Indicate new warning signs or be sanctioned, group tells tobacco firms

The Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance (NTCA) has warned tobacco companies in the country that it would push for their sanction if they fail to indicate the new anti-smoking warnings on their products.

Mr Akinbode Oluwafemi, the chairman of the alliance said this on Monday in Abuja at a news conference on the implementation of graphic health warnings on tobacco products.

“The current approved warning 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.

“This is because it knows that graphic health warnings reduce the number of people who start smoking, just as it encourages current smokers to quit.

“We thereby urge the Federal Ministry of Health, Standard Organisation of Nigeria, (SON) Nigeria Customs Service to ensure that the new health warnings are implemented,” Oluwafemi said.

He said regulation is is contained in Article 11 of the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and in our local laws.

“Section 20 of the National Tobacco Control Act, (NTC Act)2015 Nigeria requires manufacturers, importers, and distributors of tobacco products to ensure that their products carry full coloured graphic health warnings.

“This should cover 50 per cent of the principal display area.

“Similarly, that the approved graphic photo must clearly show the health implications of tobacco use and exposure,” he said.

The chairman said the law anticipated that the shock value of the warnings would begin to wane after two years, saying this is why the warnings are required to be rotated every two year.

“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 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.

“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,” he said.

The chairman said that it was unfortunate that findings showed that compliance was at zero per cent.

Oluwafemi said that tobacco use is a major public health concern and is a major leading death cause in the world.

“It is responsible for more than eight million deaths each year and if current tread continues death rate is expected to rise significantly in the coming years.

“In Nigeria there is a growing concern about the use of tobacco, especially the use of shisha, and several products entering our country particularly amongst the youths.

“The introduction of graphic health warnings on tobacco products is an effective way to reduce tobacco use and its associated harms.

“Several studies have shown that graphic health warnings are more effective than text only warnings,”he said.

Oluwafemi said that graphic health warnings are important “because we have some illiterates who cannot read or right in English language but can view pictures.”

Mrs Hilda Ochefu, a member of Campaign for Tobacco-free kids, said that everybody is at risk of second hand smoke generated from tobacco smokers.

“The tobacco fight is about our country and our children. We want to make sure that our children are protected while also protecting ourselves.

“We call on SON, ministry of health and the Consumer Protection Council to wade into the issue of non-compliance by tobacco companies because it is of multi-sectorial concern,” Ochefu appealed.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that NTCA is a network of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), Community-Based Organisations (CBOs), Faith-Based Organisations (FBOs), and several professionals.

It is concerned with human rights, public health, cancer, and tobacco control with a view to ensuring qualitative health; sustainable human development; and good governance for all Nigerians.

Source: News Agency of Nigeria