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Monday, March 26, 2012

Conference raises concern over fate of Tobacco Control Bill

  • Many participants at the World Conference on Tobacco or Health (WCOTH), which ended in Singapore at the weekend, are worried that several months after the National Tobacco Control Bill was passed, President Goodluck Jonathan is yet to sign it into law, reports OLUKOREDE YISHAU
Two days ago, the global community ended a conference where it was agreed that health should take precedence over financial gains from the tobacco industry. The World Conference on Tobacco or Health (WCOTH), which ended in Singapore at the weekend, showed that the tobacco epidemic must be curtailed before it increases the number of people it kills above its current benchmark of 6 million annually.
Two reports released at the conference, the Fourth Edition of the Tobacco Atlas and the Tobacco Watch, paint the gory picture of the state of things. The reports show that Nigeria is at risk, if the National Tobacco Control Bill is not passed into law by President Goodluck Jonathan. 
The Tobacco Atlas puts the cost of tobacco smoking to the Nigerian economy in terms of losses to treatment and low productivity at $591m annually. It said 17 billion cigarettes are produced in the country annually and showed that more people are getting into tobacco use. 
Many participants at the conference kept asking the Nigerian contingent while the Bill passed by the National Assembly remains unsigned. They are of the view that with no law regulating the industry, initiatives to fight the epidemic in the Third World, such as the $200 million worth initiative announced by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, will achieve little result.
President of the Washington DC-based Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (CTFK) Matt Myers urged Jonathan to sign the Bill. Myers said: “If I meet President Goodluck Jonathan, I will tell him that one thing he needs to do quickly that will save the lives of many Nigerians is to sign the Tobacco Control Bill and guarantee that the country will implement it right away. If the Tobacco Bill is signed and implemented, it will save literally over the course of time millions of Nigerians from death. Most importantly, it will protect Nigerian young people from lifetime tobacco addiction and premature deaths.”
Environmental Rights Action’s (ERA) Director, Corporate Accountability, Mr. Akinbode Oluwafemi,  said the Bill is a domestication of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the first global health treaty developed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which Nigeria has ratified. 
Oluwafemi said: “The FCTC is one of the most successful international conventions. It includes other specific steps for governments addressing tobacco use, including to:  adopt tax and price measures to reduce tobacco consumption; create smoke-free work and public spaces; put prominent health warnings on tobacco packages; and combat illicit trade in tobacco products. 
“The big tobacco are doing their best to ensure regulations are not enforced in line with the FCTC by using tactics hidden under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to hoodwink people in government into toeing their way at the risk of the people’s health. These tactics include: partnership agreements between government and industry; industry-run programmes claiming to prevent youth smoking; and training for farmers.”
Communications Manager, Africa Tobacco Control Regional Initiative (ATCRI), Mr. Adeola Akinremi,  urged Jonathan to sign the Bill into law.
Speaking at the WCTOH, Akinremi  said: “President Jonathan should assent the bill, which is capable of saving lives of many Nigerians in the long run.” 
Akinremi noted that the signing of the bill will help the cause for which the New York mayor has been committing his personal funds. 
For Akinsola Owoeye of the Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance, there are several reasons why the Bill must be signed. Owoeye  said:  “Despite the promises made by the government and tobacco industry, death toll began to rise in Nigeria after BAT came in. A survey in Lagos State showed an increase in smoking prevalence from 8.9 per cent to 10 per cent, and prevalence of heavy smoking which rose to 16.3 per cent. It also shows that two persons die in the state daily from tobacco related diseases. Using the conservative estimates of Lagos State, it means each state in Nigeria has spent at least N2,847,000,000 ($ 18,058,992) to treat smokers in hospitals. Multiply that amount by the 37 states in Nigeria, it also means that Nigeria lost N105,339,000,000 ($668,182,708) in one year. If this figure is justifiable, it clearly make nonsense of the 10 billion naira ($6,343,165) per year, tax paid by BATN.” 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

WHO, rights' groups take on 'Big Tobacco' over smoking


  • Two new reports released yesterday in Singapore by the Tobacco Atlas  and the Tobacco Watch Monitoring Countries’ Performance on the Global Treaty, reveal how tobacco companies in Nigeria and other countries lure people to smoke and die slowly, reports OLUKOREDE YISHAU in Singapore

