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Why legislators must be fair on tobacco legislation


tobacco legislation

tobacco legislation

ALL over the world, the issues around tobacco production, consumption and control occupy the attention of quite a lot of people spread across a colourful spectrum of those who think tobacco consumption should be banned and others who believe the product, which is legal globally, should be consumed responsibly by those who are so inclined.

The industry has witnessed a proliferation of lobbyists, non-governmental organisations, among several others who are pushing one agenda or the other.  Nigeria has its fair share of people and organisations that have a keen interest in the tobacco industry.

This much was in evidence when the House of Representatives Committees on Health and Justice, and also the Senate Committee on Health held public hearings over the tobacco bills under consideration.

The hearing rooms were packed full with many of the attendees submitting one memorandum or the other.  Quite a number of issues occupied the interest of participants at the two public hearings.

Preventing young people from smoking, clear delineation of smoke-free areas and areas where smoking is permissible, the responsibilities and membership of the proposed National Committee on Tobacco Control and the right of producers to communicate with their trade partners, among others were some of the major issues that were discussed.

The discussions were open and transparent with members of the National Assembly particularly striving to ensure that there was a level playing field for stakeholders to air their views in the open. Memoranda were adopted in the presence of all and the legislators went further to show that they were not only transparent in their dealings with the public, but were keen to be seen as transparent.

However, reports emanating from the National Assembly indicate that some anti-tobacco groups have been pressuring members of the committees of the House and Senate that held the public hearings.

This is with a view to infusing into the final bill clauses that were not presented at the public hearings; in some instances, the new clauses that the anti-tobacco coalition is pushing to be included in the final draft bill were not the same as those presented at the public hearings.

This is clearly unethical. A few of the “new demands” need highlighting.  While at the public hearing, it was agreed by participants that it was important that public places, which hitherto had no restriction on smoking, should be declared smoke-free zones but with a caveat: A section that is well ventilated should be provided for people who chose to smoke to do so without infringing on the rights of non-smokers to tobacco-free air.

However, in the fresh demands of the coalition, they are calling for a total ban on smoking even in places such as restaurants, hotels and bars where adults frequent, even if such places meet the strictest guidelines in delineating smoke-free environments from places where smoking is allowed.

The total ban on outdoor places, in the estimation of the anti-tobacco groups, is the first step towards achieving a complete ban on tobacco production and consumption in Nigeria.

Another demand, which was not made public at the hearing, but one that is being surreptitiously pursued by the anti-tobacco groups, is the issue of branding cigarette packs.

Their new demand is for cigarette packs to be altered in such a way that the different brand names will be subsumed under health warnings and in so doing, eliminate or completely remove the ability of producers to brand their products and consumers from differentiating one product from another.

Worse still, it will be impossible for law enforcement agencies and consumers to differentiate between a counterfeit or smuggled product from one that has been produced under strict regulations, with statutory payments made to government.

Yet, another fresh demand of the anti-tobacco lobby for inclusion into the draft tobacco regulation bill is the total exclusion of the legitimate tobacco producers from any engagement, particularly those geared towards regulating the tobacco industry.

They claim that the views of the legitimate producers are not needed or relevant in crafting legislation to regulate their products. The protagonists of this viewpoint based their arguments on the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which they are urging members of the National Assembly to adopt the most stringent recommendations in crafting legislation on tobacco control.

The FCTC, which was formulated by the World Health Organisation, only recommends thresholds, and also states that in engaging tobacco producers, it must be in an open and transparent manner.

There is no clause wherein it was stated that legitimate producers should be completely excluded from the engagement process aimed at finding solutions to challenges in the industry.

Members of the committee and indeed the National Assembly should be wary of the scare tactics of the anti-tobacco groups. This tactic has been discredited severally, even by a member of the Senate committee at the public hearings.

While other groups presented their memoranda, which were based on factual information in a civil manner, a member of the anti-tobacco groups attempted to scare members of the committee and others by bandying exaggerated figures to make his case better than it seemed.

Senator Gyang Pwajok took umbrage at the US$591 million which Nigerians were purported to spend yearly on medical treatment as a result of tobacco consumption and the allegation that as many as 20 billion cigarette sticks are sold yearly in Nigeria.

