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Nigeria introduces 9 new regulations to limit tobacco use

As the world marks this year’s World No Tobacco Day, Nigeria’s Health Minister, Isaac Adewole, has announced nine regulations in the Nigeria Tobacco Control Act that would be implemented by the federal government.

The National Tobacco Control Act was signed into law in 2015 by former President Goodluck Jonathan.

The theme for this year’s event, ‘Tobacco: A Threat to Development,’ aims at highlighting the link between tobacco use and development as well as show that tobacco control can break the cycle of poverty, contribute to ending hunger, promote sustainable agriculture and economic growth, and combat climate change.

Ahead of this year’s celebration, the World Health Organization revealed that tobacco kills over seven million people annually, and is an increasing risk factor in non-communicable (NCDs), including cardiovascular disease, cancers and chronic obstructed pulmonary disease.

Earlier Mr. Adewole, a Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, had told PREMIUM TIMES that the implementation of the tobacco control Act had been slow because the draft Regulations need the National Assembly approval.

Below are the regulations listed by the minister to be implemented:

1. Prohibition of the sale of tobacco products to and by anyone below age 18.
2. Ban of sale of cigarettes in single sticks; cigarettes must be sold in packs of 20 sticks only.
3. Smokeless tobacco shall be sold in a minimum of a pack of 30 grammes.
4. Ban of sale or offer for sale or distribution of tobacco or tobacco products through mail, internet, or other online devices.
5. Prohibition of interference of tobacco industry in public health and related issues.
6. Prohibition of smoking in anywhere on the premises of a child care facility, educational facility, and healthcare facility. Other prohibited for smoking include playgrounds, amusement parks, plazas, public parks, stadia, public transport, restaurants’ bar, and other public gathering spaces.
7. Prosecution of owner or manager of any of the places listed above who permits, encourages or fails to stop smoking in the above listed places.
8. Prohibition of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship of any kind.
9. Compliance with specified standards for content.

COP7: Nigerian delegation accuse colleagues of pushing tobacco industry agenda

Some members of the Nigerian delegation attending the seventh session of the Conference of the Parties (COP7) to the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) have accused their colleagues of promoting tobacco industry interests through misleading interpretation of the treaty guidelines, PREMIUM TIMES has learnt.

The conference is holding in Delhi, India between November 7 and 12.

The Nigerian delegation includes Christiana Ukoli, the leader and a professor from the Federal Ministry of Health; Ihuoma Ofili of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria; Akinbode Oluwafemi, a civil society activist; Malau Toma of the Ministry of Justice; Ededet Eton, an Assistant Comptroller of Customs, and one Mrs. Abimbola from the Ministry of Justice.

This newspaper learnt that within the Nigerian delegation, while Messrs. Ukoli and Oluwafemi were pro-health, Messrs. Ofili and Abimbola were pro-industry.

Mr. Toma, the Tobacco Desk Officer at the Federal Ministry of Health, was unable to attend the conference due to the inability of the ministry to fund her trip, a Nigerian activist attending the conference who preferred not to be named told PREMIUM TIMES.

On Wednesday, representatives of non-governmental organisations criticised Mrs. Ofili, a Tobacco Control Desk officer at SON, for attempting to sow doubt about the addictiveness of tobacco products—a familiar tobacco industry tactic—despite decades-long consensus on the issue.

“The delegate also recommended watering down protections against industry interference in tobacco control policymaking. The Nigerian Ministry of Health is underrepresented in this year’s Nigerian delegation, heightening suspicions of broader industry interference,” the groups said in a statement.

Another Nigerian activist at the conference said the country’s delegation was singing discordant tunes at the meeting.

“The FCTC recommendations are clear, especially in implementation. Misinterpreting them is the strategy the (tobacco) industry uses to derail implementation,” he added.

The CSOs said some members of the Nigerian delegation advanced arguments criticizing the treaty’s Article 5.3 guidelines limiting parties’ interaction with the tobacco industry, as well as Articles 9 and 10 which recommend measures to reduce the addictiveness of tobacco products.

