The Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) has called on the federal government to enforce smoke-free public places policy as part of effort to curtail the health hazard caused by tobacco.
It lamented that 80 per cent of over 8 million people that die every year due to tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke in low- and middle-income countries under which Nigeria is categorised.
The Executive Director of the Group, Mr. Akinbode Oluwafemi made the call while addressing a press conference on Monday in Abuja 2022 World No Tobacco Day (WNTD).
He said from cultivation which involves the use of pesticides that are harmful to tobacco growers, to the cutting and burning of trees for tobacco curing which leads to deforestation of about 3.5 million hectares of land are destroyed each year and the use of large quantities of water to cultivate tobacco, the health of man and the ecosystem is negatively impacted, and climate resilience reduced.
Oluwafemi noted that in the manufacturing of cigarettes, tobacco companies are believed to contribute 84 megatons of carbon dioxide equivalent to Greenhouse gases.
His words: “Disturbingly, because of stringent laws in the Global North, most of the tobacco corporations have relocated to low- and middle-income countries like Nigeria.
“As these companies continue their active marketing of lethal products in Africa, so do they also concentrate about 90% of tobacco production in the same region which now bears the highest environmental burdens.
“80 per cent of over 8 million people that die every year due to tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke in low- and middle-income countries under which Nigeria is categorized”
Oluwafemi stressed that as Nigeria joins the global community in commemorating the 2022 WNTD, the Nigerian government and the public health community should revisit the status of tobacco control in the country, especially the enforcement of the smoke-free public places policy contained in the National Tobacco Control (NTC) Act 2015.
He explained that the indoor public places where smoking was restricted listed in the Second Schedule of the Act include; healthcare facilities, primary and secondary education facilities, shops, police stations and prisons, higher education facilities, transport facilities, theaters, cinemas, and stadiums among others.
The executive director noted that unfortunately, Section 9 of the Act provides for designated smoking areas to be created where there are “sufficient number of rooms” where smoking was prohibited.
He pointed out that the provision falls short of the obligations of parties implementing Article 8 of the WHO-FCTC on providing effective protection from public and workplace exposure to tobacco smoke.
Oluwafemi added: “Because of the lacuna in the Act, Nigerians, including children are daily exposed to secondhand smoke in many indoor public spaces, non -smokers working in bars and restaurants where cigarettes, shisha and other tobacco products are brazenly displayed and consumed are also victims.”
He said as Nigerians contend with the environmental impacts of tobacco, they also grapple with the invasion of the media and entertainment space by the tobacco industry which actively promotes and glamourizes smoking in content watched by both adults and children.
Oluwafemi noted that the screening of 36 Nigerian movies by CAPPA in 2019 out of which 34 had tobacco footage/paraphernalia in the background further reinforces convictions that the tobacco industry also has a stranglehold on the creative arts industry.
In the light of the above, CAPPA called on the government to, “Reinvigorate the enforcement of the smoke-free public places policy. Enforce the ban on Tobacco Advertising Promotion and Sponsorships (TAPS) ban as it pertains to the entertainment and movies sector.
“Promote inter-agency collaboration and synergy in the enforcement of the ban on TAPS and the smoke-free public places policy. Initiate or strengthen schemes to make tobacco manufacturers responsible for the environmental and economic costs of tobacco product waste.”
It also urged the government to provide support to tobacco farmers to switch to alternative, more viable and sustainable livelihoods to reduce the environmental impact of tobacco growing, curing, and manufacturing.