Poor enforcement flaws no smoking’ laws in Nigeria
According to the latest World Health Organisation (WHO) Fact Sheet on Tobacco, the tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced, killing nearly six million people a year.
The Fact Sheet noted that more than five million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while more than 600 000 are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke. Approximately one person dies every six seconds due to tobacco, accounting for one in 10 adult deaths. Up to half of current users will eventually die of a tobacco-related disease.
The WHO warns that if unchecked, tobacco-related deaths will increase to more than eight million per year by 2030. More than 80 per cent of those deaths will be in low- and middle-income countries such as Nigeria.
The results of its Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS), which was released on July 11, 2013, show that, in Nigeria, 10.0 per cent of men, 1.1 per cent of women, and 5.6 per cent overall (4.5 million adults) currently used tobacco products.
GATS is a standard global survey of adults aged 15 years of age or older that was conducted to monitor adult tobacco use and exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke in order to be able to effectively track tobacco control interventions.
Other highlights of the results of the 2012 GATS Nigeria survey are as follows:
*29.3 per cent of adults (6.4 million adults) were exposed to tobacco smoke when visiting restaurants.
*Seven in 10 current smokers planned to or were thinking about quitting.
*Three in 10 current smokers who thought about quitting because of a warning label.
*51.4 per cent of adults believed smoking causes stroke.
Nigeria was the first-ever country in the African Region to conduct and Release GATS Results. The results from GATS were expected to assist Nigeria in translating data into action through improved policies and programmes.
The Nigeria GATS was conducted by the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH), in collaboration with the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and with the support of the Regional Office of Africa (AFRO) of the WHO and the Country office.
Despite the dangers of smoking, the producers are still raking in huge profits with estimated 20 billion sticks of cigarettes valued at N200billion being consumed annually in Nigeria.
To address the anomaly in Nigeria, the immediate past President, Goodluck Jonathan, signed the anti-tobacco bill into law, just two days to his handover to a new government.
The Bill is a comprehensive law to regulate the manufacturing, advertising distribution and consumption of tobacco products in Nigeria.
It is a bill that is aimed at domesticating the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) because Nigeria is a party to that international convention.
The key highlights of the Bill are prohibition of smoking in public places, to include restaurant and bars, public transportation, schools, hospitals, among others. A ban on all forms of direct and indirect advertising, prohibition of sales of cigarette 1000-meter radius of areas designated as non-smoking, mass awareness about the danger of smoking as well as the formation of committee that will guide government on the issue of tobacco control in the country.
Also, Lagos state and indeed almost all other states in the have enacted laws prohibiting smoking in public places.
But it is still business as usual on Lagos streets and indeed on other major cities in Nigeria. People still smoke in public places.
The Guardian investigation revealed that about 70 per cent of the lawmakers, both at state and national level and over 80 per cent of law enforcement agents, smoke.
The Governors and other politicians are no saints. In fact The Guardian found that some Governors and their aides even smoke in the Government House. A past President of Nigeria was believed to have died of smoking related illness.
Can a chain smoker enforce any legislation against smoking? Has anybody being fined or jailed for any smoking offence in Nigeria?
Lagos as a test case
The Lagos State House of Assembly on Monday listed passage of the Lagos No Smoking Law 2014 as one of her greatest achievements in the last four years.
At a valedictory session to draw the curtains on the seventh Assembly, the lawmakers commended themselves for muscling through the difficulties of passing such contentious provisions in defense of public health. One of the difficulties was towering above a very strong pro-tobacco lobby in Nigeria, which has been trying ceaselessly to find marketing space for their dangerous product, cigarette.
For Lagos, the passage was a proactive reaction to tobacco-related sickness and death in the state, especially among second and third-hand smokers. A 2006 study conducted by the government showed the enormous damage being inflicted on the public health infrastructure in the state by smoking and its related diseases.
The study, carried out in 11 state-owned hospitals in Lagos State, revealed that the state spent a minimum of N216, 000 per patient while the patient also spent at least N70, 000 from his own pocket, in treating a minimum of 9, 500 persons per year for smoking related diseases. The law was therefore a welcome development for public health.
But the extent to which the law has promoted public health and better environment is, however, a different story that calls to question the executive will power for effectively implement the prohibition law.