“It is very disturbing and shocking to civil society and other governments that members of the Nigerian delegation advanced invalid arguments promoted by the tobacco industry, which has a sole aim: raking in profits at the expense of people’s health,” said Philip Jakpor, Nigeria spokesperson of Network for Accountability of Tobacco Transnationals (NATT).

Mrs. Ofili could not be reached for comments.

For decades, the tobacco industry has lobbied extensively against tobacco control policies at the national and international levels.

In November 2015, a whistleblower revealed British American Tobacco’s bribery of a Burundi delegate in an attempt to water down, weaken, and block progress on tobacco control at the FCTC. Given Big Tobacco’s well-documented history of influencing FCTC delegates to promote its agenda, participants at these negotiations raised questions about whether Nigeria’s comments were influenced by the industry.

Hellen Neima, a tobacco control advocate from Uganda attending the Conference of the Parties said: “The Nigerian position was the lowest moment of the discussion yesterday. It came in stark contrast to the applause received by other African governments who stood in firm support for protection against tobacco industry intimidation and bullying.”

Members of civil society warned that Nigeria’s comments may threaten advances to public health, including guidelines around the toxicity of tobacco products. Article 9 proposes guidelines for testing and measuring of the contents and emissions of tobacco products, and regulation of the contents and emissions, while Article 10 requires manufacturers and importers of tobacco products to disclose to governmental authorities information about the contents and emissions of tobacco products. They also urged countries to stay united in their prioritization of public health over the industry’s interests.

“The global tobacco treaty makes it explicitly clear that tobacco industry interference poses the single greatest threat to tobacco control. The confusing proposition by Nigeria has the potential of rolling back the united position of the African bloc on the underlying issues,” said John Stewart, deputy campaigns director with Corporate Accountability International.

Despite the Nigerian delegation’s objections, a majority of parties to the global tobacco treaty support a suite of public health provisions, including ones that protect public health policymaking from the tobacco industry’s influence. According to a WHO report released this week, parties to the treaty recognise the industry as the biggest threat to progress.

The global tobacco treaty negotiations are taking place in Greater Noida, India, from November 7-12. The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is estimated to save more than 200 million lives when fully implemented.

The global tobacco treaty, known formally as the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) entered into force in 2005.

To date, 179 countries and the European Union have become parties to the treaty. It contains the world’s most effective tobacco control and corporate accountability measures—estimated to save more than 200 million lives by 2050 if fully implemented.

Tobacco-control groups turn to billboard messages

Anti-tobacco groups in Nigeria Thursday unveiled a billboard in Abuja to press home demands for the adoption of Regulations for Implementation of the National Tobacco Control Act 2015 by the Nigerian government.

The unveiling came as the Federal Ministry of Health begins deliberations on regulations for the effective implementation of the Act which will be transmitted to the National Assembly for approval.

“Why are we putting up this billboard? And why this location? For us, the unveiling of this billboard is not the mere ceremony of a big and colourful advertisement,” said Akinbode Oluwafemi, Deputy Executive Director, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria.

“It is not competition over a product. This is an innovation in getting our advocacy messages on public health to our esteemed lawmakers who have the onerous task of approving the tobacco control regulations for effective implementation of the NTC Act. The message we have on the board is also intended to resonate with our kids who are intelligent and will ask their parents what the issues are. They will ask questions and we will have to answer them.

“For the wider public, the billboard is like a television set that you cannot switch off. It is always there, they will always see it. Unlike television or magazine adverts, you cannot flip the channel or turn the page. So, for our lawmakers who traverse this route daily, they cannot miss it and the message will stick. Most importantly we want it to galvanise them to action.”

Nigeria’s Tobacco Control Bill was signed into law by former President Goodluck Jonathan in May 2015.

But its implementation has continued to throw up a challenge for the government.

Anti-tobacco advocate groups say between the period the bill was signed into law and July this year when the Health Minister, Isaac Adewole, inuagurated the National Tobacco Control Committee, the tobacco industry had fought relentlessly to sabotage implementation.

