By Remi Adebayo
Annual death of estimated 17,000 Nigerians from tobacco-induced illnesses would be prevented if the eighth Senate, led by Dr. Bukola Saraki could speedily pass the Tobacco Control Regulations before the expiration of its tenure.
The view was expressed on Tuesday at a media briefing in Abuja by the Deputy Executive Director of the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, Mr. Akinbode Oluwafemi.
The environment activist said tobacco-induced illnesses leading to the deaths of Nigerians were needless and avoidable.
He lamented that weak regulations have hindered the smooth implementation of the tobacco laws despite the passage of the National Tobacco Control Act since 2015.
“These deaths are needless and avoidable. They continue to occur because the tobacco industry exploits the partial implementation of the National Tobacco Control Act 2015 to unleash more lethal and innovative products into the Nigerian market to entice our kids and conscript them into smoking for life,” he stressed.
Oluwafemi expressed satisfaction with the House of Representatives for approving the regulatory document on May 7; but optimistic that the Senate could toe similar path of concurrence to scale the hurdle of extricating the lungs of Nigerians from the stranglehold of tobacco multinationals.
“Nigerians do not want weak regulations that detracts from the crucial recommendations of the World Health Organisation-Framework Convention which Nigeria is signatory to,” Oluwafemi said.
ERA demands therefore, that the Senate concurs the draft regulations approved by the lower chamber as parts of health legacy the Eighth National Assembly could leave behind towards safeguarding the safety and health of Nigerians.
He charged the upper Legislative chamber to give its nod to the regulations before the expiration of tenure on 6 June 2019 to serve as a lasting public health legacy.
Speaking in the same vein, Sub-Regional Coordinator, West Africa; Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Hilda Ochefu, reemphasized on the imperatives of Nigerians protecting the health of the citizens through effective implementation of the National Tobacco Control Act 2015.
He said such would reduce access of tobacco products to kids and prevent deaths of both primary and innocent secondary smokers.
“When kids have access to tobacco products, they are likely to smoke because most youths get introduced to smoking before the age of 10,” Ochufu said.
Ochefu explained that Section 32 of the NTC Act 2015 makes it mandatory for legislative approval before the law could be adequately enforced.