The lawmaker simply told the purveyor of such tales that the figures were not based on any research and were at best far-fetched. Senator Pwajok, in fact, doubted the authenticity and motives of many of such supposed “public spirited” groups.

It is advisable that in finalizing the Tobacco Control Bill, members of the National Assembly hinge their conclusions on only the memos and submissions presented either prior to, or at the public hearings.

Accepting memos through the backdoor, in which case the content of the memo will not be open to public scrutiny, would fall far short of acceptable global best practice, particularly for the fact such submissions only embody one point of view.

As canvassed on several occasions by key stakeholders, what is paramount at the end of the day is a regulation that is balanced, one that takes cognizance of Nigeria’s public health aspirations.

In doing so, however, tobacco control regulation must also be sufficiently robust as not to leave room for unintended consequences which could ultimately create worse social and economic problems.

Carrying out public hearings and aggregating opinions have been a critical part of the process of developing robust and enforceable tobacco control legislation.

Legislators should refuse to be influenced by the latter-day attempts by certain so-called anti-tobacco lobbyists to derail this process. •Ms Obi is of the Centre for the Promotion of Enterprise and Business Best Practice, Abuja.

  • Dchosen

    I am thoroughly ashamed on behalf of the author of this piece. Must you sacrifice the future of your children on the platform of “stomach infrastructure “. The tobacco industry is only after their profit at the expense of our health. This madness must stop!

    • ScottEwing

      Keep on drinking the kool-aid.

      • Dchosen

        There is much evidence to support the health effects. You need to be scientific in your contribution. Where did you see any issue about snake oil or pharmacist here. Even a five year old knows that sitting next to a smoker hurts you. Even the initial iritation to the eyes is enough. Please get a life and stop abusing people when they show you how you are wrong!

        • harleyrider1989

          ….Judge doesnt accept statistical studies as proof of LC causation!

          It was McTear V Imperial Tobacco. Here is the URL for both my summary and the Judge’s ‘opinion’ (aka ‘decision’):

          (2.14) Prof Sir Richard Doll, Mr Gareth Davies (CEO of ITL). Prof James Friend and
          Prof Gerad Hastings gave oral evidence at a meeting of the Health Committee in
          2000. This event was brought up during the present action as putative evidence that
          ITL had admitted that smoking caused various diseases. Although this section is quite
          long and detailed, I think that we can miss it out. Essentially, for various reasons, Doll
          said that ITL admitted it, but Davies said that ITL had only agreed that smoking might
          cause diseases, but ITL did not know. ITL did not contest the public health messages.
          (2.62) ITL then had the chance to tell the Judge about what it did when the suspicion
          arose of a connection between lung cancer and smoking. Researchers had attempted
          to cause lung cancer in animals from tobacco smoke, without success. It was right,
          therefore, for ITL to ‘withhold judgement’ as to whether or not tobacco smoke caused
          lung cancer.

          [9.10] In any event, the pursuer has failed to prove individual causation.
          Epidemiology cannot be used to establish causation in any individual case, and the
          use of statistics applicable to the general population to determine the likelihood of
          causation in an individual is fallacious. Given that there are possible causes of lung
          cancer other than cigarette smoking, and given that lung cancer can occur in a nonsmoker,
          it is not possible to determine in any individual case whether but for an
          individual’s cigarette smoking he probably would not have contracted lung cancer
          (paras.[6.172] to [6.185]).
          [9.11] In any event there was no lack of reasonable care on the part of ITL at any
          point at which Mr McTear consumed their products, and the pursuer’s negligence
          case fails. There is no breach of a duty of care on the part of a manufacturer, if a
          consumer of the manufacturer’s product is harmed by the product, but the consumer
          knew of the product’s potential for causing harm prior to consumption of it. The
          individual is well enough served if he is given such information as a normally
          intelligent person would include in his assessment of how he wishes to conduct his
          life, thus putting him in the position of making an informed choice (paras.[7.167] to

        • harleyrider1989

          7 October, the COT meeting on 26 October and the COC meeting on 18
          November 2004.

          “5. The Committees commented that tobacco smoke was a highly complex chemical mixture and that the causative agents for smoke induced diseases (such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, effects on reproduction and on offspring) was unknown. The mechanisms by which tobacco induced adverse effects were not established. The best information related to tobacco smoke – induced lung cancer, but even in this instance a detailed mechanism was not available. The Committees therefore agreed that on the basis of current knowledge it would be very difficult to identify a toxicological testing strategy or a biomonitoring approach for use in volunteer studies with smokers where the end-points determined or biomarkers measured were predictive of the overall burden of tobacco-induced adverse disease.”

