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Tuesday, March 22, 2011


THE Senate has passed the National Tobacco Control Bill, which puts a ban on tobacco adverts, smoking in the public places, and under-age smoking, among other things. The passage of this bill is unique for two reasons. First, it is a piece of legislation that addresses both the sanctity of human health and wellbeing on the one hand, and the problematic interface between the demands of human subsistence and the need for natural balance in the eco-system within our environment.

Second, it serves as an affirmation of the commitment of Nigeria to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) initiated Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC); a global treaty.

The seriousness and commitment of Nigeria to the international convention on tobacco control as demonstrated by the passage of the National Tobacco Control Bill has portrayed the country in good light, being in the league of countries making concerted efforts towards promoting clean and sustainable ecosystem. The world has shown considerable concern for the environment. In addition, the passage of the bill is a pointer to a positive change in international diplomacy, and favourable attitude towards international conventions and treaties signed and ratified by Nigeria. In the past, such conventions, even when ratified, remained mere promissory obligation not backed by any enforceable Nigerian law.

Without doubt, the debate leading to the passage of the bill, two years after its introduction at the floor of the parliament, must have weathered long and stormy sessions with the inevitable debacle between social and high moral philosophical claims of the puritans, and the purely economic-cum-business interest protagonists. Moreover, considering the tobacco market configuration and business opportunities in Nigeria, the bill could not have been passed without the interference and disturbing menace of lobbyists who would have done everything possible to make sure the bill was never passed into law.

It is against this background that we commend the legislators for the passage of the National Tobacco Control Bill. However, laws, no matter how elegantly codified, do not implement themselves, and the tobacco bill is no exception. We call on the Nigeria Police to educate its officers and men on what constitute the essentials in the new law. This is crucial to forestall unnecessary harassment, and or, arrest of innocent citizens by men of the Nigeria Police Force. The new legislation must not turn to a ‘cash-cow’ for the ‘few’ unscrupulous officers and men of the police.

Besides, to reap the utmost benefits from the newly enacted law, relevant agencies of governments must embark upon massive public enlightenment campaign at all levels to ensure awareness, and reasonable compliance.

It is reasonable to project that the effect of this legislation on tobacco control will yield positive result, i.e. a significant reduction in the recorded incidence of diseases that have cigarette smoking and tobacco- related substance as their major causal factor. Unfortunately, because of lack of functional and credible medical statistics, we may not be able to quantify the benefits in monetary terms; but for sure, the burden of medical care will become so light for everyone, when more people become aware of the medical implications of tobacco smoking or chewing as the case may be.

However, when the new legislation is stripped of its legal coatings, the inevitable but cruel reality is that people (Nigerians) in their hundreds will lose either their jobs or means of livelihood over time. The picture is not rosy, especially, when we consider that the labour market is already saturated with desperate and despondent applicants. The Federal Government will do well to step up its marshal plans to provide jobs for the country’s teeming, able-bodied, willing, but unemployed youths and adults.