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February 19th, 2014:

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.