The Federal Ministry of Health and civil society organisations (CSOs) on June 3, 2019, carried out a public sensitisation on Abuja streets and the popular Wuse market with a message that violators of the National Tobacco Control (NTC) Act will face fines or jail terms.
The march which was organised by the ministry in conjunction with the Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance (NTCA) was part of activities to mark the 2019 World No Tobacco Day which has as theme: Tobacco and Lung Health. Other groups that participated in the march were the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK), Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), Cedars Foundation, University of Abuja Smoke-free Club, and the Nigeria Medical Association, among others.
The march which started at the popular Berger Roundabout, and terminated at the Wuse Market was used to educate traders on the NTC Act and the Tobacco Regulations that were approved by the National Assembly on 28 May 2019. Leaflets were also handed out with information of the Tobacco Act.
Abraham Agbons of the Federal Ministry of Health explained that the sensitisation walk was planned immediately after the passage of the Tobacco Regulations to bring the message nearer to the grassroots and ensure they understand the text of the law and penalty for violators.
Earlier, Programme Coordinator of the NTCA, Oluseun Esan said that the benefits of the law includes safer air to breathe and protection of non smokers from second hand smoke which kills about 600,000 people annually. He pointed out that the approved Regulations will now make it possible for the federal ministry of health and the relevant agencies of government to fully implement the NTC Act which was signed into law by former president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan in 2015.
Other activists who spoke were ERA/FoEN Deputy Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi and Chibuike Nwokorie of the NTCA who translated the message in Igbo.
Nwokorie said that it was now illegal to sell cigarettes in sticks and to under-aged persons, adding also, that smoking in public places such as viewing centers was an offence punishable by fine or prison term.
The Regulations which were approved by the Senate and the House of Representatives address the licensing of tobacco products, duration of the license, and the sizes of pictographs and graphic health warnings on tobacco packs, among others. The pictographs and health warnings which will cover 50 per cent of the display area of tobacco packs replace the message: The Federal Ministry of Health Warns that tobacco smokers are liable to die young.
*Philip Jakpor, Head, Media & Communication, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria wrote in from Lagos