Which does the world prefer: tobacco or health? Expectedly, the global community settled for health, but tobacco companies are doing all they can to lure more people into smoking.  
A report released yesterday by the Tobacco Atlas and Tobacco Watch Monitoring Counties Performance on the Global Treaty painted a graphic picture of the tobacco epidemic, and the progress that has been made in tobacco control.  The report also highlighted the latest products and tactics being deployed by the lucrative tobacco industry such as the new meida, trade litigation and aggressive development of smokeless products to roast control .
These are contained in the Fourth Edition of the Tobacco Atlas unveiled yesterday by the American Cancer, Society (ACS) and World Hung Foundation at the 15th World conference on Tobacco or Health (WCTH) in Singapore.  Before the report was unveiled. 
Akinbode Oluwafemi, director in charge of Corporate Accountability at the Environmental Rights Action (ERA), who is attending the conference, told  reporters at a seminar organised by the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (CTFK), that statistics suggests that less people in Nigeria and the rest of Africa smoke cigarett, adding: “This should be good news, but tobacco giants are using this to advantage by focusing attention in Nigeria and the rest of Africa because they are facing heat in the developed world.”
His observations are supported by the Tobacco Atlas  report. The Tobacco Atlas puts the cost of tobacco smoking to the Nigerian economy in terms of losses to treatment and low productivity at $591m annually. It said 17 billion cigarettes are produced in the country annually and showed that more people are getting into tobacco use. 
The Tobacco Atlas said the burden of tobacco cultivation, consumption, illness and death is moving from developed to developing parts of the world and is taking an increased toll on low and middle-income countries to the extent that nearly 80 percent of those who die from tobacco-related illnesses are in low and middle-income countries.
According to the Tobacco Atlas, estimates of revenues from the global tobacco industry likely approach a half trillion U.S. dollars annually. In 2010, the combined profits of the six leading tobacco companies, the British American Tobacco (BAT), which is the market leader in Nigeria, Phillips Morris International, and others, was U.S. $35.1 billion. This, noted the report, is equal to the combined profits of Coca-Cola, Microsoft, and McDonald’s in the same year. 
A statement by ACS said: “If Big Tobacco were a country, it would have a gross domestic product (GDP) of countries like Poland, Saudi Arabia, Sweden and Venezuela.”
The statement added: “In 2011, according to the Tobacco Atlas, tobacco use killed almost six million people, with nearly 80 per cent of these deaths occurring in low and middle-income countries. When considering 2010 deaths with tobacco industry revenue, the tobacco industry realises almost $6,000 in profit for each death caused by tobacco.
“If trends continue, one billion people will die from tobacco use and exposure during the 21st century –one person every six seconds. 
Globally, tobacco-related deaths have nearly tripled  in the past decade, and it is responsible for more than 15 percent of all male deaths and 7percent of female deaths. Tobacco is also a risk factor for the four leading non-communicable diseases (NCDs) –cancer, heart disease, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases which account for more than 63 percent of global deaths, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“Tobacco use is the number one killer in China, causing 1.2 million deaths annually; this is expected to rise to 3.5 million deaths annually by the year 2030. Tobacco is also responsible for the greatest proportion of male deaths in Turkey (38 percent) and Kazakhstan (35 percent), and the greatest proportion of female deaths in the Maldives (25 percent) and the United States (23 percent).
“Uniquely among cancer-causing agents, however, tobacco is a man-made problem that is completely preventable through proven public policies. Effective measures include tobacco taxes, advertising bans, smoke-free public places, mass media campaigns and effective health warnings. These cost-effective policies are among those included in the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), a global treaty endorsed by more than 174 countries, and recommended by the WHO in its MPOWER policy package.”
The Tobacco Atlas shows that countries such as Nigeria, where tobacco giants operate, bear direct costs that arise from health care expenditures for treating smoking-related illnesses and indirect costs as a result of lost productivity and cost of premature deaths. 
