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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Campaign Against Tobacco Smoking

THIS year’s World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) held recently has again brought to the fore the necessity to seriously address long-standing issue of smoking and its health implications in Nigeria. Over the years, tobacco smoking has been associated with grave health problems well-known to the tobacco companies as well as many consumers of the product, who suffer the deleterious consequences.

But business considerations on the part of the companies on the one hand; and addiction, coupled with ignorance on the part of most consumers, particularly in the developing world, on the other hand, threaten the anti tobacco smoking campaign and render it a herculean task. Worse still is the confirmed fact that non-smokers are exposed to even more critical health problems from passive smoking, all of which should spur the authorities to increase their effort to protect the citizens from preventable death.

Due of its alarming public health effects, tobacco smoking has been banned in many places in the developed world. Interestingly, the United States and many European countries are at the forefront of the fight against tobacco smoking. It would appear that the tobacco companies are consequently shifting ground and targeting poor African countries with teeming youthful population.

These issues formed the plank in this year’s anti-tobacco day. The World Health Organization (WHO) used the occasion to reiterate the dangers of tobacco smoking and the efforts being made to protect populations around the world. WHO’s estimate that tobacco smoking would kill more than eight million people annually by 2030 is frightening, showing that the battle against tobacco is far from being won. And this is attributable to the aggressive marketing strategy of tobacco manufacturers.

Assertive adverts displayed on any available media space portray false satisfaction to smokers. The caution on tobacco packs that cigarette smoking can kill or is injurious to health does not seem to restrain the addicts, and is often inconspicuously displayed. Millions are dying silently every year from tobacco related health problems. It has been found that tobacco is a major risk factor for non-communicable diseases. Sadly, there is no reliable statistics on the deaths or illnesses caused by tobacco smoking in Nigeria to enable the health authorities take full control measures.

WHO has reportedly released a technical brief based on the 2008 guidelines for implementation of Article 5.3 of the 2003 WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, to help guide countries on ways to combat “tobacco industry interference” in the anti-tobacco campaign.  According to the organisation’s Director General, Dr. Margaret Chan, “In recent years, multinational tobacco companies have been shamelessly fuelling a series of legal actions against governments that have been in the forefront of the war against tobacco”.

She noted that the industry is now stepping out of shadow into court rooms, thereby making it imperative for a united effort to support governments that have the courage to do the right thing to protect their citizens. Unfortunately, corruption is a potent factor that would hinder some governments. Corrupt government officials who should engage the tobacco companies may be compromised thereby defeating the effort of government.

The tobacco industry is a big mafia made up of rich multinational operators with the capacity to fight back against perceived blackmail of their products using all manner of tactics to achieve their aim. This resistance poses a serious challenge against governments and the anti tobacco campaign, which are nevertheless urged to resist the antics of the tobacco companies. In the words of Dr. Douglas Bettcher, Director of WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative, “national leaders should resist these tactics and use the full force of the Convention to protect the hard-won gains to safeguard people’s health from the scourge of tobacco”.

It is worrisome that multinational tobacco companies that were finding it increasingly difficult to operate in the developed world are relocating to Africa and other developing regions of the world, cashing in on the apparently weak and corrupt governments, and the good market prospects they found in the teeming youthful population, which are obvious targets.

In Nigeria, the big tobacco manufacturers are mounting resistance against any move to discourage the smoking habit. One such company, the other day, rejected the accusations of “industry interference” in public health policy making, as charged by WHO and anti-tobacco campaigners promoting the “World No Tobacco Day”. It has consistently defended what it perceives as “its right to engage transparently on issues affecting its legitimate business selling a legal, highly regulated product that mainly adults choose to use”. Surely this resistance is tantamount to waging a silent war on the citizenry.

There is need for more public enlightenment on the dangers of tobacco smoking. Government should use media adverts, radio and TV jingles, as well as bill boards to discourage people from smoking. People should be told that nicotine is a poison and its addiction is dangerous to health and could lead to early death. They should be educated that the life style portrayed in tobacco adverts is false and leads to no benefits.

Finally, government should curb the activities of the tobacco companies. No responsible government would sit back and allow the unrestrained production and sale of products that are injurious to the populace. The Federal Government should resist the flooding of the Nigerian market with tobacco products that were banned in other countries.


SOURCE

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tobacco smoke exposes children to chronic respiratory diseases – Study

