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Friday, June 1, 2012

World unites against tobacco, US decries drug menace in Africa

COUNTRIES of the world yesterday united against tobacco and the industries, promising to save humanity from the myriad of health hazards associated with consumption of the product.
Meanwhile, worried by the scourge of drug trafficking in Nigeria and Africa, the United States (U.S.) has called for concerted efforts to eradicate it.
The U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Terrence MCCulley, gave the advice yesterday during the commissioning of one scanning machine donated to the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) at the Lagos airport.
McCulley explained that drug trafficking was a multi-billion dollar investment that destroyed lives, adding that the U.S. had watched youths induced with drug money.
“We have seen the deaths of innocent neighbours caught in the cross-fire of drug wars. We have watched our youths seduced by dealers promising escape from life’s challenges and easy money as ‘mules’ to transport their deadly poison across the world’s borders”.
At events to commemorate World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) 2012 themed “Tobacco Industry Interference”, the countries spoke with one voice against interference by international tobacco campaign (Big Tobacco) in laws controlling consumption of the product towards achieving public health that is free of tobacco-related sicknesses and deaths.
Activists in Nigeria also took turn to recount the interference of tobacco industries in Nigeria and several attempts to “derail health policy.”  They called on President Goodluck Jonathan to urgently sign the National Tobacco Control Bill (NTCB) into law.
At events in Washington and Geneva, the World Health Organisation (WHO), Corporate Accountability International (CAI) and partners across the globe launched a campaign to expose and challenge the industry’s interference in the global tobacco treaty (formally known as the WHO Frame-work Convention on Tobacco Control FCTC) and related policies.
Their findings revealed that even as tobacco’s yearly death toll soars beyond six million globally, “Big Tobacco has stepped-up its efforts to prevent proven tobacco control laws from taking effect. Highly visible examples include lawsuits by Philip Morris International and its competitors against countries like Australia, Norway and Uruguay for implementing strong tobacco control laws.”
Executive Director of CAI, Kelle Louaillier, stated: “Big Tobacco is very publicly bullying countries in hopes they will cave, their neighbours will cave, and treaty implementation will cave. But the tobacco industry’s intimidation has only strengthened the international community’s resolve,” she said.
CAI also released a report titled: “Cutting through the Smoke,” documenting global stories of tobacco abuse and grassroots victories. Stories from the report include “Ending the ‘cancer breaks’: NGOs challenge PMI’s influence in the Philippines” which documents the impact of tobacco’s marketing tactics aimed at women and girls in the region, and the use of corporate social responsibility programmes to protect the corporation’s image.   Also, there is “Shielding the youth: Tireless grassroots groups go up against Big Tobacco in Nigeria” which showcases the industry’s violations of international law in its direct marketing to young people.
Director of Corporate Accountability and Administration of Environmental Rights Activists/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), Mr. Oluwafemi Akinbode, told The Guardian that the tobacco industries in Nigeria were interfering in areas that include finding loopholes in control laws, political influence peddling, excuses of creating job employment and tax remittance to the Federal Government and Corporate Service Responsibility (CSR), among others.
He noted that the guidelines for implementation of WHO tobacco control are clear. For instance, “Article 5.3 of the Convention requires 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’.”
Oluwafemi urged President Goodluck Jonathan to speed up the process of signing the NTCB into law, to avail a frame-work for control of tobacco-related health issues in the country and join the comity of nations that have remained committed to public health.