Thursday 3 April 2014

Current Happenings on the Tobacco Control Bill

A major deficit to the regulation of tobacco in Nigeria is the inefficiency or lack of legislation. Different bills have been raised in both the Senate and the House of Representatives but unfortunately, they have not been successfully passed into law. There are currently two tobacco bills waiting to be enacted; a 2012 bill sponsored in the Senate by Senator Ifeanyi Okowa and a more recent 2013 bill raised in the House of Representatives, sponsored by Hon. Yacoob Bush-Alebiosu.

However, at the 6th session of the National Assembly which lasted between 2007 to 2011, the National Tobacco Control Bill, was formally presented & finally approved by the Senate for passage at its seating on Tuesday March 15th 2011. This happened twenty five (25) months after its initial presentation to the Senate and was a monumental victory for Nigerians, both young and old, especially minors, public health, tobacco control in Nigeria and for the Coalition Against Tobacco (CAT), which was instrumental to the initiation, creation, drafting, lobbying and followed through this bill from the various plenary sessions debating the bill to the public hearing and eventual approval for passage by both the upper & lower chambers of the National Assembly (NA).

CAT’s January 2008 Abuja inauguration, served as the platform for Dr. Aliyu Modibbo Umar (then Minister of the FCT) to announce the declaration making the FCT smoke-free, effective June 2008.  He at the event also sought the support and cooperation of the legislative arm of government, which was represented at the event by Senator Mamora (Sponsor of the tobacco bill and current Deputy Chief whip of the Senate) to enact and push for an effective bill regulating the tobacco industry’s’ excesses. Senator Mamora gave his assurances for the expedient passage of the bill, which we are today celebrating. The Bill’s essential components include:
A  National Tobacco Control (TC) Committee to guide implementation and future TC policies;
A comprehensive ban of smoking in public places;
Clearly visible tax stamps on cigarette packs;
A ban on sales to minors and by minors;
Prohibition of the sale of cigarettes that are not packaged – but the bill doesn’t specify the number per pack;
A comprehensive ban on advertising, sponsorship and promotion, including by mail, testimonials, brand stretching, indirect advertising, etc;
Health warnings covering 50 percent of the display area of tobacco packages, with the Minister of Health empowered to prescribe pictures or pictogram;
Enforcement provisions to ensure that the law is effectively implemented.
Unfortunately the journey was truncated, as our bill-making process requires action both from the National Assembly (NA) first in discussing and passing a bill. And thereafter, the executive arm of government i.e. the President fulfills its part by giving assent to the bill passed by the NA for such to become law in the land. Because we did not cross these two hurdles back in 2011, we are at the starting blocks AGAIN on a journey to a tobacco control bill before the current NA session ends in 2015.

Knowing previous work that has gone into this without crossing the finishing line and sustained efforts since 2012, this time, the goal is to ensure BOTH legislative & executive arms of government do their part and fulfill their given roles as custodians of the people's mandate who work for a safe environment for all Nigerians.

Therefore, we are mobilizing efforts and intensifying our drive in the attainment of a smoke-free Nigeria NOW. Towards the end of April 2014, the House of Representatives will call for a public hearing to discuss the current bill before it and we URGE you to ATTEND as well as PARTICIPATE in these process by giving feedback directly to your representative and/or also lending your VOICE as YOU join us in the TC RADIO CAMPAIGN and INVITE your FRIENDS & FAMILY to do the same by subscribing via sms. Text (TC Name Email Location Message) to 39405 as together we can make the change we desire.

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