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FG calls for strict regulation of tobacco industry

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The Federal Government has stated the need to ensure strict regulation of tobacco industry in accordance with the country’s legislation and global best practices.

The Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Ali Pate, disclosed this recently in Lagos at the formal lunch of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission tobacco control advocacy campaign, tagged ‘Don’t burn their future’.

Pate was represented at the event by the Chairman of the Tobacco Control Unit, Federal Ministry of Health, Dr Malau Toma, noted that for every $1 a country gains from tobacco, $3 more was expended on healthcare costs as a result of its ill effects.

The minister explained that tobacco harms national economies, sustainable development and environment as well as re-enforces, recycles and perpetuates poverty, “through several generations, especially among low-income earners who invest their monies to service their tobacco addiction”.

Pate said the tobacco industry, in ensuring that its business remained profitable, had harnessed its energy in flooding the markets with newer products, “while often circumventing the law in tobacco advertisement, promotions, celebrity endorsements, corporate social responsibility, and recruitment of new users to replace the old tobacco users who are in transition to premature mortality”.

He commended the FCCPC’s legal action and sanctioning of British American Tobacco Nigeria for indulging in anti-tobacco control and anti-competition practices.

He said that the sanction was in line with Article 19 of the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, “which requires parties to consider legislative action where necessary, to deal with tobacco industry’s criminal and civil liability, including compensation where appropriate”.

Pate also stated that the ministry was glad that FCCPC had chosen to fund this advocacy campaign from part of the penalty meted on BATN.

FCCPC fined BATN $110m for anticompetitive practices in December.

Earlier, the acting Executive Vice Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, FCCPC, Adamu Abdullahi, said despite the commitment to the signing and ratification of global initiatives as well as the enactment of comprehensive national legislation, “tobacco epidemic has emerged as a significant contributor to preventable health issues, affecting both urban and rural communities and the economically productive population”.

Abdullahi said without robust policies to deter youth initiation and encourage current users to quit, tobacco use was poised to be a leading cause of premature death and disability in the country.

“This was why the FCCPC launched this campaign to address the various segments of society, such as the primary tobacco smokers, who, despite being aware of the dangers, need support to break free.

“The campaign would also engage the retailers, who are the gatekeepers of tobacco access. The goal was to enlist them as agents of change, rigorously verifying the age of those seeking tobacco products,” he explained.

According to Abdullahi, the FCCPC’s approach goes beyond mere warning.

He said that the agency was supporting and collaborating with Civil Society Organisations, “to provide counselling services and assistance for individuals aiming to quit smoking as well as toll-free lines as bridges to a smoke-free future and providing supports.”

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