Tobacco smoke exposes children to chronic respiratory diseases – Study

As the World Health Organisation celebrates the World No Tobacco Day, MAUREEN AZUH examines a study that focuses on the hazards of exposing children to tobacco smoke
 On Thursday, May 31, the World Health Organisation celebrated the World No Tobacco Day with the theme ‘Tobacco Industry Interference’. The campaign focused on the need to expose and counter the perceived tobacco industry’s attempt to undermine WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control — WHO FCTC — because of the danger they pose to public health.
According to reports by WHO, tobacco use is one of the leading preventable causes of death. The global tobacco epidemic kills nearly six million people yearly, of which more than 600,000 are people exposed to second-hand smoke. The reports indicate that unless a drastic action is taken, it will kill up to eight million people by 2030 and 40 million people — who also suffer from tuberculosis — by 2020 of which more than 80 per cent  will live in low- and middle-income countries.
But beyond WHO’s report and campaign, researchers in their bid to find a lasting solution to tobacco-related diseases say children exposed to tobacco smoke may face long-term respiratory problems. In a report by the American Thoracic Society, published online on May 20, 2012,  it was found that there are potential health risks associated with exposure to environmental tobacco smoke – ETS – especially among children whose parents smoke.
The study conducted by researchers from the University of Arizona, US indicates that the health risks persist beyond childhood, and are independent of whether or not the individuals involved end up becoming smokers in life.  The researchers posit that exposure to parental smoking increases the risk of the persistence of respiratory symptoms from childhood into adulthood independent of personal smoking.
Research specialist at the university, Juliana Pugmire, says “persistent respiratory illness in childhood and young adulthood could indicate an increased risk of chronic respiratory illness and lung function deficits in later life.”
Pugmire notes that earlier studies established a link between parental smoking and childhood respiratory illness, but the current one seeks to demonstrate whether these effects persist into adulthood.
 “A handful of studies examined whether children exposed to parental smoking had asthma that developed or persisted in adulthood but most did not find an association. We examined asthma as well as other respiratory symptoms and found that exposure to parental smoking had the strongest association with cough and chronic cough that persisted into adult life. Exposure to parental smoking also had effects, although weaker, on persistent wheezing and asthma in adulthood,” she says.
The researchers drew data from the Tucson Epidemiological Study of Airway Obstructive Disease, a large, population-based, prospective study initiated in 1972 that enrolled 3,805 individuals from 1,655 households in the Tucson area,  in an effort to assess prevalence rates and risk factors of respiratory and other chronic diseases.
Participants were asked to complete questionnaires that were issued every two years until 1996. But for the present study, the researchers used data from 371 individuals who were enrolled in the TESAOD as children.
Pugmire and her colleagues looked at the reported prevalence of active asthma, wheeze, cough and chronic cough, which was defined as a persistent cough that had occurred for three consecutive months. They divided the data into four categories: never, which included individuals who had not reported that symptom during childhood or adulthood; incident, which included individuals who had never reported the symptom in childhood, but had reported at least one incident in adulthood; remittent, including participants who reported at least one incident in childhood and none in adulthood; and persistent, which included individuals who had at least one report of a symptom during both childhood and adulthood.
With the data, the researchers determined that 52.3 per cent of children included in the current study were exposed to ETS between birth and 15 years. After adjustments for sex, age, years of follow-up and personal smoking status, the researchers found that ETS exposure in childhood was significantly associated with several persistent respiratory symptoms, including persistent wheeze, cough and chronic cough.
Pugmire states that persistent wheezing from childhood into adult life has been shown to be associated with lung function deficits. Chronic bronchitis – defined as chronic cough and phlegm – is a significant risk factor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease development later in life.
“The persistence of symptoms like chronic cough and wheeze into young adulthood may indicate a susceptibility to lung function deficits and chronic respiratory illness with age,” she adds.
Perhaps in a likely search for a lasting solution to the menace of tobacco smoking, yet another study says anti-Tobacco television adverts may help adults to stop smoking. The study published in the online journal, American Journal of Public Health, in April, finds that though some adverts may be more effective than others, all anti-tobacco television advertising help reduce adult smoking.
The study looked at the relationship between adults’ smoking behaviours and their exposure to adverts sponsored by states; private foundations; tobacco companies themselves or by pharmaceutical companies marketing smoking-cessation products. The researchers  analysed variables such as smoking status, intentions to quit smoking, attempts to quit in the past year, and average daily cigarette consumption. The report says they found that in markets with higher exposure to state-sponsored media campaigns, “smoking is less, and intentions to quit are higher.”
The researchers, however, say an unexpected finding of the study was that adults who were in areas with more adverts for pharmaceutical cessation products were less likely to make an attempt to quit.
Meanwhile,  as WHO and other countries move to fully meet their obligations and counter tobacco industry’s efforts to undermine the treaty,  the World No Tobacco Day 2012 – according to WHO – educated policy-makers and the general public about the tobacco industry’s nefarious and harmful tactics, as well as reinforce health warnings of tobacco.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Battling tobacco trading


  • ERA/FoEN wants tobacco bill signed


THE National Tobacco Control Bill, passed by the Senate on March 15, 2011, and concurred by the Lower House on May 31, 2011 (World No Tobacco Day), which in July, 2009, had its   public hearing conducted by the senate and attracted more than 40 civil society groups, including groups from the tobacco industry who were against the bill; still awaits the assent of the president. However, the bill takes a forefront in improving the health of the general public. The bill which repeals the Tobacco (Control) Act 1990 CAP. T16 Laws of the Federation is aimed at domesticating the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). The keys highlights of the bill are prohibition of smoking in public places; to include restaurant and bar, public transportation, schools, hospitals etc. A ban on all forms of direct and indirect advertising, prohibition of sales of cigarette 1000-meter radius of areas designated as non-smoking, mass awareness about the danger of smoking as well as the formation of committee that will guide government on the issue of tobacco control in the country.