Mr. Oluwafemi said a lot of “shocking developments” spearheaded by tobacco companies had demanded an expedited action on tobacco control regulations in the country.

“We have recorded among others, Philip Morris International Nigeria Limited (PMINTL) illicit cigarette imports from Senegal; an unwarranted aspersion on the integrity of NATOCC members by the Initiative for Public Policy Analysis (IPPA) – a group that was in the fore of British America Tobacco Nigeria (BATN) campaign for a sufficiently weakened tobacco law in Nigeria; and now the unrelenting marketing gimmicks targeted at our kids,” Mr. Oluwafemi said..

“The attempt to get our kids hooked through kiosks and other Point of Sale (POS) near schools is now a big issue not only in Nigeria but across Africa. In Cameroun, Togo, Uganda to list a few countries, these things are happening. Our concern, however, is that Nigeria still remains the biggest market for the tobacco industry on the African continent because of its teeming population of vibrant youths.

“In virtually all the states of the federation, street corners and around schools have been targeted by the tobacco death merchants to market new flavours of cigarettes. Is it not very disturbing to know that there are orange, vanilla and Amarula flavours of cigarettes now being openly displayed and sold to capture the attention of our kids and addict them to smoking?”

Mr. Oluwafemi said the billboard message would go hand in hand with their push for the Health Ministry to expedite action on the Nigeria Tobacco Control regulations for the full implementation of the Act.

“We have said it time and again, delay is dangerous. The time to Act is now.”

Investigate and sanction BAT appropriately – ERA/FoEN tells FG

As the British American Tobacco (BAT) celebrates another year of deadly profits on Wednesday, April 28, the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) joined other anti-tobacco groups from Africa, United Kingdom and Latin America to demand government’s action to hold the corporation accountable.

Also on the heels of revelations of widespread bribery in Africa, the anti-tobacco group demanded that BAT be probed for the East African bribery scandal.

Speaking at a press briefing on Wednesday organised by ERA/FoEN in Lagos, Deputy Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi said, “As we speak today, British American Tobacco (BAT) is holding its Annual General Meeting (AGM) at Milton Court Concert Hall, Silk Street, in London, where it will announce huge profits from mortgaging the lungs of underage and mostly under-informed cigarette addicts.”

Catalogue of BAT Infractions

In 2015 the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) aired an investigation on its Panorama, which detailed a host of bribery and espionage activities perpetrated by BAT on the African continent. In the expose a whistleblower and former staff of the company revealed a shameful bribery scam contrived and carefully implemented to thwart life-saving legislations in Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Comoros Islands.

Paul Hopkins, who had worked for BAT in Kenya for 13 years described how BAT funded illegal corporate espionage and how its contractors bribed politicians and policymakers in the listed countries.

Emails Hopkins shared revealed the corporation made illegal payments running into thousands of dollars to compromise policy makers and in one case even demanded a draft copy of Burundi’s Tobacco Control Bill from its contact person in that country’s government to “accommodate.. amendments before the president signs.”

A Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) representative from Burundi, Godefroid Kamwenubusa, and a representative from the Comoros Islands, Chaibou Bedja Abdou, were alleged to have also received $3,000 while former representative from Rwanda, Bonaventure Nzeyimana, was paid $20,000. In return for the illegal payment to Kamwenubusa, a Burundian senior civil servant, BAT also wanted a draft copy of the country’s Tobacco Control Bill with an e-mail to the government official asking to “accommodate any amendments before the president signs.”

During the airing of the investigation on BBC Panorama, experts from the University of Bath’s leading Tobacco Control Research Group (TCRG) were available for media comment and interviews.

The report drew global condemnation on BAT with Dr. Vera Da Costa e Silva, from the WHO, saying BAT was irresponsible for using bribery to profit at the cost of people’s lives. She recommended that the corporation be investigated by the government and punished accordingly.