Chief Executive of the ACS John Seffrin said: “We can no longer deny nor accept the massive human and economic harm caused by tobacco. This book is a vital tool for not only public health advocates, but also for governments, economists, educators and the media to use to tell the story of how a cohesive, well-funded tobacco industry is systematically causing preventable deaths and crippling economies. We know what needs to be done to counteract these tactics and save up to hundreds of millions of lives.” 
For the Chief Executive Officer of the World Lung Cancer Organisation,  Peter Baldinin, “The tobacco industry thrives on ignorance of the true harms of tobacco use and using misinformation to subvert health policies that could save millions. The Tobacco Atlas graphically illustrates the human toll and massive scale of the tobacco epidemic, breaking the best and most recent evidence out of the research world for an audience that can affect change. We urge advocates, media, governments and health professionals to visit tobaccoatlas.org website and use the available data to expose the deadly harms of tobacco and the industry that benefits from those harms.”
Another report released at the WCTOH, which paints the danger in the tobacco giants is the Tobacco Watch: Monitoring Countries’ Performance on the Global Treaty.
 The report accused BAT, Phillip Morris International and Japan Tobacco of blocking plans in their host countries  to control use of cigarettes.
The Framework Convention Alliance (FCA), which issued the report, said by blocking tobacco control plans, tobacco giants are increasing death rates associated with tobacco use. Tobacco use, said the report, is responsible for the death of nearly six million people annually, 70 percent of them in the developing world. It added that if current trends continue, one billion people will die of tobacco-related causes in the 21st century. The report documents activities in countries that are parties to the first global health treaty, the WHO-FCTC to interfere with regulations.
FCA Director Laurent Huber said: “For example, half of the national NGO partners that collected research indicated that the tobacco industry is running so-called corporate social responsibility (CSR) campaigns in their countries.
“Tobacco industry activities like those reported in Tobacco Watch do more than violate Article 5.3 of the FCTC: they impede progress on implementing all other measures in the Convention, which are proven to be effective and cost-effective.
“In fact, the Political Declaration of the United Nations NCD Summit recognised the key role of tobacco control in combating NCDs –which account for 60 percent of the world’s deaths and specifically recommended accelerating implementation of the FCTC.”  
 Yul Francisco Dorado of Corporate Accountability International said: “This year’s Tobacco Watch reminds us that the primary challenge the treaty faces is not a lack of political or public will, but a defiant, invasive and ultimately deadly industry. Ending tobacco industry interference is paramount to the success of the treaty at large.”
Oluwafemi said: “With more than 170 Parties, the FCTC is one of the most successful international conventions. It includes other specific steps for governments addressing tobacco use, including to:  adopt tax and price measures to reduce tobacco consumption; create smoke-free work and public spaces; put prominent health warnings on tobacco packages; and combat illicit trade in tobacco products. 
“The big tobacco are doing their best to ensure regulations are not enforced in line with the FCTC by using tactics hidden under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to hoodwink people in government into toeing their way at the risk of the people’s health. These tactics include: partnership agreements between government and industry; industry-run programmes claiming to prevent youth smoking; and training for farmers.” 
 Tursan d’Espaignet of the WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative, in a paper entitled: “Mortality Attributable to Tobacco- a Global Report,” said tobacco is the only legal drug that kills many of its users when used exactly as intended by manufacturers. He said: “Direct tobacco smoking kills five million people per year; second hand smoking kills 600,000 people per year, which means tobacco kills more than tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria combined.  If effective measures are not urgently taken, tobacco could, in the 21st century, kill over 1 billion people.”
No wonder WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan, in a keynote address at the WCOTH, described tobacco smoking as a drive-by shooting capable of killing even by-standers.