It prohibits all forms of tobacco advertisement, sponsorships and promotions, endorsements or testimonials, sales promotions. Prohibition of the sale of tobacco products 1,000 meter radius places designated as non smoking and empowers government to use litigation to recoup liabilities related to tobacco consumption. 

Spreading Tobacco scourge
Even as tobacco death toll soars beyond 6 million, big tobacco industries have stepped up its efforts to prevent tobacco control laws from taking effect. Highly visible examples include lawsuits by Phillip Morris International and its competitors against countries like Austrialia, Norway and Uruguay for implementing strong tobacco control laws.

“Big Tobacco is very publicly bullying countries in hopes they will cave, their neighbours will cave, and treaty implementation will cave,” said Kelle Louaillier, Executive Director of Corporate Accountability International.

World Health Assembly resolution on transparency in tobacco control process, citing the findings of the Committee of Experts on Tobacco Industry Documents, states that “the tobacco industry has operated for years with the express intention of subverting the role of governments and WHO in implementing public health policies to combat the tobacco epidemic.”

For example, in an attempt to halt the adoption of pictorial health warnings on packages of tobacco, the industry recently adopted the novel tactic of suing countries under bilateral investment treaties, claiming that the warnings impinge the companies' attempts to use their legally-registered brands.

Meanwhile, the industry's attempts to undermine the treaty continue on other fronts, particularly with regard to countries' attempts to ban smoking in enclosed public places and to ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.  Tobacco advertising and promotions are everywhere. 

Despite the ban on smoking in public places, there are still promotions of cigarette smoking in clubs, parties, rural areas and sharing of gifts.  

For instance, the British American Tobacco of Nigeria Foundation (BATNF) aimed at  improving the quality of life of citizens in rural and urban areas of Nigeria through sustainable poverty alleviation, agricultural development,  potable water, environmental protection and vocational skills acquisition  are ways to get into the heart of the masses which will inturn promote cigarette smoking. 

BAT is also involved with sport sponsoring, especially football which is popular in Nigeria. FIFA's decision to prohibit tobacco ads in sports grounds and on the players shirts was only for the World cup. 

However, an odd thing is the simultaneous presence of advertising for Marlboro while nobody holds a distributing license for Marlboro in Nigeria.   

The Environment Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) states that Tobacco industry interference is to weaken law to ensure they never get enacted and to undermine those laws.

“Even though the law didn't specify the public places but they have been moving around to kiosks, hotels, advertise with sharing umbrellas, commissioning of borehole. Tobacco company should be held responsible for both the environmental, economic, health and social cost,” said Mr. Akinbode Oluwafemi, Director, Corporate Accountability and Administration.

He referred to the Tobacco companies humanitarian gestures as being against the health of the ublic. “These gestures are not strictly humanitarian gestures; most companies act for the benefit of mankind but Tobacco Company is acting against the benefit of mankind.”
He also revealed that, “Tobacco companies don't pay taxes, they actually rake the taxes from smokers. So, when they pay N1billion tax,  it means that they have sold close toN100 billion cigarettes.”

Director, People against Drug Dependence and Ignorance, Mr.Eze Eluchie adds “One of BAT's most recent and successful promotion is named Experience Hollywood: they organize film showings and with your ticket you are given a pack of cigarettes. I tried to attend one  such event with a camera but they refused to let me in with the camera.” 

Health threats
Tobacco use most commonly leads to diseases affecting the heart, with smoking being a major risk factor for heart attacks, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), emphysema, and cancer, particularly lung cancer, cancers of the larynx and mouth, and pancreatic cancer. Overall life expectancy is also reduced in regular smokers, with estimates ranging from 10_17.9 years fewer than nonsmokers.

Eluchi said 13,700 people die as a result of cigarette having 35% aid of cancer and approximately 5 million people die of cigarette everyday.

Statistics
The global tobacco epidemic kills nearly 6 million people each year, of which more than 600,000 are people exposed to second-hand smoke and may kill up to 8 million people by 2030 if nothing drastic is done, of which more than 80per cent live in low- and middle-income countries.

Among male smokers, the lifetime risk of developing lung cancer is 17.2per cent; among female smokers, the risk is 11.6per cent. This risk is significantly lower in nonsmokers: 1.3per cent in men and 1.4per cent in women. 

Recommendations
The WHO/FCTC on tobacco control is to raise awareness about the addictives and harmful nature of tobacco products and industry interference with Parties' tobacco policies. Establish measures to limit interactions with the tobacco products and transparency of those interactions that occur and require information provided by the tobacco industry be transparent and accurate.

Oluwafemi urged prioritizing the health of the people above the commercial investment interests of the tobacco industry. “We want the presidency to hearken to the call from the global and local communities. He has the window of signing because the constitution is clear. The world is watching. We've not confirmed from the president if he has received the bill and no information yet if he is not going to sign for public health, nothing is too much.”


