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Stakeholders seek enforcement of public smoke-free campaign

By Chukwuma Muanya (Lagos) and Adamu Abuh (Abuja)
31 May 2022   |   2:50 am
As the World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) holds, today, World Health Organisation (WHO), stop smoking and no tobacco advocates and civil society organisations (CSOs) have urged the government

Tobacco

As the World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) holds, today, World Health Organisation (WHO), stop smoking and no tobacco advocates and civil society organisations (CSOs) have urged the government at all levels to enforce a smoke-free public place policy in Nigeria.

WNTD is a day set aside by WHO and its partners to draw attention to the health risks associated with tobacco use and encourage governments to adopt effective policies to reduce smoking and fallouts of its use.

The theme of WNTD 2022 is, “Tobacco’s threat to our environment.”

WHO and partners, yesterday, called on governments and policymakers to step up legislation, including implementing and strengthening existing schemes to make producers responsible for the environmental and economic costs of dealing with tobacco waste products.

The global agency recommended that countries should fully ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, including advertising’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes, in accordance with the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC).

WHO, in a statement, said “from start to finish, the tobacco life cycle is an overwhelmingly polluting and damaging process. Air pollution caused by smoking springs to mind, but damage occurs across the entire supply chain and is much more complex.

The global agency noted: “Across the globe, around 3.5 million hectares of land are destroyed to grow tobacco each year. Growing tobacco also contributes to the deforestation of 200 000 hectares a year and soil degradation.

“Tobacco production depletes the planet of water, fossil fuel and metal resources. Globalisation of the tobacco supply chain and sales means the tobacco industry relies heavily on resource-intensive modes of transport.

“4.5 trillion cigarette butts are not disposed of properly every year across the globe, generating 1.69 billion pounds of toxic waste and releasing thousands of chemicals into the air, water and soil.”

Executive Director, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), Akinbode Oluwafemi, yesterday, at a press briefing in Abuja at the World No Tobacco Day 2022 in Abuja, said 80 per cent of over eight million people that die every year due to tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke live in low- and middle-income countries under which Nigeria is categorised.

Oluwafemi said it is therefore fitting that as Nigeria joins the global community in commemorating the 2022 WNTD, the Nigerian government and the public health community should look inwards and revisit the status of tobacco control in the country, especially the enforcement of the smoke-free public places policy contained in the National Tobacco Control (NTC) Act 2015.

He said the indoor public places where smoking is restricted listed in the Second Schedule of the Act include healthcare facilities, primary and secondary education facilities, shops, police stations and prisons, higher education facilities, transport facilities, theatres, cinemas, and stadiums among others.

Oluwafemi said, unfortunately, Section 9 of the Act provides for designated smoking areas to be created where there are a “sufficient number of rooms” where smoking is prohibited. He said this provision falls short of the obligations of Parties implementing Article 8 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) on providing effective protection from public and workplace exposure to tobacco smoke, to completely prohibit smoking in all parts of all indoor public places; in all parts of all indoor workplaces; on all means of public transportation; and in specified outdoor or quasi-outdoor spaces where a hazard exists due to tobacco smoke exposure.

Oluwafemi said because of the lacuna in the Act, Nigerians, including children are daily exposed to secondhand smoke in many indoor public spaces, and non-smokers working in bars and restaurants where cigarettes, shisha and other tobacco products are brazenly displayed and consumed.

He said as Nigerians contend with the environmental impacts of tobacco, so also do they grapple with the invasion of the media and entertainment space by the tobacco industry, which actively promotes and glamourises smoking in content watched by both adults and children.

Oluwafemi said Nigerians have witnessed for instance how, despite a National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) ban, Big Brother Naija show, a Pay-TV programme watched by adults and children alike, smoking among housemates is allowed and even promoted. He said, in the show, cigarettes are usually conspicuously displayed, and smoking is done recklessly, with total disregard for the health of possible non-smoker housemates.

Oluwafemi said the screening of 36 Nigerian movies by CAPPA in 2019 out of which 34 had tobacco footage/paraphernalia in the background further reinforces CAPPA’s convictions that the tobacco industry also has a stranglehold on the creative arts industry.

To address the issues, CAPPA made the following recommendations to the Nigerian government: reinvigorate the enforcement of the smoke-free public places policy; enforce the ban on Tobacco Advertising Promotion and Sponsorships (TAPS) ban as it pertains to the entertainment and movies sector; promote inter-agency collaboration and synergy in the enforcement of the ban on TAPS and the smoke-free public places policy

Others include: initiating or strengthening schemes to make tobacco manufacturers responsible for the environmental and economic costs of tobacco product waste; and providing support to tobacco farmers to switch to alternative, more viable and sustainable livelihoods to reduce the environmental impact of tobacco growing, curing, and manufacturing.