Keynote address at the 15th World Conference on Tobacco or Health, Singapore



  • Galvanizing global action towards a tobacco-free world 

Excellencies, honourable ministers, distinguished delegates, members of civil society, ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to speak at the opening of this 15th World Conference on Tobacco or Health. I thank Singapore’s Health Promotion Board for organizing this event, and am pleased that WHO has provided technical support.

This conference is being held at a time when we are at a crossroads in our efforts to rid the world of a killing addiction. In principle, the balance is entirely in our favour. In a perfectly sane, reasonable, and rational world, with a level playing field, the anti-tobacco community would surely speak with the loudest voice and carry the biggest stick.

Evidence for the physical harm, and economic costs, of tobacco use keeps growing, and I am certain that this conference will expand the evidence base even further.
Tobacco use is the world’s number one preventable killer. We know this statistically, beyond a shadow of a doubt. In a world undergoing economic upheaval, with populations ageing, chronic diseases on the rise, and medical costs soaring, tackling a huge and entirely preventable cause of disease and death becomes all the more imperative.
We know that tobacco directly harms the user’s health in multiple ways. We know that tobacco products kill their consumers.
We know that tobacco smoking, like a drive-by shooting, kills innocent bystanders who are forced to breathe air contaminated with hundreds of toxic chemicals. We know what tobacco exposure during pregnancy does to the fetus, another innocent, blameless, and entirely helpless victim.
We know that tobacco use is not a choice. It is a powerful addiction. The true choice is between tobacco or health.
We have evidence, and we have instruments. As a tool for fighting back, we have the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, with 174 parties now committed to implementing the treaty’s articles and obligations. These parties govern nearly 90% of the world’s 7 billion people. If safety from tobacco lies in numbers, we have them.
But we also know that implementation falls short, for many reasons, in many countries. We have addressed this problem as well. We have a practical, cost-effective way to scale up implementation of provisions in the treaty on the ground. That is, the best-buy and good-buy measures for reducing tobacco use set out in the MPOWER package.
We have abundant country experiences that demonstrate the effectiveness of these measures. Evidence also shows how these measures can have a value-added impact.
For example, in a study published earlier this year, researchers demonstrated that smoke-free workplaces actually decrease smoking in homes. These findings soundly refute industry-sponsored propaganda.
Just two weeks ago, another major study, involving more than 700,000 deliveries, found that smoking bans have significant health benefits for unborn babies. This proved true for women who smoke but also for women who have never consumed tobacco yet were exposed to second-hand smoke.
And we have an enemy, a ruthless and devious enemy, to unite us and ignite a passionate commitment to prevail.
Unfortunately, this is where the balance no longer tips so strongly in our favour. The enemy, the tobacco industry, has changed its face and its tactics. The wolf is no longer in sheep’s clothing, and its teeth are bared.
Tactics aimed at undermining anti-tobacco campaigns, and subverting the Framework Convention, are no longer covert or cloaked by an image of corporate social responsibility. They are out in the open and they are extremely aggressive.
The high-profile legal actions targeting Uruguay, Norway, Australia, and Turkey are deliberately designed to instil fear in countries wishing to introduce similarly tough tobacco control measures.
What the industry wants to see is a domino effect. When one country’s resolve falters under the pressure of costly, drawn-out litigation and threats of billion-dollar settlements, others with similar intentions are likely to topple as well.
Numerous other countries are being subjected to the same kind of aggressive scare tactics. It is hard for any country to bear the financial burden of this kind of litigation, but most especially so for small countries like Uruguay. This is not a sane, or reasonable, or rational situation in any sense. This is not a level playing field.
Big Tobacco can afford to hire the best lawyers and PR firms that money can buy. Big Money can speak louder than any moral, ethical, or public health argument, and can trample even the most damning scientific evidence. We have seen this happen before.
It is horrific to think that an industry known for its dirty tricks and dirty laundry could be allowed to trump what is clearly in the public’s best interest.
And there are other tactics, some new, others just old butts in new ashtrays.
In some countries, the tobacco industry is pushing for joint government-industry committees to vet or screen all policy and legislative matters pertaining to tobacco control. Don’t fall into this trap. Doing so is just like appointing a committee of foxes to look after your chickens.
More and more, investigations are uncovering the tobacco industry’s hand in court cases filed against tobacco control measures.
Paying people to use a country’s judicial system to challenge the legality of measures that protect the public is a flagrant abuse of the judicial system and a flagrant affront to national sovereignty. This is direct interference with a country’s internal affairs.
Members of civil society,
We need you, now more than ever.
Experience has shown that, when government political resolve falters or weakens under industry pressure, coalitions of civil society can take up the slack and carry the day. We need this kind of outcry, this kind of rage.
Shaping public opinion is vital. If tough tobacco legislation wins votes, politicians will back it, and fight back against industry.
Last year’s high-level UN meeting on noncommunicable diseases adopted a political declaration. To reduce risk factors and create health-promoting environments, heads of state and government agreed on the need to accelerate implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
They recognized that substantially reducing tobacco consumption contributes to reducing NCDs and has considerable health benefits for individuals and countries. They also recognized the fundamental conflict of interest that exists between the tobacco industry and public health.
When I addressed that meeting, I reminded participants that full implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control would deliver the single biggest preventive blow to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and respiratory disease. I called on heads of state and government to stand rock-hard against the despicable efforts of the tobacco industry to subvert this treaty.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I have a final comment.
I come from a culture that shows great respect for its elders. So let me say that some of the older people in this audience may recall the Virginia Slims marketing campaign that targeted young professional women.
That campaign sought to hook teenaged girls and young women by portraying smoking as a symbol of emancipation and self-assertive freedom. Its slogan was memorable: “You’ve come a long way, baby.”
Let me turn that around, addressing my own personal marketing campaign to the tobacco industry.
“We’ve come a long way, bullies. We will not be fazed by your harassment. Your products kill nearly 6 million people each year. You run a killing and intimidating industry, but not in a crush-proof box. Tobacco industry: the number and fortitude of your public health enemies will damage your health.”
Ladies and gentlemen,
I sincerely hope that this conference, including the high-level ministerial panel on countering tobacco industry interference, will again tip the balance entirely in our favour.
This conference is our watershed event. I sincerely hope that this event further damages the health of an industry that aggressively sells a health-destroying addiction.
We can, and must, stop this industry’s massive contribution to sickness and death, dead in its tracks.

I wish you a most productive meeting. Thank you.