The 16-Section law explains the regulation of smoking in public places and stipulates penalties for violating the restriction, ranging from N10,000 to N50,000 fines or imprisonment.
Section 4 states the duty of owner/occupier of smoke restricted public places: It shall be the duty of those who own or occupies public places to ensure that approved ‘No – Smoking’ signs are displayed conspicuously at each entrance and in prominent locations throughout the premises.
In section 12 of the law, posting of signs with ‘No Smoking’ symbol, depicts a pictorial representation of a burning cigarette enclosed in a circle with a bar across. It shall be prominently posted and properly maintained where smoking is regulated by the law, by the owner, occupier or person in charge of a ‘No – Smoking Area.’
Penalties for smoking in a ‘No-Smoking area’ will be a N10,000 fine or imprisonment for a term not less than one month and not exceeding three months or both.
“Any person who repeatedly violates the provisions shall on conviction be liable to a fine of N50, 000 or six month imprisonment or both.”
The law also stated that the penalty for non-compliance by owner/occupier of a ‘No – smoking area’ would be N100, 000 or six month imprisonment, or other non-custodial punishment that the judge might deem fit.
More so, it shall be an offense to obstruct a duly authorised officer from carrying out his duties under the provision of this law.
The law further stated that any person who smoked in the presence of a child had committed an offence and would be liable, on conviction, to a fine of N15,000 or imprisonment for a month or both.
The fact is that nothing has changed since August 17, 2014 when the law was to take full effect. Smokers are still having a filled day in all the 18 public places where the law prohibits smoking including libraries, museum, public toilets, schools, hospital, day care centres, public transportation and restaurants among others.
While the state government blames law enforcement officers for failing to clamp down on offenders, the officers themselves alleged that the state government made no provision whatsoever to help them enforce the new laws.
Environmental rights activist, Bamgboye Soetan, noted that the state government actually showed a lack of political will to enforce the provisions.
“Ordinarily, one would have expected a mass awareness campaign to begin with and equip law enforcement agencies to commence a subtle arrest of offenders to serve as deterrence for others.
“But what do we have? It is just a complete lull around the very good law. And for me, that is to be the case in an administration populated my smokers — the actual culprits of the law,” Soetan said.
According to sources, a significant proportion of the former governor Babatunde Fashola’s cabinet actually smokes and allegedly opposed to effective implementation.
Relevant state agency in the enforcement drive, Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA), could as well agonise that very little has been achieved in enforcing compliance to the rules.
Managing Director of LASEPA, a parastatal under the Ministry of Environment, Rasheed Shabi, at the recent Ministerial Press Briefing, hinted that the compliance rate was still abysmally low in industries compared to improvement now witness in Night Clubs.
Stressing the need for awareness, Shabi explained that, “Smokers have the right to smoke! Non-smokers too have a right not to be impacted by the smoke from the cigarettes in their personal space.
“Vulnerable groups, such as children and senior citizens, also have the right to be protected, whilst everyone has the basic right to clear air. Our society has to find a balance to the delicate inter-relationships between all groups involved, such that no person’s right is violated. This is the essence of the non-smoking law in public places,” he said.
Global action against illicit tobacco trade
As part of activities to mark the 2015 World No Tobacco Day (WNTD), the WHO, Nigerian Heart Foundation (NHF), United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) and United Nations Association of Nigeria (UNAN) have called for action against illicit tobacco trade.
WNTD globally celebrated on May 31, is a day set-aside by WHO for people, governments and Non-Governmental Organisations to organise various activities to make people aware of the health problems associated with tobacco use.
This year, WHO is calling on countries to work together to end the illicit trade of tobacco products.
The NHF in a statement yesterday said: “The 2015 WNTD calls for celebration in Nigeria as our former President, Goodluck Jonathan signed the anti-tobacco bill into law, just two days to his handover to a new government. This is a major achievement for NHF and all the tobacco activist groups in the country.
“This is a campaign we started 12 years ago and had been actualised by the ex-President’s signing of the bill into law. We thank Jonathan as the signing of this Bill will provide for the regulation of advertising, promotion, and sponsorship of tobacco or tobacco products in Nigeria.”
Meanwhile, the WHO in a statement said eliminating the illicit trade in tobacco would generate an annual tax windfall of US$ 31 billion for governments, improve public health, help cut crime and curb an important revenue source for the tobacco industry.