Monday, June 4, 2012

Senate Vs Jonathan: Now The War Drum Beats

President Goodluck Jonathan last week stoked the fire when he accused the National Assembly of tearing budget bills to shreds. The National Assembly has returned the fire asking Jonathan to sit up. UCHENNA AWOM, in this diary, suggests that the war drum beat, after all,may be sounding fast and aloud.
These are heated times in Nigeria’s socio-political environment. It is a period that could alter the once chubby relationships and can also bring out the best in institutions. That being the case, is the once rosy romance between the National Assembly and the Presidency going awry? Indications to this emerged last week during the democracy day celebrations.
President Goodluck Jonathan first stoked the fire at the Democracy Day symposium last week Monday, the President accused lawmakers of “tearing” the budget bill and of acting against the manifesto of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). By inference, he implied that the National Assembly frustrates the implementation of the budgets.
Though Jonathan was said to have squared up with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, over the bills that have stayed for a long time in the President’s in-tray at that occasion, but his vociferous approach to the issue underscores the emerging gulf between both institutions. In that case, it was potent enough to ignite a caustic response from the parliament no matter how uncoordinated. The response did come and of course it has elicited several interpretations ranging from some that suggests ‘no-love-lost’ between both arms.
First, Tambuwal pointedly said at the occasion that Jonathan was shirking his constitutional responsibility by sitting on many bills passed by the National Assembly.
His remark was seen as a forerunner to a planned coordinated response by the National Assembly.
So, it was not surprising when the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, took on President Goodluck Jonathan last Wednesday over his failure to assent to some bills passed by the National Assembly.
He also claimed that the President “distorted facts” when he said on Monday that the lawmakers tore up the budget proposal sent to them; thereby, making it difficult for the executive to implement it.
“A number of bills that would have changed a lot of things for this country have not been signed”, Ekweremadu said using the opening of a public hearing by the Senate Committee on Environment and Ecology on a bill to set up an erosion control commission to hit back at the Presidency.
“So, my advice to the executive is to dialogue with the legislature in matters like these and find a common ground instead of shifting blames”, he added.
Continuing, Ekweremadu warned, “We expressed our displeasure over some of the bills which we have sent to the Presidency for assent since last year that have not received presidential assent. And in response, the president said that it is because we are creating agencies. We will continue to create agencies if it is important, because that is why we are here.
“So, we have to do our job. Most of those bills have nothing to do with agencies. I remember we have the State of the Nation Address Bill, it has nothing to do with any agency and it has not been signed. We have the National Health Bill. It has nothing to do with an agency. It has not been signed. We have the Air Force Institute of Technology Bill and Tobacco Bills.
“If institutions are to be created, they will definitely be created. So any person who thinks that the creation of institutions should stop is wasting his time. It would not stop because the society itself is dynamic”.
On the budget bill, Ekweremadu declared, “I also believe that the issue which he (Jonathan) also raised regarding the Appropriation Bill was also a distortion of facts. The president said that we tore the Appropriation Bill into pieces which made it impossible for implementation. Certainly, that is not so.
“I am aware that the 2012 Appropriation Bill was returned to the executive substantially the same way they brought it. So, we are challenging them to ensure that the 2012 Appropriation Act is fully implemented.
“They have been complaining that they could not implement the budget because of the inputs of the National Assembly.
“So, this year, we said we are not making any input, we are going to give you the bill the way you brought it as a challenge to ensure that it is implemented. So, we expect them to implement it 100 per cent because that is their own vision.
“Of course, he also made reference to a point where they wanted to go to court to challenge the role of the National Assembly in altering Appropriation Bills. Well, that will be a welcome development.
“So we want to suggest that the executive should please take that step of going to the Supreme Court or any court they wish to look at the constitutionality of our role in terms of appropriation for this country. We will be happy to see the outcome, and of course, we will obey whatever the court says.
“But we believe the National Assembly has the ultimate say when it comes to the appropriation of funds because that is what the constitution says. If the Supreme Court or any other court says otherwise, we would succumb to it and do exactly what the court says.
“Some of these things I think are things we should be able to discuss with the executive. There is need for closer collaboration between the parliament and the executive because if we are close to each other, we can always discuss, we can always dialogue. But if we are far in between, of course, we will be shouting at each other because for you to hear me if we are far between, I have to raise my voice. So, I don’t think that is good for democracy”.
The spat is perhaps the first open show of tacit disagreement between the Presidency and the National Assembly. Though there had been instances where the Presidency and the House of Representatives disagree openly, but such altercations have never exceeded the boundaries of both chambers. In most of such cases it was the Senate that mediates. But the situations have changed and there is unanimity of purpose, defence and response in the National Assembly.
The implication is that we may again witness a situation of serial overriding of a seeming presidential veto of any of the bills lying in the President’s in-tray. Doing this, which was last witnessed in the first session of the National Assembly when they overruled ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo’s veto on the Niger Delta Development Commission (NNDC) Bill, will reinvent the national parliament as peopled by serious minded individuals who are ready at all times to check the excesses of the executive.
For now, the beat goes on and the chicken is coming home to roost.


SOURCE

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Anti-Tobacco Battle Pits Corporations Against Public Health

....Tobacco corporations threaten public health with lawsuits against anti-tobacco legislation. 

Lawsuits from major tobacco corporations challenging anti-tobacco policies all over the world underscore the ever greater need for a global crackdown on tobacco use, for the sake of both public health and global development goals.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) highlighted this situation when it chose "industry interference" as the centrepiece of its anti-tobacco campaign this year for World No Tobacco Day, observed annually on May 31. 

