Tobacco Control Debate and Tobacco Smuggling

19 Jul 2013

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Seized tobacco products

Yetunde Fashinro

It has become relatively easy to confront corporate entities as the tide of activism increases globally.  Even as there are no shortage of social issues for these groups to champion, so also are there myriads of fundamental problems driving or enabling these issues to thrive.
This brings me to the raging Tobacco control debate. This is one debate that quickly brings to mind the need to address issues holistically, making sure that far reaching consequences do not emerge as a result of poorly drafted policies.  It has often been the intention of tobacco control advocates or crusaders to drastically reduce tobacco consumption for health reasons. It is, however, debatable if this goal has been met. 

The recent outcry of the tobacco industry on tobacco smuggling must not be ignored. Whilst many believe that this outcry is just another self-serving agenda of the tobacco industry, one cannot discountenance various recent international reports alluding to the fact that illicit tobacco trade is one that terrorists and criminals find attractive and engage in.

If the government, especially the legislators are serious about protecting the health and wellbeing of the Nigerian public, they must on no account turn a blind eye to this monster called smuggling. They must enact and enforce laws that do not drive out the Legal Tobacco industry only for the smugglers to take over. A great opportunity beckons with the introduction of a Tobacco Control Bill at the National Assembly and our legislators’. It is, therefore, imperative that the contents of the Tobacco Control Bill must be achievable and not encourage smuggling. 

It is public knowledge that the public health debate is a big crusade for the well-funded Tobacco Control advocates & groups, . However, this is not a cause for these advocates to toy with as there are real victims of tobacco smuggling.
Addressing the issues of tobacco consumption must be approached from a sensible point of view with all the possibilities laid on the table. All concerned parties should be involved in fashioning   legislation that will not replace these legal tobacco companies with smugglers and criminals.

Activism is not a bad concept and sometimes as activists we tend to lose sight of the most important matters, especially as we chase a debate that is not localised and is drafted by those outside our locality. The question we need to ask now is what works best for us. We believe that the need to protect public health is important, and looking at the realities on ground we cannot stop adults from smoking even in the face of inherent health risks associated with it.

The message here is very serious, that is, activists and legislators must not kill genuine businesses and allow smugglers to take over. Let all wisely look for a meeting point and see how these adult smokers may seek for less harmful or cessation products.  Let us think about the Tobacco framers, their dependants’ and their live hoods, let us ensure a sensible and evidenced based regulation to Tobacco control.

*Fashinro writes from Lagos.

Tags: Business, DEBATE, Featured, Nigeria, Tobacco Smuggling

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