Cigarettes have been the best-selling type of tobacco product for generations. As a result of their widespread use and the resulting catastrophic public health consequences, including causing more than 443,000 deaths annually, cigarettes have been the main focus of public health regulation and community education efforts designed to prevent tobacco initiation and encourage cessation. Cigarette regulation and education began in earnest after the 1964 Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health, and became more prevalent after several Attorney-Generals brought suit against cigarette and smokeless tobacco manufacturers in the late 1990s in the United States.
The resulting Master Settlement Agreement (MSA), Smokeless Master Settlement Agreement (SMSA) and four individual state settlements drove up cigarette prices, imposed restrictions on marketing to youth and sent a strong public message about the hazards of smoking. It also raised awareness about the cigarette manufacturers’ manipulation of scientific data and tobacco products.
Decades of deception by the tobacco industry prompted this action by the Attorney- Generals, who alleged that the industry manipulated data and successfully pressured scientists to hide the true risks associated with smoking, including controlling what information was made available to the public manipulating the tobacco plant itself in order to increase the level of nicotine and make tobacco more addictive; and manipulating the design and manufacture of cigarettes to assure the most effective delivery of this addictive component.
These allegations were proven by the federal government in U.S. v. Philip Morris when a federal court found that the major cigarette manufacturers violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).
As a result of five decades of increasingly stringent regulation and effective education, mostly at the state and local level, cigarette sales have declined steadily in the US specifically. However, proving their business savvy, cigarette manufacturers have been adding to their product lines with novel tobacco products designed to escape the more effective regulations applicable to cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. Other businesses have also entered the market with their new, non-cigarette tobacco products. As sales of these products increase and the public continues to be exposed to the harm that they cause, the need for regulation and public health education becomes critical.
Some non-cigarette tobacco products, such as cigars and “little cigars,” have an established presence in the marketplace and have enjoyed steady or increasing sales as cigarette sales decline. Emerging tobacco products, such as dissolvable tobacco products, electronic cigarettes, and hookah, enter the market unencumbered by restrictions designed to limit the enticement of youth, reduce youth access or deter adult consumption. Yet all of these products present the same threat of addiction and negative health consequences of cigarettes that requires action be taken by regulators in Nigeria.
The Health Minister has the power and ability to adopt comprehensive regulations that would have a positive impact on public health throughout Nigeria and must take action now because delay or inaction provides the tobacco industry with wide reign in designing, marketing and selling tobacco products that entice and addict young Nigerians through many of the tactics long-forbidden with respect to cigarettes.
We therefore urge you to sign our petition here and take a stand to drastically reduce the use of tobacco products across the country.
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