          In other words … our first hand smoke theory is so lame we can’t even design a bogus lab experiment to prove it. In fact … we don’t even know how tobacco does all of the magical things we claim it does.

          The greatest threat to the second hand theory is the weakness of the first hand theory.

        • harleyrider1989

          ”””””””’Epidemiologists Vote to Keep Doing Junk Science

          Epidemiology Monitor (October 1997)

          An estimated 300 attendees a recent meeting of the American College of
          Epidemiology voted approximately 2 to 1 to keep doing junk science!

          Specifically, the attending epidemiologists voted against a motion
          proposed in an Oxford-style debate that “risk factor” epidemiology is
          placing the field of epidemiology at risk of losing its credibility.

          Risk factor epidemiology focuses on specific cause-and-effect
          relationships–like heavy coffee drinking increases heart attack risk. A
          different approach to epidemiology might take a broader
          perspective–placing heart attack risk in the context of more than just
          one risk factor, including social factors.

          Risk factor epidemiology is nothing more than a perpetual junk science machine.

          But as NIEHS epidemiologist Marilyn Tseng said “It’s hard to be an
          epidemiologist and vote that what most of us are doing is actually harmful
          to epidemiology.”

          But who really cares about what they’re doing to epidemiology. I thought
          it was public health that mattered!

          we have seen the “SELECTIVE” blindness disease that
          Scientist have practiced over the past ten years. Seems the only color they
          see is GREEN BACKS, it’s a very infectious disease that has spread through
          the Scientific community with the same speed that any infectious disease
          would spread. And has affected the T(thinking) Cells as well as sight.

          Seems their eyes see only what their paid to see. To be honest, I feel
          after the Agent Orange Ranch Hand Study, and the Sl-utz and Nutz Implant
          Study, they have cast a dark shadow over their profession of being anything
          other than traveling professional witnesses for corporate hire with a lack
          of moral concern to their obligation of science and truth.

          The true “Risk Factor” is a question of ; will they ever be able to earn
          back the respect of their profession as an Oath to Science, instead of
          corporate paid witnesses with selective vision?
          Oh, if this seems way harsh, it’s nothing compared to the damage of peoples
          lives that selective blindness has caused!

        • harleyrider1989

          Even the initial iritation to the eyes is enough
          That’s about it. Teach your kid to keep their faces out of ashtrays with burning cigs in them.

        • ScottEwing

          Silly troll.

  • ScottEwing

    Health effects of smoking are grossly overstated by those that have a financial interest in promoting this agenda. (Big-Pharma, gotta sell that snake oil) and secondhand smoke as a health risk is complete nonsense. No body count, just computer generated statistics.

  • harleyrider1989

    ……….There is no danger from second-hand smoke, period. In America, the Baby Boom produced over 75 million kids, and smoking was very popular during that time.

    Exposure to SHS was prevalent everywhere people went: in homes, yards, parks and playgrounds; in dime stores, drugstores, supermarkets – in every store, as well as banks, post offices, libraries, anywhere that people gathered. Also in cars, buses, taxis, planes and trains.

    There were smokers in diners, cafes, restaurants; in hotels, barber shops, beauty salons; in hospitals, waiting rooms, stations, lobbies, airports, and in all vacation spots and summer camps. There was smoking at swimming pools, beaches and all the sports venues; at parties, church events, any type of social gathering. There was smoking from neighbors, visitors, relatives and older siblings; from babysitters, coaches, even from den mothers and scout leaders.

    Think about it. Children were constantly exposed to SHS everywhere they went, every day of their lives. The only exception were classrooms and churches.

    Did they all die? Did they get diseased? Did they develop asthma? Nope. But according to today’s whingers (it’s for the cheeeeeldren!), none of those kids should have made it past the crib. With all that SHS exposure, the schools should have been half-empty on a daily basis, with hoards of absentee kids filling up the hospitals. Such was never the case, and you can’t re-write the history. All those kids managed perfectly well. These are facts.

    All the anti-smokers got is junk science, propaganda and drivel..