Nigeria TC law comes into effect

Eleven years after Nigeria signed and ratified the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC), National Tobacco Control (NTC) Act has finally become law. The law which was assented to by President Goodluck Jonathan on May 25, 2015 bans misleading packaging and labelling on tobacco packs, recommends graphic health warnings to cover at least 50% on cigarette packs as well prohibits sale to minors. It also places some restrictions on smoking in outdoor public places and bans single sticks sale and tobacco packs containing less than 20 sticks (30 grams for smokeless), among others.

Civil society groups on the platform of the National Tobacco Control Bill Coalition hailed the move as a long awaited reprieve for Nigerians who have been assailed by tobacco transnationals like British America Tobacco Nigeria (BATN) and Philip Morris International (PMI).

The coalition comprising Environmental Rights Action /Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and Nigeria Tobacco Control Coalition (NTCA) also commended members of the 7th National Assembly for fast –tracking the bill process so that it was ready for the President’s signature.

Director Corporate Accountability Campaigns, ERA/FoEN, Akinbode Oluwafemi noted that “though there is no perfect bill, more work needs to be done in ensuring that every Nigerian is protected from the harmful effects of tobacco. This bill is however providing Nigeria the necessary framework for action both at the local, state and national levels.

“Tobacco is major public health challenge and it is a welcome relief that Nigeria has finally join the league of nations that have taken proactive steps to protect their citizens”

CISLAC Executive Director, Auwal  Musa Rafsanjani said  the presidential accent which the bill  secured, is a remarkable step in efforts to protect the Nigerian people from the dangerous effects of smoking.

“We salute the courage of President Jonathan in signing this bill to law, ignoring overtures by the tobacco industry to frustrate every effort to enact a comprehensive tobacco control legislation in Nigeria.”

Project Manager NTCA, Gbenga Adejuwon urged government to immediately ignite processes and mechanisms that will ensure effective implementation of the Law.

“We want to thank Mr. President for signing the bill into law. The immediate action should be on implementation. We want to see the Ministry of Health rising up to the occasion by leading all stakeholders for effective implementation of the law.

The National Tobacco Control Law is aimed at regulating the production, sale, marketing and consumption of tobacco products in Nigeria.

The tobacco bill was initially passed by the National Assembly in 2011 but was not accented to by President Jonathan. The current version resulted from the concerted effort of civil society pressure that the Jonathan administration and the 7th National Assembly leave a lasting legacy as the administration exits.

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