Tobacco control advocacy groups, the Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance (NTCA) and the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) have hailed the Federal Government for the gazette of the National Tobacco Control (NTC) Regulations 2019.
In a statement Wednesday, the groups said although it took long in coming, the move is a “right step in the right direction.”
“This development is welcome,” said Akinbode Oluwafemi, ERA/FoEN deputy executive director.
“Now that a comprehensive legal framework for effective implementation of the NTC Act 2015 has been put in place, we anticipate enforcement will commence to keep the prowling tobacco industry in check.”
The gazette of the NTC Regulations 2019 by the Federal Ministry of Health is the final step that gives teeth to the law eight months after it was approved by the Eighth National Assembly on the conclusion of harmonization of the Senate and House of Representatives versions by a Conference Committee set up for the purpose.
Among the key provisions of the Regulations is the introduction of health warnings in cigarette packs that must constitute 50% of the principal display area and will be increased to 60% in another four years. Tobacco manufacturers/importers/distributors must also submit a yearly report to the Health minister detailing quantity of tobacco products produced, audited annual statement of accounts, quantities of tobacco imported into or exported from Nigeria, and offers or payments made to political parties or candidates, among others.
It also prohibits the participation of tobacco industry employees as delegate in Conference of Parties of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control meetings owing to tons of reports that show that industry delegates infiltrate the talks to steer discussions from concrete decisions that regulate tobacco business.
Enforcers of the law include the Nigeria Police officers, public health officers, National Security and Civil Defence Corps officers, Customs officers, and Environmental Health officers of the Federal Capital Territory and each state of the federation, among others.
“This indeed is good news and a most welcome gift to Nigerians,” said Oluseun Esan, national coordinator of the NTCA.
READ ALSO: Group renews push for Nigeria’s tobacco law enforcement
“We commend the Federal Ministries of Health and Justice for their roles in making the gazette happen and seize the opportunity to ask the enforcing agencies to hit the ground running because every minute counts.”
Mr Esan said the enforcement of the regulations would check the activities of the tobacco companies.
“In the last seven months of our waiting for the gazette, the tobacco industry has been running loose, conscripting more youths and has become emboldened in their tactics.”
The groups said that post-gazette the lack of funding for tobacco control might be exploited by the tobacco industry to continue business-as-usual. They advocated that the federal government should inaugurate the Tobacco Control Fund as recommended by the NTC Act 2015 in Part 3, Section 8 (1) as a mechanism for funding tobacco control.
“Knowing how the industry works, we can say it is not yet Uhuru until tobacco control funding is put in place either through the national budget or some form of subventions. But this is a good start”, they added.