The WHO has taken a "bold stance" in a bid to stop the tobacco industry's attempts to undercut steps to improve public health, John Stewart, senior international organiser of Corporate Accountability International (CAI), told IPS. 

"Tobacco and poverty create a vicious circle, since it is the poor who smoke most and bear the brunt of the economic and disease burden of tobacco use," said United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon in his address on World Tobacco Day. 

Tobacco kills nearly 6 million people each year. It will kill up to 8 million people per year by 2030, of which more than 80 percent will live in low- and middle-income countries, according to the WHO. 

Many countries have taken steps towards kicking a lethal global habit, and the Global Tobacco Treaty (formally known as the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, or FCTC) is a crucial tool in the struggle. If fully implemented, it could save more than 200 million lives, Stewart told IPS. 

Ahead of global tobacco treaty meetings to be held in Seoul in November, groundbreaking policies in Australia and Uruguay have been lauded as positive steps towards reducing tobacco consumption. 

Health warnings must now cover 80 percent of cigarette packages in Uruguay and each brand is permitted only one design per package. Australia has gone further still, implementing a policy of plain packaging in an attempt to de-glamorise the appeal of smoking. 

In response, the tobacco firm Philip Morris International has declared the policies "excessive" and filed a lawsuit at a World Bank affiliate, seeking unspecified damages for lost profits. 

"While governments and the international health community try to implement effective measures to contain tobacco use and protect the health of people, their efforts are being aggressively opposed by an industry whose products kill people," said Ban, noting big tobacco's aggressive attempts to derail public health initiatives. 

The prospect of lengthy and expensive lawsuits threatens to become an effective deterrent to anti- tobacco policies of the type pioneered by Australia and Uruguay. 

"Big Tobacco's bullying is the single greatest threat to implementation of the Global Trade Treaty," Stewart said. 

"Marlboro Man" Awards 

The Marlboro Man awards, part of CAI's Challenging Big Tobacco campaign, are a mock celebration of governments' failures to stand up to the tobacco industry 

By buoying big tobacco's litigation campaign, some countries, including the Netherlands, Indonesia, Honduras and Ukraine, qualify for nomination in this year's awards. 

Ukraine complained at the World Trade Organisation about Australia's ban on branding cigarette packets, saying it violated international intellectual property laws. 

Yet Ukraine doesn't have any trade with Australia, Stewart pointed out. "It seems a pretty obvious case of the industry somehow influencing the government of the Ukraine to do their dirty work for them." 

Given the increasingly aggressive and manipulative tactics taken by big tobacco, public health policymakers and anti-tobacco campaigners have little trust in the industry. 

"Public health initiatives should be focused on challenging this deadly industry," Stewart told IPS. 

"The tobacco industry presents itself as a stakeholder in public health policy. We are calling on governments to keep big tobacco out of the room when public health policy decisions are being made" he said. 

But others believe in the possibilities of reining in corporate giants and challenging them face to face. 

"The industry can't be painted with one brush stroke," said Scott Ballin, a health policy consultant and former vice president for public policy and legislative counsel at the American Heart Association. 

"There is a need to think from the standpoint of what the companies could do if they wanted to - for instance, stopping the production of tobacco tainted with other products, cracking down on smuggling and raising standards," Ballin told IPS. 

From this perspective, dialogue can't be ruled out. Ballin suggested "challeng(ing) these companies and forc(ing) them to develop the products that technology says can be developed. This will move people away from cigarettes to using low-risk products," he said. 

Targeting youth 

According to CAI's 2012 report "Cutting through the Smoke", tobacco giants have and continue to operate a shamelessly exploitative marketing strategy in the developing world. 

Faced with dropping sales in the U.S., UK and European markets, big tobacco has turned to consumers in the developing world to bolster cigarette sales. 

For the past seven years British American Tobacco Nigeria (BATN) has been utilising underground parties held at secret locations in Lagos to attract hip Nigerian party goers with the allure of free fun. 

At a conference organised for World No Tobacco Day, Gigi Kellett, CAI's Challenging Big Tobacco campaign director, described the scene. 

"Picture a dance floor throbbing to the beat of music, young women in sequined mini-skirts adding sparkle to the crowded throng, young men in fedoras making their way to an all-you-can-smoke-and- drink buffet, courtesy of the nation's largest tobacco corporation: British American Tobacco Nigeria," Kellett told reporters and policy makers.

Environmental Rights Action Nigeria, a Nigerian advocacy group dedicated to the defence of the human ecosystem in terms of human rights, has worked tirelessly to bring the Global Tobacco Treaty into force in Nigeria. 

But big tobacco skirts regulation with these smoking parties, promoted online or by word of mouth, Kellett added. 

These corporations' exploitation of alternative regulatory contexts in emerging countries like Nigeria worsens the already tarnished image of the industry. It exemplifies one of several points of conflict between big tobacco and the Global Tobacco Trade Treaty. 

Ballin suggested that "the best way to find a path forward is to sit down with the stakeholders". But as tobacco companies' underhanded marketing strategies transgress the boundaries of international law, anger and suspicion overtake the landscape, transforming it into a battlefield. 



