speaking at the public hearing made some profound statements which underscore the importance of the bill 'We stand between health and economy that is the truth of the matter. People who are against it are simply worried about the impact on the health of Nigerians and people who for it are saying well, the nation stands to benefit from it. But the simple question is, when do we begin to worry about the economy? Is it when we are dead or when we are alive?'
“Mark added that the Senate will not employ the usual method of voice voting but that individuals will vote their support for or against the bill when it comes back to plenary. The bill has not return to the Senate plenary, so how then did the bill die?
“Let me state again that the bill is not about personal gains or recognition for anybody. The bill seeks to domesticate the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control which is a World Health Organisation (WHO) initiative to combat the global practice of the tobacco industry. Nigeria has signed and ratified that treaty and we owe it as an obligation under international protocol to fully domesticate the provisions of the treaty. It is about the health of our people as reconsigned by all leading health institutions.”