Those are the key themes of World No Tobacco Day when WHO will urge member states to sign the “Protocol to Eliminate the Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products.”
WHO Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan, said: “The protocol offers the world a unique legal instrument to counter and eventually eliminate a sophisticated criminal activity.
“Fully implemented, it will replenish government revenues and allow more spending on health. So far, eight countries have ratified the Protocol, short of the target of 40 needed for it to become international law. Once that happens, the Protocol’s provisions on securing the supply chain, enhanced international cooperation and other safeguards will come into force.”
The Protocol is an international treaty in its own right negotiated by parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), which has been ratified by 180 Parties. Article 15 commits signatories to eliminate all forms of illicit trade in tobacco products.
The Protocol requires a wide range of measures relating to the tobacco supply chain, including the licensing of imports, exports and manufacture of tobacco products; the establishment of tracking and tracing systems and the imposition of penal sanctions on those responsible for illicit trade.
It would also criminalise illicit production and cross border smuggling. “The Protocol faces overt and covert resistance from the tobacco industry.
Court orders British American Tobacco to pay damages
Meanwhile, all hope is not lost in terms of enforcement and winning the battle against tobacco with legislation. A Canadian subsidiary of the British American Tobacco (BAT) has been ordered by a court in Canada to compensate smokers to the tune of billions of pounds.
BAT is also a major player in tobacco trade in Nigeria.
The tobacco giant has been ordered to pay Can$10.5bn (£5.5bn) to nearly 1m smokers who claimed they were never warned about the health risks.
A Canadian court found Imperial Tobacco Canada, which is owned by London-based BAT, Rothmans Benson & Hedges and JTI-MacDonald liable for moral and punitive damages.
The total award of Cad$15.6bn is the largest in Canadian history. All three companies said they would appeal, and shares in BAT slid 1.5pc in early trading on Tuesday morning, making it the heaviest faller in the FTSE 100.
The judgement also stated that if an appeal was to be made, the defendants would have to pay a so-called “provisional execution order” of Cad$1.1bn between them. Imperial Tobacco Canada’s share of the provisional execution order would be Cad$743m.
However in a statement on Tuesday morning, British American Tobacco said: “There are strong legal grounds with which to challenge both the overall judgement, and to seek a stay of the provisional execution order, which Imperial Tobacco Canada will do within 30 days of the original May 27 ruling.”
China bans smoking cigarette in public places
Beijing on Monday imposed a ban on smoking in all indoor public places, the country’s toughest to date, as China considers passing a nationwide tobacco control law.
The report said that the new legislation in the capital also banned tobacco advertisements, promotions and sponsorships in public places.
According to the report, written and graphic health warning signs must also take up at least half of the total area of the packets.
In 2011, China’s Ministry of Health banned smoking in all public indoor spaces like hotels and restaurants nationwide, but the vague guidelines were often flouted by businesses and individuals.
The Legislative Affairs Office of China’s State Council published a draft national tobacco control law in November.
Report says if adopted, it will make all indoor and some outdoor public places in China smoke-free, ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.
British Medical Journal Investigation reveals how big tobacco companies are able to woo parliamentarians
An investigation by The British Medical Journal (BMJ) published penultimate week shows to what extent the tobacco industry is able to reach out and influence parliamentarians.
It shows that since 2010, 38 Members of Parliament (MPs) – 29 Conservatives, eight Labour, and one independent – have accepted over £60,000 worth of tobacco industry hospitality, including tickets to the Chelsea flower show, high profile sporting events and rock concerts.
More than half of these MPs are from constituencies where the number of smoking related deaths exceeds the national average of 289 per 100,000.
There is nothing to stop companies inviting lords and MPs along to the occasional big ticket event – nor is there any suggestion that any peer or MP has failed to register in the relevant Register of Interests details of the hospitality they have received, as is required.
However, the WHO Frame Convention on Tobacco Control, to which the United Kingdom (UK) is a signatory, states that parties should “interact with the tobacco industry only when and to the extent strictly necessary to enable them to effectively regulate the tobacco industry and tobacco products”.
The investigation points out that when plain packaging was put to an open vote in the House of Commons in March, 20 of the 38 who had accepted industry hospitality voted against the measure.
These findings raise important questions about how far the vested interests of the tobacco industry control the public health agenda, says journalist Jonathan Gornall.