Globally, economic downsides of Tobacco Control Policies have been a major criticism raised against it. While, several countries of the world have formulated policies such as higher taxes or outright ban to restricts the consumption of tobacco products, the debate is still ongoing.
In Nigeria, there have been sustained tussles among major stakeholders over the delay in the passage of the National Tobacco Control Bill. Nairametrics, in its recent article, explained how the Nigerian Government is proposing a downward review on the taxes imposed on tobacco companies.
Recall that in 2015, the National Assembly reportedly passed into law the National Tobacco Control Bill (NTCB). After the passage of the bill in 2015, the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu reportedly said the following:
“The passage of the bill is a milestone for us as the Senate. The dangers associated with smoking cannot be over emphasised and the tragedy here is that those at risk are not just those who smoke, but also those around them, their loved ones, their families, neighbours and friends.”
Meanwhile, four years later, controversies still trail the Tobacco Control Bill in Nigeria. Severally stakeholders and groups have expressed utter disbelief at the way the bill has dragged for years.
At a Stakeholders’ meeting organised by the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) earlier in the week, a former senator, Olorunnimbe Mamora said:
“There are things I don’t understand in this country and this is one of such things. What is happening to that bill?
“We must track it from the National Assembly, also ask the office of the Attorney-General and even the presidency.
Tussle deepens, as National Assembly revisited the bill
Nigeria’s tobacco control bill was passed into law in 2015 but enforcement has remained a challenge because several sections of the bill have been raised to require the approval of the regulations by the National Assembly.
Just recently, the Federal Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Francis Alaneme, kicked against the N35m penalty clause on manufacturers, importers and distributors in the draft of the National Tobacco Control Regulations.
“This stringent measure will eventually lead to job loses and possible relocation of affected companies to neighbouring African countries as was the case with Dunlop and Michelin.”
However, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara and Minister of State for Health, Osagie Ehanire, threw their weights behind the bill.
A synopsis on Tobacco and health
WHO estimated 77 million smokers in Africa, namely 6.5 percent of the continent’s population.
Second-hand smoke causes 890,000 premature deaths per year globally.
Smoking reportedly causes Asthma, lung cancer, blockages, and narrowing arteries. It also harms other organs of the body
Nigeria is between Passing the bill for the health of its people or reviewing it for the economic side.
Whichever way, if a truce is not found and tobacco companies exit the economy afterwards, thousands of Nigerians and Nigeria may as well bid goodbye to jobs and the financial flows that come from the industry.