Undermining legislation

In April 2015 BAT Kenya Limited filed a petition at the Constitutional Court in the High Court of Kenya, Nairobi asking the court to declare the Tobacco Control Regulations which had been developed by the Kenyan Ministry of Health to facilitate the implementation of Tobacco Control Act 2007 as null and void either in its entirety or some particular sections of the regulation.

In the petition, BAT argued that the due process was not followed in the making of the regulations and that particular sections of the regulations contravened their rights as outlined in the Bill of Rights and other Articles of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 and that they were therefore unconstitutional.

Before the suit, the regulations had been tabled in Parliament on 5th December 2014 and gazette as is required and were to take effect on 5 June 2015.

On 4th June 2015, a day before the Tobacco Control Regulations could take effect, a Judge issued conservatory orders suspending the implementation of the regulations (at the request of BAT) until the case is heard and determined

Among others, BAT wanted a regulation limiting interaction between the tobacco industry and public officers declared unconstitutional. That section of the regulation is in consonance with Article 5.3 of the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC) which recommends that Parties “Prohibit government partnership or collaboration with the tobacco industry”

In the final ruling, the court ruled among others, that, according to the documents presented to it, there were various meetings during the framing of the regulations that BAT was represented in, and consulted.

Reports of public forums and other consultations were shared and the regulations were presented to Parliament which offered another platform for public participation through the Parliamentary process. It noted that in effect, there was sufficient public participation, hence, the Tobacco Control Regulations 2014 cannot be declared null and void on the basis of lack of sufficient public participation, among others.


In Uganda BAT, in conjunction with other leading tobacco companies, used considerable financial clout to oppose Dr. Chris Baryomunsi’s private member’s bill in 2014 aimed at curbing smoking in Uganda.

In a letter to Baryomunsi, BAT Uganda said that it will no longer do business with the 709 farmers in his Kihihi constituency that it normally buys from because the legislation he sponsored – and a related plan to raise tobacco taxes – has rendered the arrangement “increasingly less economically viable”.

BAT aim for writing Baryomunsi was to instigate farmers against him.

Bayormunsi’s bill recommends large health warnings covering 75% of the face of cigarette packets, prohibits smoking within 100 metres of public buildings, prohibit advertising, ban point of sale display marketing, raises the smoking age from 18 to 21 and limits interaction between the government and tobacco lobby.

Tobacco farmers’ groups, obviously backed by BAT lobbyists, claim the measures will put them out of business.

Oluwafemi however said, the above findings show that the company works openly and behind the scenes to thwart the WHO-FCTC.

“We therefore stand in full solidarity with our allies across the globe demanding BAT be probed for the East African bribery scandal. The probe must go beyond East Africa.

“The findings hitherto mentioned challenge governments on the continent, and particularly the Nigerian government to wake up and take action. We will not forget in a hurry, the torturous process of getting the National Tobacco Control Bill (now Tobacco Control Act) into law just as we will not forget the tens of hurriedly-formed BAT front groups deployed to fight taxation, ban on Tobacco Advertising Promotion and Sponsorships (TAPS) and other life-saving provisions from getting into the final document.”

ERA/FoEN also debunked the myth that a tobacco bill with strong provisions as recommended by the WHO-FCTC will lead to job and revenue losses.

The group demand that the federal government should. beam searchlight on BAT operations in West Africa and particularly in Nigeria where the corporation is involved in so-called anti-smuggling campaign and lobby to thwart increase in taxes.

“Government agencies should investigate all tax waivers or grants that were granted to BAT by past governments.

That government investigate all past dealings between BAT and government agencies with a view to prosecute any infraction against our laws. The Nigerian government, particularly the Ministry of Health remain unintimidated as it comes up with resolutions for the effective implementation of the National Tobacco Control Act.

“We also recommend a speedy drafting of the recommendations. BAT infractions and that of Philip Morris International which is identified to have illicitly imported cigarettes into Nigeria from Senegal be investigated and sanctioned appropriately,” Oluwafemi said.

Also speaking at the briefing, Head, Media & Communication, Mr Philip Jakpor said, when the NGO visited one of the villages tobacco is planted, “the farmers said they were not meant to speak with strangers. It shows that the truth about their dealings is not known by the public.

