The Federal Executive Council (FEC) on wednesday approved a new National Tobacco Control Bill 2014, which among others, prescribes six months jail term for smoking in non-designated places.
The Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, made the disclosure while briefing newsmen on the outcome of the FEC meeting presided over by President Goodluck Jonathan at the State House.
Chukwu said that the Bill, which would be sent to the National Assembly for passage into law, prescribed stiff penalties for individuals and companies that violate tobacco control regulations.
He added that the Bill, drafted by the ministry in collaboration with other relevant stakeholders, “is specifically to control the dangerous effects of tobacco and to forestall tobacco manufacturers from turning the country to a dumping ground.’’
The Bill, he noted, “is also in line with the the 2004 WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which the country signed in 2015.
“Based on the directive of the President, the Federal Ministry of Health, in collaboration with other federal ministries and other stakeholders produced the new Bill that is endorsed by FEC.
“The major ingredients of this Bill is that there are stiff penalties for people and individuals who fall foul of what will eventually become the Tobacco Control Act 2014.
“An individual who run foul of the provision, like smoking at areas that are designated non-smoking, will be given option of fine of up to N50,000 or combine it with imprisonment of up to six months.’’
The minister said that “for companies, the fine varies from N1 million to as much as N5 million; imprisonment of the chief executives of those companies could vary from one year to two years when they run foul of the law.’’
The health minister noted that the proposed Tobacco Law seeks to achieve 100 per cent tobacco-free environment in the country.
He said places which would cover land, rail, sea and air transportations, would be clearly classified as non-smoking areas “and anyone who goes against it will be prosecuted.
“Advertisement is totally banned under this law. You cannot advertise tobacco product in any media under the law. Any form of advertisement is not permitted, either in broadcast media, outdoor, print, ward-to-ward and any form of advertisement is totally banned.
“The Bill is also looking at packaging. 50 per cent of the packaging will be to warn people about the dangerous effect of tobacco.
“Smuggling of the product to the country is also covered by the Bill.’’
Chukwu said that a fund to be known as Tobacco Control Fund would be set up, to be funded by federal and state governments and individuals.
He said the Bill also proposes to ban any form of corporate sponsorship by any tobacco company of any public event such as sports, seminar and so on, stressing that “we will not accept gifts from any tobacco company. Gifts such as school building etc will not be taken.’’
The minister added that the Bill also proposes the setting up of a national committee that will monitor its implementation and ensure judicious use of the fund.
Chukwu recalled that it was not the first attempt by Nigeria to control the use of tobacco in the country, noting that in 1990, there was a Decree which tried to control the sale and use of tobacco products.
He added that “in 2001, the Decree was repealed and re-enacted to become the National Tobacco Control Act of 2001.
“The whole idea was to make it stiffer. When in 2004, Nigeria along with other nations of the world signed the 2004 WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, there was the need to bring our laws in conformity with the ratified Convention.
“The attempt by the Executive to do so eventually culminated in the passage of an Ammended Act in 2011 by the 6th Session of the National Assembly.
“However, when the Executive studied what was passed by the National Assembly, it was found that the provisions were rather weak.
“It was, therefore, decided that rather than encouraging Mr President to assent to that Bill, we should work with stakeholders to reinforce it in conformity with the Convention and to protect Nigerians from harmful effects of Tobacco.’’
On the adverse effects of tobacco, the health minister said “it is the cause of many illnesses and deaths in the country.
“There are four main non-communicable diseases which are cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic respiratory disorder and diabetes mealitus.
“The single agent tobacco causes three out of these four. Tobacco leads to cardiovascular disease and is known to be a cause for heart attack, hypertension and stroke.
“Tobacco causes cancer of various organs, especially cancer of the lung. Tobacco is also a cause for chronic respiratory disease, particularly bronchitis.’’
Chukwu added that the Global Youth Tobacco Survey carried out in the country in 2008 clearly showed that 15 per cent of children between 13 years and 15 years were smokers and 55 per cent of the children were passive smokers.
He noted that the Adult Tobacco Survey conducted in 2012 showed 10 per cent of men smoke, meaning that one out of every 10 Nigerian adult male smoke.
“Among the women, 1.1 per cent of all adult women smoke. If you combine the two, almost six per cent of all adults in Nigeria smoke and almost 20 per cent of the population are passive smokers, that is, those who do not smoke but are exposed to tobacco smoking.’’
The minister said that developed countries in Europe, the U.S. and Australia have put up stiffer measures against tobacco smoking, adding that tobacco companies face unfavourable conditions in the developed world “and they come down to Africa, Asia and other developing countries to dump the products.’’
The minister gave the assurance that whem passed into law, the National Tobacco Control Act 2014, would be effectively implemented. [NAN]