By Tobias Lengnan Dapam
Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance (NTCA) has called on the federal government to implement graphic health warnings on tobacco products.
The NGO made the call on Monday in Abuja, while addressing journalists on the need for the government to ensure the implementation.
Specifically, Akinbode Oluwafemi, Board Chairman of NTCA said
tobacco use is a major public health concern and is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the world. “It is responsible for more than 8 million deaths each year, and if current trends continue, this number is expected to rise significantly in the coming
“Here in Nigeria, there are growing concerns about the increasing use of tobacco products, especially the use of shisha among our young population despite the serious health implications.
“The introduction of Graphic Health Warnings (GHWs) on tobacco products is an effective
way to reduce tobacco use and its associated harms. Studies have shown that GHWs are
more effective than text-only warnings in communicating the risks of tobacco use. They are
also more likely to be noticed and remembered by users.
“This measure is contained in Article 11 of the World Health Organisation Framework
Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC), and in our local laws. Section 20 of the
National Tobacco Control Act, 2015 (NTC Act) requires manufacturers, importers, and
distributors of tobacco products to ensure that their products carry full coloured graphic
health warnings, covering 50% of the principal display area, and that the approved graphic
photo must clearly show the health implications of tobacco use and exposure.
“In providing guidelines for effective implementation of this policy, section 20 (3) of the NTC
Act stipulates that graphic health warnings must be changed after an initial period no later
than 24 months to new graphic warnings and messages prescribed by the Federal Ministry
of Health. The law anticipated that the shock value of the warnings would begin to wane
after two years, this is why the warnings are required to be rotated every two years.”
Speaking further, he said in the first set of warnings, a contrast image of healthy lungs and diseased lungs of a smoker
was issued on June 23, 2021, and expired on June 22, 2023, after a period of two years.
“It is now one month since the warnings expired, and as an alliance we alerted our members
in the Federal Capital Territory, as well as Ebonyi, Kano and Lagos states to monitor
compliance with the second phase of the warnings. It is shocking to reveal that compliance is at a flat 0%. This is totally unacceptable. The tobacco industry should not undermine the
laws governing its business in Nigeria.
“The current approved warnings by the Federal Ministry of Health shows a graphic image of a
tobacco user with mouth cancer, with the text warning ‘smoking causes mouth cancer’.
The profit centered Tobacco Industry is foot dragging to weaken this policy, because it
knows that graphic health warnings reduce the number of people who start smoking, just as
it encourages current smckers to quit. Graphic health warnings can reduce the amount of
tobacco consumed by current smokers. In addition, the warnings can reduce the appeal of
tobacco products, making them less attractive to young people.
It has also been established that the warnings can reduce the economic burden of tobacco
use. By cutting the number of people who start smoking and encouraging current smokers
to quit, thus lowering the costs associated with treating tobacco-related diseases.
“We therefore urge the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Federal Competition and
Consumer Protection Commission, Nigeria Customs Service, and the Federal Ministry of Health to ensure the speedy implementation of graphic health warnings on all tobacco
products. This is an important step in reducing the harms of tobacco use and protecting the
health of Nigerians. The graphic health warnings policy must not be derailed.”
On his part, the Pogramme Officer NTCA, Chibuike Nwokorie, said, the graphic health warning on tobacco products, is necessary for the consumers of the products to know the danger of what they are consuming.
While calling on various government agencies to ensure proper implementation, he called on the producers to abide by laws of the country at all times.