By Isabelle de Grave 
http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=108009 

Jonathan-NASS cold war: President to return 12 bills


• Wants to avert override by National Assembly • House leadership to consider line of action next week

The cold war between the Presidency and the National Assembly over unsigned bills has forced President Goodluck Jonathan back to the drawing board.
 He met with his key strategists at the weekend to review complaints by the Senate and the House of Representatives over   his refusal to sign 14 bills passed by them.
The review session was aimed at averting the resort to override by the legislature.
 Two of the bills may now be signed by the President, it was gathered yesterday in Abuja while the remaining 12 could be returned to the legislators for reconsideration.
A principal officer of the House said the chamber may meet soon on their next line of action on the unsigned bills.
Speaker Aminu Tambuwal of the House of Representatives and Senate  Deputy President  Ike Ekweremadu last week  joined issues with the President on bills awaiting the President’s signature.
These include: Public Procurement Amendment Bill; Legal Aid Council Bill, National Health Bill; the Bill on People with Disability; National Assembly Budget and Research Office Establishment Bill; Tobacco Bill, State of the Nation Address Bill; FCT Area Courts Bill; and National Assembly Service Commission Repeal and Re-enactment Bill.
The rest are: National Bio-Safety Management Bill; River Basin Development Authority Amendment Bill; Nigerian Hydrological Services Agency Bill; FCT Board of Internal Revenue Bill; Harmonized Retirement Age of Tertiary Institutions Workers Bill; and Police Act Amendment Bill.
The President and his strategists are believed to have discussed the constitutional status of each of the bills and resolved to act on some of them with a view to averting a confrontation with the National Assembly. 
The Senate and the House of Representatives, one source said, were spoiling for war with the executive over the unsigned bills.
 Speaker Tambuwal, at a National Symposium on the occasion of Democracy Day in Abuja last Monday accused the Executive arm of shirking its responsibility of assenting to bills passed by the legislature.
This, he said, was not in the best interest of the country and did not augur well for the relationship between the executive and legislative arms.
The  President  acknowledged ‘a major conflict’ between the two sides and explained that this was brought about by the insistence of the legislators to hijack the budget proposals submitted every year for approval.
He said the National Assembly had formed the habit of tearing and distorting such budget proposals.
“We even wanted to go to the court, so that the Supreme Court would tell us if it is the duty of the National Assembly to plan the economy,” he said, adding: “Let them do the budget, hand over to us we will implement, but if it is our duty, then they should listen to us because the executive arm of government has a ministry of planning and finance and works with the Central Bank..”
The Chairman of the House Committee on Rules and Business, Albert Tsokwa (PDP, Taraba), said the National Assembly might override the bills in line with Section 58 of the 1999 Constitution.
But it was also discovered at the meeting that some of the bills have been overtaken by events.
A top presidency source said: “Contrary to insinuations, the President had, a few weeks ago, asked the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN) and his aides to compile and bring outstanding bills to him.
“But a review of the bills indicated that some of them have been signed into law by the President. These are Harmonized Retirement Age of Tertiary Institutions Workers, the 2012 Appropriation Act and the Transfer of Convicted Prisoners amendment Act.
“The President does not just rush into signing any bill into law; his administration must ensure that a bill will promote development and ensure public peace and safety. It is not as if this administration is out to undermine the National Assembly.
“For instance yesterday (Friday) he met with his team on these outstanding bills and their status.”
Asked what the President would do in view of the position of the National Assembly, the source said: “He (Jonathan) will soon sign one or two of these outstanding bills into law, including the Tobacco Bill.
“The bills passed by the National Assembly so far this year may also be signed into law.
“We have however discovered that most of the bills have passed the statutory 30 days required of the President to sign them into law. Some of them were also passed by the Sixth National Assembly confirming that they have been overtaken by events.
“If you go through the rules of the National Assembly, there is no way the Seventh National Assembly would have inherited the bill liability of its predecessor because of the time factor.
“What the government will do is to resend these bills to the National Assembly for reconsideration. After the reconsideration, the President will now assent to the bills. So, hope is not lost.”
Responding to a question, the source added: “The government will not allow the situation to degenerate to the use of override by the National Assembly. Instead, the government will engage the legislature on the way out.
“I can assure you that we will not allow the use of override, we will rather lobby National Assembly members to appreciate the observations of the government on these bills.”
But a principal officer of the House of Representatives, who spoke in confidence, said: “We are in full support of what Tambuwal said because he tried to protect the integrity of the National Assembly.
“We will however meet on the issue next week to determine our next line of action.”
Section 58(4-5) of the 1999 Constitution reads: “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 House by two-thirds majority, the bill shall become law and the assent of the President shall not be required.”
Another presidency source however added that the use of override is cumbersome and drew our correspondent’s attention to Section 59(4) of the Constitution.
The source said: “We won’t allow Executive-Legislature face-off but the truth is that the use of veto is not as easy as some are trying to claim.
“Just read Section 59(4) and you will discover that there must be a joint session of the National Assembly to pass any outstanding bill into law by the lawmakers. We won’t allow that at all.”
The section says: “Where the President, within 30 days after the presentation of the bill to him, fails to signify his assent or where he withholds assent, then the bill shall again be presented to the National Assembly sitting at a joint meeting and if passed by two-thirds majority of members of both Houses at such joint meeting, the bill shall become law and assent to the President shall not be required.”

