By Tobias Lengnan Dapam

Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance (NTCA), has called on the federal government to intensify enforcement of the graphic health warnings policy on tobacco products.

The Board Chairman, NTCA
Akinbode Oluwafemi, made the call on Tuesday, in Abuja.

He said, studies indicated that graphic health warnings on tobacco products increase quit
attempts by smokers or users of tobacco products are also effective in discouraging uptake of tobacco use.

“It is estimated that over 28, 000 people die in Nigeria annually due to tobacco
use. Yet the Tobacco Industry continues to downplay its role in the creation of the problem, instead, the industry is intensifying efforts to make tobacco appealing to Nigerians.

“The industry continually tries to mask tobacco’s real identity as a disease-and-death-maker.

“The requirement to have graphic or pictorial health warnings on the packaging of tobacco products is prescribed by the National Tobacco Control Act, 2015,
and the National Tobacco Control Regulations, 2019, in line with the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-
FCTC) recommendations. These graphic images serve to expose tobacco by providing the public with visual representations of the dire health consequences that come with using tobacco products.

“At present, the graphic
health warnings policy requires all tobacco products to have the approved graphic images on at least 50% of the products’ packaging.

“This very important policy suffered a setback when the Tobacco Industry was
granted a 150-day moratorium before commencement of enforcement of the
policy. The moratorium however came to an end in November 2021, opening
the door for law enforcement agencies to monitor and enforce the policy.

“We commend the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission
(FCCPC) for displaying uncommon dedication by carrying out two graphic
health warnings enforcement exercises in Abuja and Lagos between
December 2021 and March 2022.”

He said the Alliance, will continued to work to strengthen the gains made so
far on the policy.

“Therefore, as recently as October 2022, we commissioned a
survey to ascertain the compliance level of the policy on all tobacco products
in the country. The survey was carried out in Ekiti, Adamawa, Cross River, Abia, Abuja and Kano.

“When results from this survey were compared with results from a similar survey we conducted in 2021, the results showed a significant increase in the
compliance level on cigarette packs, with an estimated 90% compliance.

“However, it is deeply concerning to find out that other tobacco products such
as snuff and shisha (which has become notoriously popular among young people) have no graphic health warnings and still carry the outdated text
warnings. The compliance level of this group of tobacco products is estimated to be below 10%.

“We therefore call on the Nigeria Police Force, Federal Ministries of Health and
Environment, the National Security and Civil Defense Corps and all agencies
charged with monitoring and enforcing of the National Tobacco Control Act to
wake up to their responsibilities.

“Enforcement agencies must particularly monitor and enforce the policy on all
tobacco products, not only on cigarette packs.

“Also, policy implementation cannot continue to be centered in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, and Lagos. A good policy is not only good for urban
centres. There is need to take enforcement of the graphic health warnings policy to Nigeria’s hinterlands to ensure compliance. We note that it is possible that non-compliant products may be moved far inland where
enforcement is low or non-existent.

“The FCCPC, Federal Ministry of Health and Standards Organisation of
Nigeria should take principal note of the quality of graphic images being used on tobacco products. Many tobacco products in the markets carry blurry pictorial warnings.“

On his part, the Pogramme Officer NTCA, Chibuikem Nwokorie,
said the focus should not only be on cigarette alone. “There are other products like snuff and shi sha that needs the graphics images displayed so as to caution consumers of the products.

“We want the government to enforce the warning on other products.

“These laws are there and we are not doing anything new. We are just calling on the relevant agencies to ensure full implementation of the law that has been passed.”

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