CSOs task Tinubu on implementation of tobacco control laws

Some Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have called on President Bola Tinubu to implement the National Tobacco Control Act, 2015 and the National Tobacco Control Regulations, 2019 to protect the Nigerians’ health.

Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance (NTCA) Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Tobacco Policy Action Fund for Africa and Centre for the Study of the Economics of Africa gave the advice on Thursday in Abuja.

Speaking at a news conference, the Chairman of NTCA, Mr Akinbode Oluwafemi, said that the call was part of CSOs’ agenda to commemorate the 2023 World No Tobacco Day.

World No Tobacco Day, marked on every May 31 is set aside by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to raise awareness on the deadly effects of tobacco use.

Tinubu official

The theme of this year’s event is “ Nigeria Needs Food, Not Tobacco’’

Oluwafemi, who was represented by the Programme Manager, Mr Chibuike Nwokorie, urged President Tinubu to hit the ground running by championing the implementation of tobacco control laws.

“Your Excellency Bola Ahmed Tinubu, we congratulate you on your recent inauguration as President of Nigeria. It is important that as you begin your administration, you are made aware of several burning tobacco control issues.

“You have promised Nigerians that you will hit the ground running, and we want to charge you to apply the same energy to tobacco control.

“Albeit with challenges, we achieved the National Tobacco Control Act, 2015, during former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. We also achieved the National Tobacco Control Regulations, 2019, during Former President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.

“What is left is yours to do, and you can champion the strengthening and implementation of our tobacco control laws to protect the health of all Nigerians in keeping faith with the oath you solemnly swore on May 29, 2023.’’

NTCA boss said that the theme for this year’s commemoration drew the attention of the world to the dangers of tobacco farming.

According to him, the WHO estimates that 3.5 million hectares of land is used for tobacco farming globally.

“In characteristic fashion, the tobacco industry paints a picture of economic prosperity among tobacco farmers, however, in reality, tobacco farmers are poor.

“In Nigeria, farmers who have invested many years growing tobacco continue to live in poverty.’’

Oluwafemi said, while tobacco cultivation has declined in the developed world in recent years, it had picked up in low-income countries in Africa, majorly in Malawi, Kenya, Uganda, and Zambia.

“In Nigeria, tobacco cultivation occurs primarily in Kwara, Osun, Oyo and Sokoto States. During tobacco cultivation and curing, wet tobacco leaves produce nicotine and other toxins that are absorbed into the body.

“This causes green tobacco sickness among farmers. Tobacco growers are also known to suffer from respiratory and neurological disorders due to exposure to tobacco leaves.

“According to the United Nations, over 25 million people in Nigeria are facing hunger, and globally, that figure stands at over 300 million people.

“In the face of this looming food insecurity, large portions of arable lands are turning into barren wastelands from tobacco cultivation,’’ NTCA boss.

He said that Article 17 of the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control encouraged parties to promote economically viable and sustainable alternatives to tobacco farmers.

According to him, in Nigeria, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is responsible for championing this objective.

In her remarks, Mrs Hilda Ochefu, Sub-Regional Coordinator for Africa, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, urged the Federal Government to transit tobacco farmers from cultivating tobacco to crops farming.

Ochefu said that the transition of tobacco farmers would not only enhance food security but also pave way and improve their alternative livelihood.

Mr Peter Umekwu-Ojo, the Project Specialist, Tobacco Policy Action Fund for Africa, urged the Federal Government to stop giving the Export Expansion Grant (EEG) to the tobacco industry.

Umekwu-Ojo said tobacco smoking added no value to public health than causing illnesses and poverty in the country.