Director-General of the World Health Organization 


Global profits for tobacco trade total $35bn as smoking deaths top 6 million


  • New figures reveal worldwide profits but big companies insist they are not switching to emerging markets to avoid regulation
Revenues from global tobacco sales are estimated to be close to $500bn (£316bn), generating combined profits for the six largest firms of $35.1bn – more than $1,100 a second.
Much of this profit is ultimately channelled to pension and insurance investors in the UK – British American Tobacco and Imperial are two of the largest companies listed on the London stock market.
London's role as a hub of the multinational tobacco trade is in part a legacy of the British empire. While BAT sells very few cigarettes in the UK, for example, it is a big player in many emerging economies. In Turkey it sells Viceroy and Pall Mall brands; its Kent cigarettes are big sellers in Russia, while Gold Flake and John Player Gold Leaf are popular in Pakistan. Rothmans in Nigeria and Kent and Montana in Iran are also important for BAT. India, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Iraq, Egypt and Yemen are also promising markets for the company.
The big four tobacco firms – Philip Morris, BAT, Imperial and Japan Tobacco – insist they do not recruit new smokers in developing countries; rather, they grow sales by converting existing smokers of local tobacco products to their stable of aspirational Western brands – often "safer" products, they say.
A British American Tobacco spokesperson said: "There is constant speculation that we're breaking into emerging markets to avoid regulation. But this is not true. We didn't invent smoking, nor 'export' it anywhere, and we have been in many of these developing markets for hundreds of years – in the case of Africa, India and Brazil, since the early 1900s.
"As disposable income grows around the world, particularly in developing countries, more smokers are upgrading to premium brands rather than low quality local alternatives – and this doesn't just apply to cigarettes."
And yet almost 80% of the 6 million people killed last year by tobacco-related illnesses were from low- and middle-income countries, according to new research from health lobby campaigners.
The study identified tobacco as the No 1 killer in China, where smoking is said to cause 1.2 million deaths annually. It is also blamed for more than a third of male deaths in Kazakhstan and in Turkey – other major smoking nations.
China accounts for about 40% of the global market for tobacco. The big four western firms have been eager to gain a foothold, but the industry remains firmly in state control.
The New Tobacco Atlas – produced by the World Lung Foundation and the American Cancer Society and published in Singapore at the World Conference on Tobacco or Health – found that tobacco-related deaths had tripled in the last decade: they now account for more than 15% of male deaths and 7% of female deaths.
The study indicated cigarettes had become an average of 21.7% more affordable in low and middle-income countries.
Health campaigners insist the industry is in fact lobbying hard to block international standards on tobacco control. "The tobacco industry thrives on ignorance of the true harms of tobacco and using misinformation to subvert health policies that could save millions," said Peter Baldini, chief executive of the World Lung Foundation.

Simon Bowers

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

''Tobacco Kills 5.4m People Globally Every Year''


The menace of tobacco use across the world came to the fore Tuesday as delegates to the 15th World Conference on Tobacco or Health (WCTOH) were told that tobacco-related diseases kill about 5.4m people annually.
Speaking to journalists shortly before the opening of the conference, Mr. Matt Myers of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said a substantial part of this number were second-hand smokers, among them children.
He urged governments around the world to implement the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Article 5.3 whose guidelines were approved in 2008 to protect their people from the tobacco multinationals.
The Article provides for the protection of public health policies with respect to tobacco control from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry.
Myers maintained that there was a fundamental and irreconcilable conflict between the tobacco industry’s interests and public health policy interests.
Speaking at the opening ceremony in the presence of some of the world’s leaders, Health Minister of Singapore, Gan Kim Yong, said the meeting was a major milestone in the fight against smoking in the country.
Yong said that Singapore, as a signatory to the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, was keen to establish, engage and support local, regional and international partnerships for tobacco control.
“The tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced. It kills nearly six million people a year. This is why tobacco control is one of the top priorities in Singapore's public health efforts. We believe the linkages formed through this important platform of WCTOH 2012 will enable diverse groups to come together to take a collective stand against tobacco and save more lives,” he said.
Present at the opening ceremony were Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General, World Health Organisation; Dr Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary-General, Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Health Ministers and national representatives from ASEAN, Australia, Fiji, Norway, Russia, Turkey and the USA; as well as renowned technical experts Prof Judith Mackay, Prof Sir Richard Peto and Dr. Prakash C Gupta.
This will be the first time the Conference is hosted in Southeast Asia, and about 2,600 international delegates and policy-makers from 100 countries are participating.
“Singapore is the first in the world to impose duty-paid marking on cigarettes to counter-illicit trade, the first in Asia to make graphic health warnings mandatory and also a global forerunner in having a comprehensive smoke-free ban,” said Mr. Ang Hak Seng, Chief Executive Officer, Singapore’s Health Promotion Board (HPB).
Organisers said this year’s conference theme, “Towards a Tobacco-Free World: Planning Globally, Acting Locally'', is strategically focused on planning and coordination of multi-sectoral tobacco control efforts at the international level, while customising local policies and programmes to suit the unique requirements of individual countries.
In a keynote address, Dr Chan said the tobacco industry is engaged in an all- out effort to subvert tobacco control laws: “Tactics aimed at undermining anti-tobacco campaigns, and subverting the WHO FCTC were no longer covert or cloaked by an image of corporate social responsibility.
They are out in the open and they are extremely aggressive. We can, and must, stop this industry’s massive contribution to sickness and death.”
Also speaking at a workshop for journalists, Mr. Bode Oluwafemi of the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), said as the tobacco control measures gathers momentum, the industry has escalated efforts at undermining control legislations.
Oluwafemi said that since the west had imposed heavy taxes on tobacco aimed at reducing consumption, the tobacco multinationals have turned their searchlight on African countries with aggressive marketing to recruit smokers.
He urged African countries especially, Nigeria, not to sign off the future of their youths by refusing to pass tobacco control legislations that would have substantially reduced the number of people likely to pick the habit.
He said the danger of tobacco is that passive smokers (second-hand) are as affected by the dangers of the epidemic as well as the smokers themselves.
WCTOH is one of the world's most prestigious platforms on tobacco control, where the best and most dedicated experts and leaders congregate for debate, exchange of perspectives and overall pursuit of greater solidarity against tobacco use.
The overall objectives of WCTOH according to the organisers are to: provide a platform to build countries’ capacity in tobacco control through the sharing of best practices, experiences, knowledge and research; Strengthen the next generation of tobacco control advocates through a youth pre-conference and the participation of youth delegates at the main conference and renew the commitment to fight the global tobacco epidemic through the conference declaration.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Group says inclusion of British/American tobacco in export scheme is fraudulent


