By Tobias Lengnan Dapam

The Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance (NTCA) has told the federal and state governments that some tobacco products in the country are still in violation of the country’s law against products without graphic health warnings.

Chairman of NTCA, Akinbode Oluwafemi, stated this on Friday at a media briefing on the current state of the graphic health warnings policy implementation in Nigeria.

He said there are growing concerns in Nigeria about the increasing use of tobacco
products, especially the use of shisha and new tobacco products among young population despite the serious health implications.

“The introduction of Graphic Health Warnings (GHWS) has been proven as an
effective way of reducing tobacco use and its associated harms. Studies have also shown that GHWs are more effective than text-only warnings in communicating the risks associated with tobacco use. They are also more
likely to be noticed and remembered by users and intending 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 fully coloured graphic health warnings, covering at least 50% of the principal display area and that the graphic
photo must clearly show the health implications of tobacco use and exposure.

“In providing further guidelines for effectively implementing this policy, section 20 (3) of the National Tobacco Control Act stipulates that graphic
health warnings must be changed after an initial period no later than 24 months to new warnings and messages prescribed by the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.

“The current set of warnings, depicting a photo of mouth cancer was issued on June 23, 2023, and will expire on June 22, 2025, after a period of two years.
It is now one year since the warnings came into effect. As an Alliance, we alerted our members in the Federal Capital Territory, as well as Abia, Kano,
Bauchi, Plateau, Cross River and Lagos states to continually monitor compliance with the second phase of the warnings. From the findings, the
compliance level on the conventional cigarette is above 80%. However, it is
shocking to reveal that compliance is abysmal on other tobacco products like
Shisha, and flavoured vapes, that are still illegally marketed in Nigeria this is unacceptable. The tobacco industry should not undermine the laws
governing its business in Nigeria.

“The profit-centered tobacco industry producing, importing and
distributing these tobacco products 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 smokers to quit. They can
help to reduce the amount of tobacco consumed by current smokers.”

While speaking on the need for all tobacco products to have graphics health warnings, Pogramme Officer NTCA, Chibuike Nwokorie, said the act and regulations covered all tobacco products.

“Every tobacco product is covered by the act and regulations. We want all of them to have the graphic health warnings.

“We are calling on all the regulations agency to ensure implementation of graphic health warnings on all products.The government needs to act now.

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