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.

National Tobacco Bill missing on Jonathan’s table

As Nigeria marks the World Tobacco Day today, the National Tobacco Bill which was passed to law by the sixth Senate on March 9, 2011 has developed wings as reports said the bill was missing on the table of President Goodluck Jonathan.
This was the conclusion of stakeholders who met at a round table conference organised by the Environmental Rights Action/ Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FOFN) in Lagos on the implementation of the National Tobacco Control Bill.
Director Corporate Accountability and Administration in ERA/FOFN, Mr. Oluwafemi Akinbode, lamented that despite the fact that the bill was passed to law about 13 months ago, the president refused to append his signature for it to become law.
According to him, all efforts to know the whereabouts of the bill in the president’s office proved abortive and all those who should know its whereabouts claimed ignorance.
“The information at our disposal indicates that the bill has completed its circle at the National Assembly and has been forwarded to the office of the Presidential Liaison Officer in the National Assembly, Senator Joy Emordi. We are expecting that the bill should be sent to the desk of the President,” he said.

SOURCE

Senate tasks Jonathan on unsigned bills

Senate President, David Mark
National Assembly has insisted that it will create agencies through legislation when necessary despite the failure of the executive to sign some bills passed by the legislature.

While declaring open the public hearing on the Erosion Control and Prevention Commission Bill, Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, said agencies would be created if they needed to be created, regardless of the current posture of the executive.

He recalled the exchange between members of the National Assembly and President Goodluck Jonathan at the Democracy Day symposium, where members complained of the failure of the President to sign crucial bills passed and sent to him by the legislature.

He said, “And in response, the President said that is because we are creating agencies. We will continue to create agencies if it is important because that is why we are here. So we have to do our job.

“If agencies are to be created they need to be created. Just to add to that most of those bills have nothing to do with agencies. I remember we have the State of the Nation Address Bill, it has nothing to do with agency and it has not been signed.

“We have the National Health Bill; it has nothing to do with an agency. It has not been signed. We have the Air Force Institute of Technology Bill and Tobacco Bill. A whole number of Bills that would have changed a lot of things for this country have not been signed.

“So, my advice to the executive arm of government is to dialogue with the legislature in matter like this and find a common ground instead of shifting blame because the making of laws is dynamic.”

He said the issue raised by the President on the Appropriation Bill was also a distortion of facts.

Ekweremadu said, “The President said that we tore the Appropriation Bill into pieces which made it impossible for implementation. That is not so. I am aware that the 2012 Appropriation bill was returned to the Executive substantially the same way they brought it.

“So we are challenging them to ensure that that Bill, the 2012 Appropriation Act is fully implemented.

“We did that, we gave them back the Appropriation Bill the way it came mostly because all the years they have been complaining that they could not implement the budget because of the input of the National Assembly.

“So this year we said we are not making any input, we are going to give you the Bill the way you brought it as a challenge to ensure that it is implemented. So we expect them to implement it 100 per cent because that is their own vision.”


http://www.punchng.com

Nigerians at risk of looming tobacco epidemic

In recent times, the issue of uncontrolled tobacco use has continued to attract comments from public health experts globally. This is so, following the high morbidity and mortality associated with tobacco use compared to any other risk factor.
While 2011 World Health Organisation (WHO) report revealed that tobacco currently kills over 5.4 million people annually; it also disclosed that tobacco use was the second cause of death globally (after hypertension).
Currently, it is responsible for killing one in 10 adults worldwide. Tobacco use is the number one preventable epidemic that the health community faces.
As Nigeria joined the rest of the World to mark ‘World No Tobacco Day’- a day set apart to draw global attention to the tobacco epidemic and its lethal effects, as well as promote adherence to WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), environmental and health experts have tasked government at all levels to adopt preventive comprehensive health education programmes on smoking cessation and control even as they urged President Goodluck Jonathan to sign the National Tobacco Bill (NTCB).
In an interview with BusinessDay, Akinbode Oluwafemi, director, Corporate Accountability & Administration, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), disclosed that countries across the globe have made strategic efforts to combat the dangers of smoking, especially among the youth by putting laws in place to regulate the production and marketing of tobacco products.
While the enactment of national laws and domestication of WHO’s FCTC are singular efforts in this direction, Akinbode revealed that the National Tobacco Bill, which was passed by the Senate on March 15, 2011 and concurred by the House of Representatives on May 31, 2011, is awaiting the President’s signature in order to make the bill a law.
According to Akinbode, “Nigeria has made giant strides in fulfilling our international obligations by attempting to domesticate the FCTC through the National Tobacco Control Bill. The bill seeks to end advertisement, sponsorship, promotion and prohibit the sale of cigarettes to minors. It recommended pictorial warnings on cigarette packs and ban smoking in public places.
“More importantly, the bill seeks to create a committee, National Tobacco Control Committee which will serve as an advisory role in terms of reviewing the policy. That, essentially, is what the bill is all about.”
Akinbode explained that while the bill seeks 50 percent pictures of the health implications on cigarette packs, Mauritius has already enforced 70percent and Ghana thinking of about 60 percent.
“In fact, some countries like Australia have even gone beyond the pictures and talk about plain packaging. They know it that they cannot debate this because the international community has moved beyond what is even in the bill as at today. This is a bill that has direct impact on Nigerians but we are afraid these gains that we have worked for as civil society organisations, legislators and the Ministry of Health may become futile if the President does not sign the bill. We need to save Nigerian youths from the looming tobacco epidemic,” Akinbode concluded.
Sylvester Osinowo, Africa Regional president, World Association of Family Doctors, (WONCA), pointed out that smoking had been identified to cause the heaviest burden of morbidity and mortality on Nigerians compared to any other risk factor.
Osinowo stated that smoking causes coronary heart diseases, cancer and reduction in fertility for women and poses adverse social, economic and developmental effects on the lives of individuals, their families and the community at large.
“Tobacco consumption causes multiple health risks as cigarette smokers are 2.4 times more likely to develop coronary heart disease than non-smokers. WHO’s cancer agency also indicates that smoking has been linked to about 90 percent of all lung cancer cases. The economic burden includes direct medical care cost for tobacco-induced illnesses, absence from work, reduction in productivity and death,” Osinowo stated.
The physician hinted that the primary health care (PHC) centres nearest to the people should be empowered to do push programmes with vigour to catch the youths before they adopt the serious health hazard habit.
The WONCA president, however, recommended that anti-smoking clinics be established in the PHCs and sickbay of colleges and tertiary institutions to rehabilitate those who were enmeshed already in the habit. He also appealed to family physicians and general medical practitioners to disengage themselves from habits such as smoking so as to be good role models for the society to follow.
While the intervention of the Minister of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu is a singular action that many generations of Nigerians will not forget, it is believed that safeguarding the health of Nigerians from the dangers of tobacco use remains critical in view of rising communicable and non communicable diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, cancer of different types, etc.


