The Initiative for Public Policy Analysis(IPPA),a Non-Governmental Organisation(NGO) on Monday called on the Federal Government to enforce its laws on tobacco production, marketing and consumption.
IPPA’s Executive Director, Mr Thompson Ayodele, who made the call in a statement in Abuja, said it was wrong to blame industry players for the non-implementation of the tobacco law.
He recalled that Nigeria recently celebrated the 2017 World No Tobacco Day with the theme “Tobacco-A Threat to Development.”
Ayodele said that Nigeria had made a substantial progress with the enactment and passage of National Tobacco Control Act, NTCA, (2015).
“ This Act is a customised version of the 2005 WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which is aimed at addressing the perceived concerns relating to production and marketing of tobacco products.
“The passage and signing of the NTCA presents a far-reaching step to ensure a balanced and fair way to address whatever concerns remain in the production and sales of tobacco products in Nigeria.
“The implementation of the Act is within the ambit of the executive branch to enforce whatever regulations that are contained in the bill.
“ It is ironic that rather than liaising with the appropriate organ of government to understand the non-implementation of NTCA, anti-tobacco groups are now blaming the same industry for its non-implementation.’’
He said that the slogan, World No Tobacco Day, was at variance with the realities and people’s preference to any product not just to tobacco but to other products.
Ayodele said that top three killer diseases-Malaria, HIV/AIDS and Diarrhoea showed no direct or near correlation with the consumption of the tobacco products.
He said that the credibility of data released on the number of people who would supposedly be affected by smoking in the year 2025 was questionable.
“Of course the health concerns of Nigerians should not be treated with a kid-glove; every responsible government will want its population to be healthy.
“However, banning a legal product has its unintended consequences because people will explore other avenues to get the same products no matter how illegal.
“This will pose a significant threat to Nigeria’s development not just in terms of loss of revenue that legitimate businesses pay; the activities of smugglers could further exacerbate the complex security challenge in Nigeria.
“We are all living witnesses to when a ban was placed on the importation of rice which lead to the increase in smugglers’ activities,’’ he said.
He said that resorting to name calling, groups opposed to the tobacco industry should come up with evidence based solutions not merely engaging in arguments based on emotions.
Ayodele said that Nigeria, as a signatory to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, should ensure that local laws that were consistent with WHO framework were enforced.