ANTI-TOBACCO campaign groups have urged the Nigerian media to intensify efforts at ensuring that the National Tobacco Control Bill (NTCB) becomes law and promote public health in the country.
The campaign group under the aegis of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK) and Environmental Right Activists/ Friend of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) noted that the media had a duty to hold public officials accountable to the health of Nigerians and expose the rising incidence of “tobacco-related diseases, disabilities and deaths.”
The international advocacy group, CTFK, expressed concern that despite the central role that Nigeria occupies in the tobacco-control campaign in Africa, several “profit-based forces” had prevailed against the passage of the NTCB into law.
Director of CTFK programmes in Africa, Joshua Kyallo said in Lagos at a roundtable meeting with the media that tobacco-related sickness was already an epidemic around the world and six million people die from tobacco-related diseases yearly.
“In the couple of years to come, eight million people will die every year from these tobacco-related diseases. Eighty per cent of these will come from the less developed economies; most of them possibly from Africa,” he said.
Noting that there are other continents where tobacco-related illnesses are much higher than is the case in Africa, Kyallo therefore said that Africa has one unique opportunity on epidemic prevention.
His words: “We have an opportunity to act now and prevent it from becoming an epidemic. Our fear is if this becomes another epidemic we do not have the resources for all the work we have to do to deal with it.
“We see the passage of the NTCB will make a huge difference to the lives and the economy of this country and Nigeria can become a real model in Africa in tobacco-control and we are hoping that all of us can act together.”
The activist said further that it was rather disappointing that very few of the 41 African countries (Nigeria inclusive) that were signatory to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2004 had till date not domesticated its provisions.
He stressed that it was, however, imperative for all, especially the media, to come together on awareness creation among the populace, on the harmful nature of tobacco use.