GROUPS HAIL SENATE OVER TOBACCO BILL

Filed in Health by on July 26, 2009

The public hearing on the National Tobacco Control Bill, conducted this week by the Senator Iyabo Obasanjo Bello-led Senate Committee on Health, has been commended by international agencies and non-governmental organisations.
World Health Organisation (WHO) Country Representative in Nigeria, who was represented at the Public hearing by Dr. Kayode Soyinka, said the hearing was a significant step by the Upper Chamber to rescue the lives of millions of Nigerians from tobacco addiction.
“We fully support this effort which is to domesticate the WHO-initiated Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). Nigeria became a party to this Convention in October 2005 and this bill fully conforms to the provisions of the international treaty,” Soyinka said.
In a memorandum to the public hearing, signed by its president, Matt Myers, a leading tobacco control group in the United States, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids  (CFTK), expressed support for the tobacco control bill “in its current form” and urged the Senate to pass it promptly.
CTFK said: “The National Tobacco Control Bill is essential to bring Nigeria into compliance with its international obligations under the Framework
Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which Nigeria ratified in October  2005.“Under the FCTC, Nigeria is obliged, among other things, to protect the health of its citizens by prohibiting smoking in public places, workplaces, public transport, and other appropriate places; to impose a comprehensive ban on advertising, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco products; and to require strong and prominent health warnings on tobacco products.”
Corporate Accountability International (CAI), another U.S.-based group, commended the Senate for taking steps to domesticate the FCTC, stating that urgent action is needed to stem rising tobacco-related deaths across the world, 80 per cent of which occur in the Global South.
The group, in a letter to the Senate Health Committee, signed by its International Policy Director, Kathryn Mulvey, urged the Senate to, in accordance with Article 5 (3) of the
FCTC, incorporate measures to protect the tobacco control law from interference from the tobacco industry.
CAI said, “Full implementation of the FCTC in Nigeria and around the world will save millions of lives and change the way Big Tobacco operates globally.”
The Africa Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA), the umbrella body of groups working on tobacco control in Africa, in a letter, signed by its chairperson, Racheal Kitonyo, commended Nigeria for joining the league of African countries that are moving to domesticate FCTC provisions. “Nigeria would be following the lead of other African countries such as South Africa, Kenya and Mauritius that have already began implementation of FCTC provisions,” ATCA noted. It urged the Senate to fast track the passage of the bill, stating, “We believe the bill is essential to improve the health of all Nigerians and we want to throw our weight as Africans behind the laudable move of your Senate to achieve this.”
The Framework Convention Alliance (FCA), a global alliance of organisations working on tobacco control, in a memorandum submitted by its Africa Regional Coordinator, Mr. Adeola Akinremi, described the tobacco bill as a bold step by the Senate to safeguard the health of Nigerians.
According to him, “This is one bold step to protect Nigerian citizens and the Senate deserves commendation. However it is time for vigilance on the part of the Senate and all Nigerians to ensure the current standard of the bill is not compromised when it is passed into law.”
A statement by Media Officer, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, Seun Akioye, said over 40 civil society groups sent in memorandum to support the bill at the public hearing, which ended on Tuesday. The public hearing also featured statements of support from eminent Nigerians, including Nigeria’s Minister of Heath, Professor Babatunde Osotimehin, represented by a director at the ministry, Dr. Mike Anibueze; former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Alhaji Umaru Modibo; former Attorney General of Lagos State, Professor Yemi Osibajo; and the wife of immediate past Chief Justice of the Federation, Mrs. Maryan Uwais.
The tobacco control bill, which was sponsored by Senator Olorunnibe Mamora, seeks to regulate the manufacturing, distribution, sale, and consumption of tobacco products in
Nigeria. The bill aims to reduce the number of smokers and the effect of smoking on public health, the economy, and the environment.

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