Amby Uneze in Owerri
The continued manufacture, distribution and consumption of tobacco in the country by Nigerians, including children and adolescents have been identified as a major cause of many health related diseases and deaths being presently suffered by Nigerians.
The Chairman of Safety Net for Children (SNC), a non-governmental organization championing the good health of children and adolescents in the country, Mr. Akomas Brent has said that such diseases and deaths are avoidable if tobacco and other tobacco products are sanctioned in the country.
According to him, such was the case in America and other advanced economies when they became inundated with cases of cigarette related deaths, diseases and rising national budgets, they evolved decisive policies to check the menace of cigarette (tobacco), which forced the companies to relocate to Africa and Nigeria in particular to continue their illicit trade.
Akomas, who accused the tobacco companies of not having the interest of good health for Nigerians at heart, believed that Nigerian government working in the interest of public health for her citizens should therefore terminate all partnerships with any operator in the tobacco industry, terminate any grant-in-aid to any operator in the tobacco industry, withdraw all incentives to operators in the tobacco industry, discontinue any patronage to or from any operator in the industry, monitor and implement a fair and equitable regulation, and impose extreme sanction on any agency or individual found in compromise.
He stated that the manufacture, distribution and marketing of tobacco and tobacco products must be recognized and treated as a health epidemic concern, stressing that certain provisions in the 2016 review document by the Technical Committee on Standards for Tobacco and Tobacco products may be a ploy to retain the patronage of kid-smokers.
According to Akomas, flavouring substances, excluding menthol, with potential to initiate or appeal to children, such as strawberry, banana, apple, among others, should not be used in the manufacturing of cigarette. Conveniently, it was forgotten that menthol itself is a flavour.
“This is not surprising considering that cigarette with menthol flavour happen to be top of the line product of the major cigarettes giants in Nigeria. This is why SNC querries the exclusion of menthol from the list.
“The retention of menthol and exclusion of other flavours is incapable of discouraging children and young adults from the corruption of tobacco products for the simple reason that they will merely retain their patronage of menthol cigarette which had been aggressively marketed to them much more than any other flavour”, he said.
He was of the opinion that the National Tobacco Control Committee recently inaugurated by the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Oyewole with the aim to implement the National Tobacco Control Act (NTCA) had been infiltrated and deflated by the Nigeria’s tobacco industry giants who insist on breaking every barrier to deliver harm to Nigerians, as well as stamping out every local competitor in a bid to perpetuate and satisfy their monopolistic tendencies.