Friday, June 28, 2013

The Journey Towards a Smoke-Free Nigeria

In June 2004, 168 member states of the World Health Organization (WHO) appended their signatures to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) treaty. The FCTC stands out uniquely amidst volumes of treaties facilitated by the United Nations being the first multilateral agreement regarding a chronic, non-communicable disease and the most quickly ratified treaties in the history of the United Nations.

Since its ratification, countries such as Seychelles, Ukraine, Japan, Australia and regions such as European Union and Caribbean states have successfully domesticated the FCTC within their territories and are today beneficiaries of improved public health.

Unfortunately, Nigeria is yet to join the league of nations who through local laws have demonstrated determination to give priority to the right to protect public health despite becoming a party to the framework on October 20, 2005. In the seven years and six months that have rolled by since then, several organisations, groups and persons have laboured assiduously towards the realization of a legally binding Tobacco Control Bill in Nigeria.

A draft bill sponsored by Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora, the Senate Minority Leader was presented before the sixth session of the Nigerian Senate in 2009 and a public hearing was conducted by the Senate Committee on Health under the chairmanship of Senator Iyabo Obasanjo. Present at this event were representatives of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, British American Tobacco, Association of Tobacco Farmers and about 45 local and international NGOs.

Despite a two week deadline issued by the Senate president, Senator David Mark to the Committee on Health to submit its report on the public hearing, further legislative process on the bill was stalled due to absence of the Committee's Chairperson.

Two years after this, the Senate in a unanimous vote passed the National Tobacco Control bill specifically on March 14, 2011 and on May 31, 2011 the House of Representatives followed suit by giving concurrent passage.

Afterwards, the approved bill was forwarded to the President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan for his assent but sadly, days, weeks, months and a year went by without any positive feedback from his office. Anyone familiar with Nigeria's political process will know that at the close of a legislative session, all bills that were passed but not assented to by the President are more than often annulled by the new legislative session. In view of this, concerned stakeholders engaged the seventh session of the National Assembly sworn-in in 2012 so as to clarify the status of bills passed during the sixth session.

To allay these fears, the Deputy Speaker, Emeka Ihedioha on August 22, 2012 gave assurances that the National Assembly will do all within its powers to clear any misunderstanding with the executive and that the bills sent to the Presidency from the sixth National Assembly will not be annulled. In spite of this, the National Tobacco Control bill remains stuck at the Presidency.

At present, new silver linings have emerged as a member of the House of Representative, Honourable Dayo Alebiosu and a member of the upper house, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa have presented new Tobacco Control bills before both the upper and lower chambers of the National Assembly. Also, the Federal Ministry of Health is leading efforts to submit an Executive sponsored bill to the legislature.

It has been a rough, narrow and hardy route towards domesticating the WHO FCTC in Nigeria and reaping its accrued benefits in improved public health. We hope the new bill sponsors in the Senate, House of Representatives and Executive will collaborate and stand as an imminently victorious formidable force that will facilitate successful passing and signing of the National Tobacco Control bill into law.

Join the campaign for Tobacco Control today -
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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

No Tobacco for Generation Z!

Three Sundays ago, my husband drove to the nearby filling station with the aim of getting a vulcanizer to fix the car's tyres. He succeeded in getting one who I'm sure for want of the gbemu* that comes from being one of the scarcely available service providers did not stay back at home to relish 'the Lord's Sabbath'.

Well, the vulcanizer fixed his tools in the usual places, placing the jack in the rightful position and with the help of the four wheel spanner and his rotational hand movement; the car was lifted off the floor giving way for the tyre to be freely unscrewed from its metallic dominator. As the vulcanizer held the tyre in his hand and my husband awaited the ritual application of water and spittle, a colleague walked up to the vulcanizer and engaged him in a conversation. As if the rude disruption of work process was not enough, the guy on taking a quick glance behind him nervously dipped his hand into his pocket, took out a stick of cigarette from a near empty pack, expertly lit it and calmly released about 60 carcinogenic chemicals directly into the face of the vulcanizer and further directly into the hitherto uncongested air.

Curiously, my husband struck a dialogue with him and the below interaction ensued -

My Husband: O boy, why you dey smoke?

Smoking Vulcanizer: E don tey wey I don dey do am o

My Husband: How long you don dey smoke?

Smoking Vulcanizer: Hmmm, na since Primary 4

My Husband: Ha! Na who give you the money

Smoking Vulcanizer: Na me use my money take buy am for myself

My Husband: How many sticks you dey smoke for one day?

Smoking Vulcanizer: Me, na one pack per day (A quick reference to last week's post will let you know that this invariably means twenty (20) sticks of cigarettes a day)

My Husband: Why you dey smoke?

Smoking Vulcanizer: prolonged silence

My Husband: Who you see around you wey dey smoke & make you wan try am too?

Smoking Vulcanizer: prolonged silence and then no further answers

The language barrier between the smoking vulcanizer and my husband limited their ability to converse smoothly but he graciously pointed out his partner-in-smoking, a nearby car wash operator who goes through 2-3packets of cigarette a day (Simplyinterpret as 40-60 sticks of cigarettes a day).