UNSIGNED BILLS: Mark hits back at Jonathan



Senate President David Mark yesterday took on President Goodluck Jonathan over his failure to assent to some bills passed by the National Assembly.
Mark also said the President “distorted facts” when he said on Monday that the lawmakers tore up the budget proposal sent to them thereby making it difficult for the executive to implement it.
“A number of bills that would have changed a lot of things for this country have not been signed,” Mark said at the opening of a public hearing by the Senate Committee on Environment and Ecology on a bill to set up an erosion control commission.
“So, my advice to the executive is to dialogue with the legislature in matters like these and find a common ground instead of shifting blames,” he added, speaking through his representative, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu.
At the Democracy Day symposium on Monday, Jonathan squared up with Speaker of the House of Representatives Aminu Waziri Tambuwal over the bills that have stayed for a long time in the President’s in-tray.
Tambuwal said Jonathan was shirking his constitutional responsibility by sitting on many bills passed by the National Assembly. In his response, Jonathan accused lawmakers of “tearing” the budget bill and of acting against the manifesto of the ruling PDP.
Yesterday, Mark joined the fray.
“We expressed our displeasure over some of the bills which we have sent to the Presidency for assent since last year that have not received presidential assent. And in response, the president said that it is because we are creating agencies. We will continue to create agencies if it is important, because that is why we are here,” he said.
“So, we have to do our job. Most of those bills have nothing to do with agencies. I remember we have the State of the Nation Address Bill, it has nothing to do with any agency and it has not been signed. We have the National Health Bill. It has nothing to do with an agency. It has not been signed. We have the Air Force Institute of Technology Bill and Tobacco Bills.”
He added: “If institutions are to be created, they will definitely be created. So any person who thinks that the creation of institutions should stop is wasting his time. It would not stop because the society itself is dynamic.”
On the budget bill, Mark said, “I also believe that the issue which he (Jonathan) also raised regarding the Appropriation Bill was also a distortion of facts. The president said that we tore the Appropriation Bill into pieces which made it impossible for implementation. Certainly, that is not so.
“I am aware that the 2012 Appropriation Bill was returned to the executive substantially the same way they brought it. So, we are challenging them to ensure that the 2012 Appropriation Act is fully implemented. They have been complaining that they could not implement the budget because of the inputs of the National Assembly.
“So, this year, we said we are not making any input, we are going to give you the bill the way you brought it as a challenge to ensure that it is implemented.  So we expect them to implement it 100 per cent because that is their own vision.
“Of course, he also made reference to a point where they wanted to go to court to challenge the role of the National Assembly in altering Appropriation Bills. Well, that will be a welcome development.
“So we want to suggest that the executive should please take that step of going to the Supreme Court or any court they wish to look at the constitutionality of our role in terms of appropriation for this country. We will be happy to see the outcome, and of course, we will obey whatever the court says.
“But we believe the National Assembly has the ultimate say when it comes to the appropriation of funds because that is what the constitution says. If the Supreme Court or any other court says otherwise, we would succumb to it and do exactly what the court says.
“Some of these things I think are things we should be able to discuss with the executive. There is need for closer collaboration between the parliament and the executive because if we are close to each other, we can always discuss, we can always dialogue. But if we are far in between, of course, we will be shouting at each other because for you to hear me if we are far between, I have to raise my voice. So I don’t think that is good for democracy.”

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