  • "We believe BATN was favoured unduly and Nigerians now demand to know the truth.”
The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has asked the Senate to extend the probe of utilization of Export Expansion Grant (EEG) Scheme in the agriculture sector to the British American Tobacco Nigeria (BATN).

In a statement issued in Lagos, ERA/FoEN said the demand for an extension of the investigations to BATN is based on a conviction that the criteria for the inclusion of BATN in the EEG scheme was fraudulent and must be immediately reviewed to save the nation from subsidizing the production and marketing of killer products.

The EEG is a cash inducement designed to assist Nigerian firms expand the volume and value of their exports, diversify export markets and become more competitive in the international market.

"We believe BATN was favoured unduly and Nigerians now demand to know the truth,” said Akinbode Oluwafemi, ERA/FoEN Director, Corporate Accountability & Administration.

“If the expansion grant was conceived as an incentive to assist Nigerian firms expand the volume and value of their exports, then the summoned ministers must explain to the Senate and Nigerians how a company whose products opened the pathway for the harvest of deaths the nation is reaping today was certified worthy of the grants in the first place,” Mr. Oluwafemi added.

The Senate Committee on Investments, last Thursday, invited Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Finance Minister, and her Trade and Investments counterpart, Olusegun Aganga over EEG grants disbursed in the agricultural sector. 

Nenadi Usman, the Chairman of the committee, issued the summons at an interactive session with members of the National Cotton Association of Nigeria who had petitioned the committee over several charges they were allegedly made to pay in respect to export of their commodities by the Nigeria Customs Service.

“While we commend the Senate for this move, we are demanding that the EEG investigations be far-reaching enough to torchlight the parameters for inclusion of BATN in the scheme because we are convinced that a company that manufactures products that kills its consumers does not qualify to be listed as a beneficiary of the scheme," noted Mr. Oluwafemi. 

While calling on the present administration to demonstrate commitment to the "wellness of Nigerians" by signing the National Tobacco Control Bill into law; the group further asked the government to withdraw the "generous" tax holidays and other incentives offered BATN.

“We have said it time and again that through this scheme the Nigerian people continue to subsidize BATN even at the cost of their health and lives. The inclusion of the company in the scheme is totally unacceptable and must be reviewed immediately,” Mr. Oluwafemi said.

“Our position remains clear and unchanged: BATN should be removed from the list of companies benefiting from EEG and made to forfeit previous funding under the scheme,” he added.


Friday, March 16, 2012

World conference on tobacco holds in Singapore


The 15th World Conference on Tobacco or Health (WCTOH) will hold in Singapore next week.
The conference, which will start on Monday, will witness events such as a workshop for reporters from over 20 countries of the world.
The conference billed for the Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre will also witness the presentation of the  
 Distinguished 2012 Luther L. Terry Awards to nine tobacco control experts from Australia, Brazil, Canada, India, South Africa, and the United Kingdom  for exemplary leadership.
A statement by the American Cancer Society (ACS)  said: “The awards recognise outstanding global achievement in the field of tobacco control in six categories: outstanding individual leadership, outstanding organisation, outstanding research contribution, exemplary leadership by a government ministry, distinguished career, and outstanding community service.
“Australia’s Professor Michael Daube, will receive the Distinguished Career award; the Department of Health and Ageing of the Government of Australia will receive the award for Exemplary Leadership by a Government Ministry; Martin Raw, Ph.D., from the United Kingdom/Brazil and Yussuf Saloojee, Ph.D., from South Africa will receive awards for Outstanding Individual Leadership; the United Kingdom’s Action on Smoking and Health will receive the Outstanding Organization award; Canada’s Prabhat Jha, M.D., D.Phil., and Melanie Wakefield, Ph.D., of Australia will receive awards for Outstanding Research Contribution; and Mira Aghi, Ph.D., from India and Stan Shatenstein from Canada will receive awards for Outstanding Community Service.”
 ACS’s Chief Executive Officer John  Seffrin said: “We are pleased to recognise these exemplary individuals who carry on the noble and incredibly important work of ending the deadly spread of tobacco around the globe.
 “The existence of a global tobacco treaty – the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control–covering 90 percent of the world’s population would have been unthinkable in 1964, and would have not become reality had it not been for the outstanding leadership of exceptional individuals and organisations like those receiving this distinguished award.”
The awards are named for the late United States Surgeon General . He identified tobacco use as a cause of lung cancer and other illnesses.


