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Group rallies against tobacco consumption by minors in Nigeria

Stakeholders in the health and environmental sectors have expressed concerns over the harmful effects of cigarette and tobacco consumption by both children and adults in the country.

At an interactive session held at Nicon Luxury Hotel, Abuja, tagged ‘Protecting Minors and Consumers from Tobacco and its Harmful Consequences,’ stakeholders deplored the indiscriminate sale of cigarettes and tobacco to minors in the country.

The West African Regional Co-ordinator of Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, Ms Hilda Ochefu, called on Nigerian and other Africa governments on the need to raise a tobacco-free generation and fight illnesses associated with cigarette consumption.

Saying advanced countries have already put in place stringent measures to protect their citizenry from the hazards associated with tobacco consumption, she noted that it was unfortunate that Nigeria and other African countries are still lagging behind in the implementation of laws to regulate tobacco consumption.

According to her, “What we would like to see in Africa is for each and every country put in place very effective measures and to protect the public health of their citizens. Let us also bear in mind that Africa has a very young population. This potentially is a huge market for the tobacco industry

“The people that have been smoking for the past 10, 20 years are going to get sick at some point and die. So Africa has the population to provide the tobacco companies the much needed smokers. As we continue with the campaign across the continent, governments are stepping up but not as much as they should. We know that some countries have passed laws like Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, and Nigeria, but most of them are not actually effective in implementing these laws because of the deviances of the tobacco companies.

“For example in Uganda, there is a court case between one tobacco company and the government on the implementation of some aspects of the law. In Kenya where the government passed the law 10 years ago they have not been able to implement it because the tobacco companies took them to court.

“This brings us to the question? Is it that in Africa our lives are not as important as those in the western world? They don’t obey the laws because they feel we are dealing with much more bigger issues like HIV/AIDs, malaria and other issues. So these companies feel that Africa is where they can come and do what they like and get away with it.

“But it is not all doom and gloom, we are hopeful that as we continue to engage government agencies like we are doing today and we are collaborating with the Consumer Protection Council, the Ministry of Health, Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON) and other related agencies. So, we are hopeful that African countries will step up. We must see it as not just smokers’ problem, but an environmental risk to all of us.”

Also speaking during the session, the representative of the ministry of health, Mr. Abraham Agbon, said that tobacco control is necessary in the interest of public health, saying it is the duty of every responsible government.

“We know that this product is harmful,” he said. “So it is for us to let Nigerians know; we all have a stake in it. We need to let people know that the tobacco industry is doing all they can to circumvent the laws. So we want the media to take the centre stage in this awareness and sensitization drive.

“We are working on effective regulations to ensure that the objectives of that act is achieved. Tobacco control is multi-sectorial; all agencies would have to collaborate to enhance the control of tobacco. We have to bring all the stakeholders on board to see to the effective enforcement of this law.”

Other stakeholders at the event included officials of Standards Organization of Nigeria, Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corp, Consumer Protection Council, National Orientation Agency and National Tobacco Control Alliance.

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