TO THE COMMITTTE ON HEALTH DURING THE PUBLIC HEARING ON A BILL FOR AN ACT TO ENACT THE TOBACCO SMOKING (CONTROL) BILL TO AMONG OTHER THINGS PROVIDE FOR THE REGULATION OF THE PRODUCTION, IMPORTATION, ADVERTISING, PROMOTING, SPONSORSHIP, DISTRIBUTION, SALE AND DESIGNATION OF AREAS WHERE TOBACCO PRODUCTS MAY AND MAY NOT BE SMOKED AND FOR MATTERS CONNECTED THEREWITH, 2013 (HB. 455)
Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) is a Nigerian environmental justice organization with offices in Benin, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja and Yenagoa. ERA/FoEN is the Nigerian Chapter of the Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) and we believe in the protection of the human ecosystem from the perspective of human rights.
We are indeed, extremely grateful to the House of Representatives Health Committee for providing this opportunity to make contributions to this bill.
Tobacco is a Killer
Scientists worldwide have evidence to show that tobacco is a major threat to public health. It currently kills about 6 million people a year and if current trend continues that figure will climb to 10 million a year by 2015.
• Tobacco use kills more people than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined.
• Tobacco is the only legally available product which kills more than half of its users when consumed as intended by the manufacturer.
• Tobacco use is the number one preventable risk factor common to the four main groups of Non-Communicable Diseases (cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, and diabetes) – which account for 60% of all deaths globally.
• Tobacco use is also a risk factor for infectious diseases, tuberculosis, and lower respiratory infections. In Nigeria, whether smoking, chewing, sniffing, or placing the product between the teeth and gum, these tobacco-related deaths are rising and killing more people each year.
• The cost of tobacco smoking to the Nigerian economy in terms of losses to medical treatment and low productivity is at US$591 million annually.
• A 2011 survey conducted by the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Health reveals that about 250,000 Nigerians are diagnosed with cancer every year.
• Cigarettes are cheap in Nigeria. It is estimated that over 20 billion sticks of cigarettes are consumed in Nigeria annually where the median amount spent on one pack of 20 manufactured cigarettes is ₦187.70.
• Easy access and affordability of tobacco products drive initiation and addiction to tobacco use, especially among the young and poor sections of the population.
The FCTC As Roadmap for Tobacco Control
The WHO-FCTC is the world’s first global public health treaty. It was developed in response to the global tobacco epidemic and reaffirms the right of all people to the highest attainable standard of health. The treaty was adopted in 2003 and it entered into force in February 2005. More than 178 WHO member states are Parties to the convention. The FCTC has clear provisions for reducing demand for tobacco and supply of tobacco.
The core demand provisions contained in Articles 6 to 14 of the FCTC are mainly price and tax measures and non price measures to reduce the demand for tobacco:
• Protection from exposure to tobacco smoke;
• Regulation of the Contents of tobacco products;
• Regulation of tobacco product disclosures;
• Packaging and labeling of tobacco products;
• Education, communication, training and public awareness;
• Tobacco advertising , promotion and sponsorship; and, Demand reduction measures concerning tobacco dependence and cessation
• The core supply reduction measures are:
• Elimination of Illicit trade in tobacco products;
• Sale to and by minors, and
• Provision of support for economically viable alternative activities
Key Elements of an Effective Tobacco Control Law
Flowing from the provisions of the FCTC we highlight below the key elements of an effective national tobacco control Law:
1. Create a National Tobacco Control Committee: To be coordinated by the Minister of health, the Committee brings all stakeholders together to ensure tobacco control policies are effectively implemented.
2. Adopt higher taxes and price measures to reduce tobacco consumption: Higher tobacco prices encourage cessation among existing tobacco users, prevent initiation among potential users, and reduce the quantity of tobacco consumed among continuing users.
3. Ban tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship: Comprehensive bans, which prohibit the use of all marketing strategies by the tobacco industry, reduce tobacco use among people of all income and educational levels.
4. Create smoke-free workplaces, public places and public transport: Scientific evidence is clear that the only effective way to protect workers and the public from secondhand smoke is to enact 100 per cent smoke-free laws that ban smoking in all indoor workplaces and public places (including restaurants, bars and other hospitality venues) and public transport. There should be no room for Designated Smoking Areas (DSAs), they don’t work.
5. Prominent graphic health (picture) warnings on tobacco packages covering 75 per cent of the principal display areas: Effective warning labels increase awareness about risks associated with smoking and can prevent the youth from starting to smoke and encourage smokers to quit.
6. Exclusion of the tobacco industry from tobacco control policies and implementation: The tobacco industry is not a legitimate public health stakeholder, as tobacco has no known health benefits.
7. Prohibit the sale of cigarette to minors: The law should ban the sale of cigarettes to and by minors
8. Prohibition of sale in single sticks: cigarettes should be sold in packs of not less than 20 sticks
9. Enforcement, Penalties and Fines: The law should include clear enforcement mechanisms and penalties and fines strong enough to serve as deterrent
10. Participation of Civil Society: The law should recognize active participation of CSOs who must be without any tobacco industry affiliation
11. Massive public awareness campaigns on the dangers of tobacco use: The public should be educated through awareness campaign about dangers inherent in tobacco consumption
Recommendations of the Current Bill
ERA/FoEN aligns itself with most provisions of the bill but would suggest a few improvements:
Part 1: Establishment of the National Tobacco Control Committee: We welcome this provision. We recommend that the Bill should designate the Minister of Health or his appointed representative as the Chairman of the Committee. We reject suggestions from certain quarters that the Committee should include the Manufactures Association of Nigeria. The inclusion of MAN is allowing the tobacco industry through the back door.
Part 11: Tobacco Smoking Prohibition: We support complete ban of smoking in all indoor and designated outdoor public places. We reject the inclusion of Designated Smoking Areas (DSAs) in the bill since such measures negates the spirit and intent of the bill which is the reduction of smoking.
Warning Messages: we recommend that warning message which should include pictograms and pictures should cover minimum of 74 per cent of the principal display areas.
Vending Machines: we recommend that selling of cigarettes in vending Machines should be prohibited outright since there is no mechanism to prevent children to access those machines
Penalties: We recommended that corporate offenders should get minimum of N10,000,000 fine or two years imprisonment or both while Individuals should be fined N100,000 or two months imprisonment or both…