“Action must be taken and the more there is delay, the more they are allowed to take people’s lives for granted.”

Adding, Oluwafemi said, “one issue we cannot tire talking about is the menace of tobacco which continues to claim lives at an alarming rate globally.”

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), about six million people die annually from tobacco –induced illnesses and what we know as second hand smoke is responsible for over 600,000 yearly deaths in non-smokers.

“Increasing deaths from tobacco correspond with huge profits the tobacco corporation make from marketing their deadly ware,” Oluwafemi said.

How American company, Philip Morris, is flooding Nigeria with 122 million ‘units’ of cigarettes

One ‎of the world’s biggest tobacco manufacturing companies, Philip Morris International, secured an approval to import 122 million ‘units’ of cigarettes into Nigeria from September 1, 2015, to March 31, 2016, the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth International has said.

Akinbode Oluwafemi, Deputy Director, ERA/FoEN, said flooding the country with the “unlicensed, tax-not-paid” cigarettes was a deliberate violation of the National Tobacco Control Act.

“Through this illicit import, PMINTL Nigeria Limited will assault our public health with 122 million units of the identified cigarette brands within seven‎ months,” Mr. Oluwafemi said in Lagos, Monday.

“There also seems a clear attempt to confuse Nigerians by‎ PMI as they do not tell us if the units represent single packets or if several single packs in a row represent a single unit.”

PMINTL Nigeria Limited, a subsidiary of American global cigarette and tobacco company, Philip Morris International, ‎was registered in Nigeria on December 11, 2014.

Five months later, the company got the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) certificate for five PMI brands – Marlboro Gold, M‎arlboro, Chesterfield Blue, Chesterfield Mint Burst, and Bond Street Blue.

According to ERA/FoEN, Philip Morris International‎, through Philip Morris Manufacturing Senegal Sarl, applied for and got approval of the country’s Ministry of Industry and Mines, in July 2015, to benefit from the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme for the five cigarette brands.

In August this year, PMINTL Nigeria Limited applied for and secured approval from the Federal Ministry of Finance for the importation of the five cigarette brands into Nigeria‎.

“The speed of the entire transaction is clearly suspicious and may indicate some government officials may have been compromised to ensure that not only the PMINTL subsidiary is quickly registered, but also to undermine the Tobacco Control Act through the illicit imports,” said Mr. Oluwafemi.

The anti-tobacco activist’s claims came days after a BBC investigation uncovered evidence of bribery to government officials in East Africa by British American Tobacco, another leading tobacco company.

Mr. Oluwafemi said his organization would send a petition to President Muhammadu Buhari to demand a probe of PMINTL’s activities in Nigeria “with a view to bringing to justice any government official that compromised his office in the process of this illegal importation.”

The National Tobacco Control bill was signed into law last May.

Section 29(1) of the Act says: No person shall manufacture, import or distribute tobacco or tobacco products except the person has obtained license or is authorized in writing by the Minister.

The law stipulates a fine of “not less than N10 million and a term of imprisonment of not more than 10 years or both” among others for defaulters.

Efforts to reach the Federal Ministry of Finance were unsuccessful as e-mails sent to the address on the ministry’s official website failed to deliver.

But in a statement on Tuesday, Philip Morris International said it plays by the rules in all the over 180 countries it operates.

“In every market where we do business, we operate in accordance with national laws and regulations, including in Nigeria,” said Vera Nwanze, General Manager, PMINTL Nigeria Limited.

“PMINTL Nigeria Ltd is an affiliate company of PMI and has been an established legal entity for a year in compliance with all statutory requirements of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and meeting all legal requirements for product’s registration and importation including the payments of all relevant taxes to the concerned authorities.”‎

ERA/FoEN demanded the withdrawal from the market and destruction of all imported PMINTL cigarettes, as well as removal of tobacco products from trade liberalization policies.