This short conversation set off several thought threads in my husband's mind and he returned home a disturbed father. He wondered aloud how old the smoking mechanic could have been when he got drowned in the lethal habit of smoking. Likely between 9 and 10 years old. He also expressed astonishment at why at that age, the seller did not refuse selling cigarettes to a minor.

His astonishment did not last long as he remembered how in his childhood days some fathers, uncles and elder brothers would send children to nearby shops to buy cigarettes and the kids would have to cleverly hide the product in order to prevent their mothers and sisters from sighting it.

In a country where anyone below 18 years old is considered underage by law and not allowed to cast votes, should they not also be protected from the clear, scientifically proven dangers associated with smoking tobacco products? Should we not use the laws of the land to restrict tobacco availability so these young ones will be able to productively contribute to the progress of their fatherland and not be snatched away by myriads of health complications that develop as a result of smoking?

Lets make the choice today to bequeath a smoke-free Nigeria to our Generation Z.

You can join the campaign for Tobacco Control today -
On Twitter: Follow @TobaccoCtrl
On Facebook: Visit and like Tobaccoctrl
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On 2go: add Tobaccoctrl

Gbemu* - Financial reward

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Cheap Poison

Cigarrette Pack in Nigeria

This morning I summoned courage and walked to the nearby kiosk to confirm different remarks I had heard about the availability and affordability of cigarettes.

Me: Sonu customer

Seller: Sonu madam

Me: I wan buy cigarette

Seller (Chuckling strangely): Which one?

Me: Which ones you get?

Seller: Aspen

Me: How much

Seller (About to remove a stick for me): Ten naira

Me: No I don’t really want to buy I just wan know the price

Seller: Okay I get Benson, N10, pack na N200. I also get London N10, pack na N200. All of them na same price.

Me: You get empty pack wey you fit dash me?

Seller (Stretches hand to give me an empty cigarette pack): I get. Take

Me: Nagode

I have been getting different reactions as a result of the posts on tobacco and one particular reader reached out to inform me that many people are lured into the habit of smoking as a result of the extremely low cost of cigarettes and they remain stuck to the deadly lifestyle partly due to same reason. It was shocking to discover a stick of cigarette (N10) was cheaper than the cheapest loaf of bread (N50) and smallest sachet of milk (N15). I’m not sure if there’s any other vice that beats this rate, not even excessive alcohol consumption or prostitution.

I wonder why cigarettes are so cheap when it contains among other substances these three deadly chemicals namely:

Carbon Monoxide – the same gas we get from car exhaust fumes

Tar – the same substance used in road construction (remember tarred road!)

Nicotine – a substance that when mixed with water immediately functions as an insecticide.

So, imagine car exhaust fumes, road tar and insecticide all together in one product being sold for N10 a stick (a stick that guarantees you will want more sticks).

In a country where many struggle to eat well and access to life’s basic amenities is still a challenge, products with proven harmful effects like cigarettes should not be so easily available and affordable.

You can join the campaign for Tobacco Control today -
On Twitter: Follow
On Facebook: Visit and like Tobaccoctrl
On Google Plus: add Tobaccoctrl to your circle

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Nigeria Lost a Gem in Veteran Journalist Yinka Craig

2% of men’s deaths annually in Nigeria is due to tobacco. Some people have opined that the death of the ace journalist and compere extraordinaire is as a result of smoking and I wonder if truly he was one of the men who lost their lives in 2008 to smoking when he passed away at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, U.S.A.

The much loved and highly esteemed father of three was diagnosed with cancer and received treatments in Nigeria and the U.K. before proceeding to the U.S.A for a Stem Cell transplant. According to the official statement released by his family and signed by his son, Dr. Olamide Craig, he gave in to the hands of death as a result of complications from the procedure.

When his death was announced on one of the popular social media site in Nigeria, on September 23, 2008, the forum members expressed shock and grief over the issue but some did not hold back their opinion on what they think could have led to the death of this amiable Nigerian.

Jassie wrote: “Hmm! what a tragic loss! See how cigarettes dey  kill human resources! I pity smokers o!  I remember when someone called him on NTA A.M Express sometime ago and complained about his past smoking attitude!

Cescky posted this in response to the sad announcement: “OMG  may his soul RIP  na wah ooo  smokers in the house one tragedy shld be enuuf for the ear”

Also, at a training programme for health reporters on cancer reporting which held in 2009, Mr. Akinbode Oluwafemi of Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth noted that renowned journalists in the country like Steve Kadiri, Yinka Craig, Momoh Kubanji, Tina Onwudinwe and Beko Ransome Kuti lost their lives due to the health hazards associated with the consumption of cigarettes. 

I can’t say if Nigeria’s dearly beloved Yinka Craig died as a result of a smoking habit but we owe it to our children and children’s children to rigorously support every effort that will ensure stringent tobacco control in Nigeria.

*You can start by following Tobacco Control NG @TobaccoCtrl on Twitter.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Do You Know Anyone Who Smokes?


If you do, you should let them know that:

With all these outlined associated risks and hazards, shouldn’t you add your voice to the campaign for tobacco control in Nigeria and invite others to do the same? You can start by taking this first step:
  • Follow Tobacco Control Campaign NG on twitter @TobaccoCtrl (

You will be saving the lives of your loved ones and many more.

Tobacco Kills!