In a media briefing held on November 23, 2023 in Abuja, the Chairman of the Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance, Mr. Akinbode Oluwafemi decried the increase in tobacco industry interference across many sectors in Nigeria. The Chairman also made specific calls on the enforcement agencies tasked with the enforcement of Nigeria’s tobacco control laws to swing into action to ensure nationwide compliance with the second set of the graphic health warnings policy. The statement reads:
“Tobacco control in Nigeria is a complex landscape characterized by both progress and challenges. Over the years, Nigeria has made significant strides in recognizing the public health implications of tobacco use and implementing measures to curb its prevalence. However, the effectiveness of these initiatives is hampered by various factors, including the tobacco industry’s influence, and enforcement gaps.”
“Nigeria, like many other countries, is grappling with the burden of tobacco-related diseases. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the economic costs of tobacco-related illnesses amount to billions of dollars. Recognizing this, Nigeria ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2005, and enacted the National Tobacco Control Act in 2015, signaling its commitment to implementing evidence-based strategies to end tobacco consumption. One of these strategies is the graphic health warnings policy contained in the National Tobacco Control Act of 2015 and the National Tobacco Control Regulations approved in 2019.
According to a recent study by the Institute of Clinical Effectiveness and Health Policy in collaboration with an indigenous research group, the Centre for the Study of the Economies of Africa; a full implementation of the graphic health warnings policy will end 11,744 deaths caused by tobacco use; prevent 32,608 illnesses attributed to tobacco use and save the country ₦6,745,786 million in healthcare costs annually. These projections reiterate the fact that graphic health warnings on tobacco packs are effective in reducing tobacco use and uptake, and that they indeed save lives.
Recall that on July 24th, 2023, we gathered in this room to intimate you on the status of implementation of the graphic health warnings policy. The first set of the two-year rotational warnings; a photo showing the diseased lungs of a smoker, and the healthy lungs of a non-smoker, expired on June 23rd, 2023.
The current set of graphic health warnings; an image showing mouth cancer caused by tobacco use was approved by the Federal Ministry of Health and came into effect in June 2023.
Curiously, the National Tobacco Control Act gives a moratorium of 150 days before enforcement, during which tobacco companies are expected to phase out products bearing the outdated warnings. That moratorium period ended on the 20th of November 2023, marking the start of enforcement of the new set of warnings.
To monitor compliance with this critical policy, as recently as this week, we activated Alliance members in the Federal Capital Territory, also, in Ebonyi, Akwa Ibom, Nasarawa, Kano, Adamawa, and Oyo States to carry out market surveys to determine the level of compliance within their states.
The survey results show that while some cigarette packs bear the new sets of warnings, some still carry the outdated pictorial warning, and worse still, a sizeable number of packs bear the very old ‘text-only’ warnings. The survey also revealed that compliance on other tobacco products such as shisha, cigars, snuff, and cigarillos is almost nonexistent.
Another significant obstacle to tobacco control in Nigeria is the tobacco industry’s interference in policy-making processes. The industry employs various tactics, such as lobbying and strategic marketing, to influence decision-makers and dilute the impact of tobacco control measures. This interference not only undermines the effectiveness of existing policies but also hampers efforts to introduce more stringent regulations. To strengthen tobacco control in Nigeria, there is a crucial need to address these influences through transparent and accountable governance.
- Call on Standards Organizations of Nigeria, Federal Ministry of Health, the Nigeria Police Force, Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, Nigeria Customs Service, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corp, and all agencies tasked with enforcement of tobacco control laws to save Nigerians by beginning the enforcement of the graphic health warnings policy without delay on all tobacco products.
- State that we are aware of the meetings between the tobacco industry and government agencies, and we wish to strongly remind those agencies that the offices they hold is based on public trust and must be used in the health interest of all Nigerians.”
Mr. Chibuike Nwokorie, Program Officer, Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance, alongside Mrs. Hilda Ochefu Associate Director, Capacity Building, Africa, and Mr. Michael Olaniyan In-Country Coordinator, both of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids also added their voices to the call. They expressed dissatisfaction at the low level of compliance with the policy which has the potential to save lives, and asked government to demonstrate its commitment to public health by enforcing the policy on all tobacco products in the country.
More photos from the media briefing.