Friday, March 9, 2012

Environmental activists task Jonathan, lawmakers on anti-tobacco law

ENVIRONMENTAL activists on Tuesday expressed concern over the alleged refusal of President Goodluck Jonathan to assent “people friendly” bills into law.
The activists under the aegis of Environmental Rights Action/ Friend of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) observed that only the 2012 budget and Freedom of Information (FoI) bill had so far been assented into law by President Jonathan, out of several that were passed at the end of the sixth Senate.
Most worrisome according to the group is the delay of the National Tobacco Control Bill (NTCB), which is to domesticate the provisions of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and reduce tobacco epidemic in Nigeria.
Director of Corporate Accountability of ERA/FoEN, Akinbode Oluwafemi said at the presentation of a “Shadow report on Nigeria’s implementation of the FCTC Articles 5.3, 6. & 13” that over 25 bills were passed at the twilight of the last Senate.
He said that contrary to the provisions of the Nigerian constitution, “President Jonathan has failed in his primary responsibility to assent people-friendly bills into law, without giving reasons for so doing.
“This, therefore, raised questions on the validity of spending billions of naira on the current National Assembly, when the bills of the last assembly will not be signed into law and none of the legislators is asking question,” he said.
Oluwafemi added that the shadow report done in Abuja, Enugu and Lagos has shown that provisions for tobacco control in the public had not been adhered to in several public places.
The goal of the shadow report is to monitor and report on Nigeria’s efforts at implementing the provisions of the FCTC articles 5.3 (industry interference), 6 (price and tax measures to reduce demand for tobacco) and 13 (tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship).
According to him, the report finds that the existing ban on outdoor or billboard advertising has been largely conformed to by the tobacco industry, as there was strict compliance with the regulations on outdoor advertising in the monitored cities.
Meanwhile, the ban on POS advertising has been largely ignored. Most of the stores and supermarkets advertise tobacco products and some even expose cigarette shelves to young people and underage persons.
“During the shadow report, ERA/FoEN was able to establish that Nigeria is still far behind in implementing tax measures to reduce the demand for tobacco. Also, the average price of a pack of cigarette in Nigeria today is N300, while the average discounted price stands at N80.
“Nigerian government officials lack the required understanding on the methods used by the tobacco industry to influence government policies and legislations.
“The tobacco industry has leveraged on its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to weaken government’s resolve for effective tobacco legislation,” the report reads in part.
Oluwafemi added that it is now evident that a lot depends on the prompt signing into law of the NTCB by the president to make the overall enforcement of the principles of the FCTC possible in Nigeria.
He noted that while states like Osun and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) were moving ahead with the smoke-free public places ban, the issues of single sticks sale of tobacco, pictorial warning, tobacco industry interference, taxation etc, would have to wait until the national bill is signed.
Head of the anti-tobacco campaign group ERA/FoEN, Seun Akioye, therefore, called on President Jonathan and lawmakers in the country to expedite action on the anti-tobacco bill among others.
“We call on National Assembly members to fish out the bill wherever it is hidden. It is to save lives of Nigerians. This is the only bill that will, for the first time, benefit Nigerians directly, especially health-wise,” Akioye said.


Wole Oyebade

GROUP URGES PRESIDENT TO SIGN TOBACCO BILL


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Group calls for urgent passage of tobacco bill to law

 Env i r o n m e n t a l Rights Action/ Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/ FoEN) has called on President Goodluck Jonathan to, as a matter of urgency, sign to law the National Tobacco Control Bill in order to save the lives of millions of Nigerians who are daily smoking to their grave. Director of Corporate Accountability of ERA/ FoEN, Mr Olufemi Akinbode, who disclosed this while presenting the shadow report on the implementation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, FCTC, said the bill which scaled the second reading in the sixth Senate in February 2009, failed to see the light of the day till today.

 Against this background, Akinbode said his group has to research on the shadow report in order to draw the attention of the current senate and Nigerians to the incalculable damage the failure of not passing the bill will cause Nigerian citizens.
He lamented that seven years after Nigeria ratified the FCTC; it has not made any appreciable progress towards the eradication of the tobacco epidemic and reduction of addiction, because the process of domestication cannot take place until the President signs the bill to law.
 
