The Federal Executive Council yesterday approved the draft Tobacco Control Bill, 2014.
The Minister of Heath, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu, disclosed this when he briefed journalists after the weekly FEC meeting in Abuja.
On an attempts in the past to control the use of tobacco in the country, the minister said “In 1990, we had a decree which tried to place some control on the sale and use of tobacco products and in 2001, it was repealed and re-enacted to become the National Tobacco Control Act of 2001, the whole idea was to make it ever stiffer but when in 2004, Nigeria along with other nations of the world signed the 2004 WHO framework convention on tobacco control.
There was then the need to bring our laws in conformity because as a country rectified that convention the next year which was 2005 “so that attempt by the executive to do so eventually culminated in the passage of a revised or amended Act as it were in 2011 by the sixth session of the National Assembly,” he said.
He explained that the bill was to protect Nigerians against the harmful effects of tobacco, adding that there were four main non-communicable diseases linked to the use of tobacco which include cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory disorder and diabetics.
“Tobacco alone causes three out of these four illnesses. Tobacco causes cardiovascular diseases, it is been known to cause heart attacks, hypertension and stroke, tobacco indeed causes cancer, cancer of various organs especially cancer of the lungs, tobacco is the cause for chronic respiratory disease.
“We have done surveys in Nigeria. In 2008, Nigeria conducted the global youth tobacco survey and the youth that were surveyed were between the ages of 13 to 15 and in that survey, it clearly showed that 15 per cent of our children between the ages of 13 and 15 years were already smokers and 55 per cent of our children between the ages of 13 and 15 were exposed as passive smokers.
“Even among adults, 10 per cent of men smoke in Nigeria, one out of every ten Nigerians male adult smoke, among the women, it is 1.1 per cent, if you combine it in term of men and women, almost six per cent of all adults in Nigeria smoke of use tobacco products apart from 20 per cent of those who do not smoke but are exposed as passive smokers” he said.
Explaining further, the minister said the major ingredients of the bill was stiff penalties for individuals who run foul of the National Tobacco Control Act 2014.
Chukwu noted that offenders “may pay fine of around N50,000, that is for someone who goes to a place clearly designated non- smoking area, the judge could either give you an option of fine or combine it with imprisonment of up to six months, Whereas, for companies, it varies from N1 million to as much as N5 million.,
“Now the areas that are being targeted include the environment, we want to produce hundred per cent tobacco free environment for people do not want anything to do with tobacco and so places will be clearly designated whether public places, whether indoor or outdoor will be clearly designated as non smoking area.
“The responsibility, say for instance, a hotel rest on the owners of the hotel to clearly indicate the areas that are non smoking so that if you ever decide to go to a place that has been clearly designated non smoking area, you will be liable to being prosecuted and then the law will take its course. “The same thing with mode of transportation- land, railway, sea, air, they are all covered.
“Another area is advertisement. Advertisement is totally banned under this law so you cannot just go and advertise. Some states have already taken the lead like Cross River State, which passed its own law on advertisement of tobacco last year. Now we want to make it national. Any form of advertisement is not permitted, either in broadcast, print, outdoor.”