‎”Our position is: If PMINTL Nigeria Limited is allowed to go scot-free with this illegal importation, it will send dangerous signals to the international community about Nigeria’s readiness to fulfill its obligations under the WHO FCTC,” said Mr. Oluwafemi.

“It will also send a wrong message that the Nigerian government is not ready to take on Big Tobacco corporations whenever they flout the nation’s laws.

“We demand the prosecution of PMINTL to stop this new onslaught on our nation and particularly our youth.”

Young children’s perceptions of health warning labels on cigarette packages: a study in six countries



Health warning labels on cigarette packages are one way to reach youth thinking about initiating tobacco use. The purpose of this study was to examine awareness and understanding of current health warning labels among 5 and 6 year old children.


Researchers conducted one-on-one interviews with urban and rural 5 and 6 year olds from Brazil, China, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Russia.


Among the 2,423 participating children, 62 % were unaware of the health warnings currently featured on cigarette packages, with the lowest levels of awareness in India and the highest levels in Brazil. When shown the messages, the same percentage of participating children (62 %) showed no level of message understanding.


While youth are receiving social and informational messages promoting tobacco use, health warning labels featured on cigarette packages are not effectively reaching young children with anti-smoking messages.

Civil Society groups commend Governor Fashola for signing Tobacco Bill

Mr. Fashola signed the smoke-free public places bill barely one month after the Lagos State House of Assembly passed it into law.

Some civil society organizations have commended Babatunde Fashola, the Lagos State Governor, for signing into law the bill regulating smoking in public places.

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, ERA/FoEN, and Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Center, CISLAC, in a statement in Lagos, Wednesday, described the law as a “timely vote for public health” which should be emulated by the National Assembly that is yet to pass the National Tobacco Control Bill into law.

Mr. Fashola signed the smoke-free public places bill on Monday; barely one month after the Lagos State House of Assembly passed it into law and forwarded it to his office for his signature.

Under the law, places designated as no smoking areas are libraries, archives, museums, galleries, public toilets, hospitals and other health facilities, nurseries, day care centres and any facility used for the care of infants and children or adults.

During the signing ceremony which had top government functionaries and members of the Lagos State House of Assembly in attendance, the governor said the smoke-free public places law will help government discharge its responsibility to the citizenry more efficiently.

In their joint statement, ERA/FoEN and CISLAC said the development is welcome. They urged lawmakers at the National Assembly to put aside party differences and personal ambitions.

“We salute the courage of Governor Fashola for shunning the rapprochement of British American Tobacco Nigeria (BATN) which was clearly targeted at thwarting this life-saving bill when the company’s top echelon visited his office last year.

“The governor has through the signing of this bill sided with the people over and above deadly investments,” said Akinbode Oluwafemi, ERA/FoEN Director Corporate Accountability and Administration.

“The Lagos state government must not go to bed now. It must be alert and refuse to be hoodwinked by BATN media hoax about supporting the bill. The tobacco industry is known to double speak on matters if regulation and quick to set in motion groups that counter sound logic behind regulation of its deadly products,” Mr. Oluwafemi added.

Other places designated as non-smoking areas include kindergartens, nursery, primary, secondary schools, public telephone kiosks or call centres, and public transportation vehicles, among others.

The law criminalizes smoking before minors and compels management of public places to conspicuously display “No Smoking” signs at appropriate positions within their premises.

Auwal Rafsanjani, Executive Director of CISLAC, commended the expedited action on the bill by the governor, saying that Lagos has again shown it blazes the trail in delivering good governance without prevarication.

“Of particular note is the fact that it took the governor less than a month to sign this pro-people bill into law. It is disheartening that we cannot say same for the tobacco control bill at the National Assembly which has suffered bureaucratic setbacks instigated by tobacco industry misinformation which puts profits before health,” Mr. Rafsanjani said.

Mr. Rafsanjani urged the National Assembly to follow the example of Lagos by accelerating work on the National Tobacco Control Bill, NTCB, which he said, would save Nigerians from further trauma inflicted on health and the national economy by products marketed by BATN and other tobacco companies.