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Friday, June 1, 2012

Activists urge Jonathan to sign National Tobacco Control Bill

As the world marked the World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) yesterday, activists made a passionate plea to President Goodluck Jonathan: sign the National Tobacco Control Bill (NTCB) to prevent avoidable death from tobacco use.
They said statistics show rising deaths from tobacco use because of lax tobacco control regime.
The Environmental Rights Action (ERA), at an event to mark the WNTD in Lagos, said tobacco companies are interfering with the Bill becoming an Act.
Its Director, Corporate Accountability and Administration, Mr Akibode Oluwafemi, said this year theme: Tobacco Industry Interference is in line with the current development in Nigeria.
He said the president has disobeyed the 1999 Constitution in his handling of the Bill.
He quoted Chapter five, Section 68, sub-section 4 and 5 of the constitution, which states: “Where a bill is presented to the President for assent, he shall within 30 days thereof signify that he assents or that he withholds assent.
“Where the President withholds his assent and the bill is again passed by each Legislative House by two-thirds majority, the bill shall become law and the assent of the President shall not be required.”
Oluwafemi said there is the need for the country to domesticate the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), adding that the Convention’s Article 5.3 states that “in setting and implementing their public health policies with respect to tobacco control, parties shall act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law.”
This, he said, means that the tobacco giants should be excluded from any step to implement public health policies.
He alleged that top executives of tobacco companies  paid visits  to Aso Rock during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Oluwafemi quoted the World Health Assembly’s (WHA’s) resolution 18 on transparency in tobacco control process: “The tobacco industry has operated for years with the express intention of subverting the role of government and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in implementing public health policies to combat the tobacco epidemic.”
He said the major motive of the tobacco giants is to weaken and undermine the country’s laws.

Oluwafemi said despite the ban on tobacco advertising, most of the tobacco companies still freely display their adverts in public places, such as hotels .
He said: “They paste posters on stalls announcing  free-camera phone promotion and offered free umbrellas to market women with adverts on them.”
ERA’s partner, Corporate Accountability International (CAI), has released its yearly report on tobacco entitled Cutting through the smoke. The report describes the global stories of industry abuse, grassroots victories and the path towards a healthier future.
It said families have continued to suffer the devastating health, financial and social consequences of tobacco-related diseases. 

The Nation