Sunday Okobi and Amby Uneze
Safetynet For Children (SFC), a non-governmental organisation that seeks to advance the good health of Nigerians, particularly children and the adolescent, has drawn the attention of the government and Nigerians to the effect of tobacco to children and young adults.
According to a statement signed and made available to THISDAY yesterday by the group Chairman, Akomas Brent C., “We want to draw attention to recent developments in the tobacco industry in Nigeria especially as regards the effect to lives.
“Perhaps unknown to many, children and young adults are becoming increasingly vulnerable to the habit of tobacco products consumption, a trend which poses grave danger to the future of our country, considering the significance of this segment of the population in nation building both now and in the future.
“In this regard, we hereby draw the attention of Nigerians to some provisions in the 2016 review document by the Technical Committee on Standards for Tobacco and Tobacco Products set up by the Nigerian Industrial Standard for Tobacco and Tobacco Products.”
SFC added that item on page nine of the document states as follows that: “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 manufacture of cigarette.”
It noted that it found the exclusion of menthol from this list questionable as what this intends to achieve is quite unclear. Studies have shown that before the introduction of banana, apple, strawberry, flavours in cigarettes, child smokers were already very much used
to menthol flavoured-cigarettes and that they (children) still smoke menthol cigarettes up till now.
“In other words, the exclusion of menthol is incapable of discouraging children and young adults from the consumption of tobacco products, for the simple reason that they will merely retain their patronage of menthol products which had been aggressively marketed to them in the past, long before the introduction of banana, apple and strawberry products. So, if prohibiting products other than menthol-flavoured ones cannot stop the kids from consuming tobacco products, it remains unclear what their prohibition on one hand and the retention of menthol on the other will achieve,” Brent stated.
However, he stressed that there was a world-wide raging debate on the effect of menthol in cigarettes, especially on black people, adding that “We call on the relevant authorities to take another look on this policy of excluding menthol from the list of prohibited flavours in cigarettes, especially in view of its harmful nature and addictive potencies on the young people.
“We are aware that cigarette manufactures all over the world have always had the power to lobby for the institutionalisation of policies that enhance their trade in spite of obvious harmful effects of their products to the consumers. However, it is our expectation that the crusade on the harmful effects of tobacco consumption should be total, decisive and devoid of any suspicions to either deliberately or inadvertently enhance the existing monopolistic tendencies in the industry especially in Nigeria.
“Furthermore, SFC joins in the on-going advocacy for measures aimed at increasing the cost of tobacco products especially through raising taxes, which studies have shown to be the most effective way of reducing consumption and preventing children and young adults from cultivating the habit in the first place.”