SINA FADARE

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Why Nigeria must check activities of tobacco giants


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

PRESENTATION OF THE SHADOW REPORT ON STATUS OF THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE FCTC ARTICLES 5.3, 6 AND 13 IN NIGERIA

Environmentalists urge Jonathan to sign tobacco Bill


President Goodluck Jonathan has been urged to sign the National Tobacco Control Bill (NTCB) into law.
Speaking at the presentation of its Shadow Report on implementation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in Nigeria, the Environmental Rights Action (ERA)/ Friends of the Earth Nigeria (FoEN) yesterday in Lagos said the country stands to gain a lot from the domestication of the FCTC.
According to the group, since Nigeria ratified the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) FCTC in 2005, nothing significant has been achieved.
The group said Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora presented the National Tobacco Control Bill to the sixth National Assembly in 2008 as part of effort to domesticate its provisions, adding that till date, tobacco control in the country has left much to be desired.
ERA/ FoEN’s Director in charge of Corporate Accountability, Mr Akinbode Oluwafemi, said the passage of the NTCB will be the beginning of effective tobacco control legislation in the country.
"Nigeria will not make any progress towards the eradication of the tobacco epidemic and reduction of addiction without the signing into law, the NTCB," he said.
ERA’s Head, National Tobacco Control Campaign, Mr Seun Akioye, said the ban on outdoor/billboard advertising was obeyed by the tobacco industry, but that the ban on Point of Sale (POS) advertising has been ignored. He added that most of the stores and supermarkets advertise tobacco products while some expose cigarette shelves to young people and underage persons.
He said there were umbrellas, posters, kiosks and other means of outdoor advertising freely displayed.
Akioye said the prices of cigarette should be increased as well as the taxes on tobacco products effected to reduce the demand for tobacco. "During the Shadow Report, ERA/ FoEN wass able to establishe that the country is behind in implementing tax measures to reduce the demand for tobacco. Also, the average price of a pack of cigarette is N300 while the average discounted price stands at N80," he said.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Group faults BATN over investment in Nigeria



The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has faulted claims by British America Tobacco Nigeria (BATN) that its investment in Nigeria has been beneficial to the country.
ERA/FoEN in a statement said it was necessary to put the facts right following remarks by the Managing Director of BATN, Beverley Spencer-Obatoyinbo, at an investment forum last Thursday.
She had said at the forum that the company’s investment initiative in had turned out to be "a win-win situation" for the company and Nigeria.
BATN had in 2001 signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Federal Government to establish a $150 million tobacco factory in Ibadan.
Since then, the company has been targeting young Nigerians in a bid to recruit them as replacement smokers.
It has successfully done this through musical concerts, fashion shows and other promotional events like the Secret Smoking Parties that ERA/FoEN alerted the nation about when the events held in Ajegunle and Victoria Island, both in Lagos.
In a statement in Lagos, ERA/FoEN described the company’s claims as "sheer dishonesty", insisting that BATN continues to rake in profits as Nigerians harvest death and the health burden associated with the failure of the Federal Government to regulate the activities of tobacco companies operating in the country.
ERA/FoEN’s Director, Corporate Accountability and Administration, Akinbode Oluwafemi, said, "It is extremely fallacious and vexing for BATN to describe its stranglehold on the huge and largely uninformed Nigerian consumer market as a win-win situation.
‘’That remark is unfortunate and can be likened to a victory song by a company that has an avowed mission of conscripting new smokers through the glamorization of a deadly product."
Oluwafemi noted that: "For instance, in Lagos, one among the Nigerian states targeted by BATN for its image blitz, a 2006 survey in 11 government-owned hospitals revealed that at least two persons die daily from a tobacco-related disease.
‘’The survey also revealed that the Lagos government expends at least N216, 000 treating each of the 9,527 tobacco related cases documented while individual patient spends an additional N70,000."
Oluwafemi reiterated ERA/FoEN demand for the signing of the National Tobacco Control Bill (NTCB) by President Goodluck Jonathan.

‘Foreign Direct Investments key to economic growth’


  • BAT Nigeria MD says company was established in response to the federal government drive for FDIs
Beverley Spencer-Obatoyinbo, the Area Managing Director of British American Tobacco (BAT) Nigeria, has said that Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is the key to sustainable socio-economic national growth.
Speaking at the Nigerian British Chamber of Commerce’s March 2012 breakfast meeting in Lagos, Spencer-Obatoyinbo in a paper titled ‘Driving National Growth through Foreign Direct Investment’ said is one of the most dynamic international resource that flows into developing countries, bringing with it benefits capable of driving sustainable growth.
The Area MD said Nigeria - given her natural resource base and large market size - qualifies to be a major recipient of FDI in Nigeria, adding that BAT was established in the country in response to FG’s drive for FDIs.
As a result, she urged everyone in the meeting to look critically at how Foreign Direct Investment could be utilised to drive this growth especially in the non-oil sectors.
“But this [economic growth] has to be achieved by ensuring that firms with global best practices, ethical standards with the common goal of achieving economic growth in different areas are established,” she said. “According to recent reports, over 80% of our population earn less than $2 a day. A growing economy like ours needs a sizable amount of inflow of external resources to bridge the saving and foreign exchange gaps and work towards a sustainable growth level in order to eliminate any form of pervasive poverty.”