Tobacco: Health Ministry, MAN tackle FG on N35m fine
by Saga Gist in Health// Apr 08, 2019
....as Reps, Health Minister, other throw weight behind bill
The Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment has kicked against a penalty clause in the draft National Tobacco Control Regulations.
The bill was sponsored by the Federal government but the Industry, Trade and Investment Ministry was against a penalty of N35m for the issuance of license for tobacco or tobacco products businesses (manufacturers, importers and distributors) pursuant to Section 29 (1) and (2) of the NTC Act.
The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) also supported the Ministry in the rejection of the clause on the ground that the fine would be counter productive as it could lead to market contraction and loss of margin squeeze.
This would naturally impact negatively on the volume of input purchased from farmers and eventually lead to disengagement of workers.
The Simon Arabo-led Committee on Delegated Legislation organized an interactive session with stakeholders on Thursday the bill which is currently with the National Assembly.
However, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, Minister of State for Health, Osagie Ehanire and Environmental Rights Action /Friends of the Earth (ERA/FoEN) threw their weight behind the bill.
ERA/FoEN’s Deputy Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi said it has become extremely important for Nigeria to pass the bill into law in order to curb the usage of cigarettes and several new tobacco products in the country.
He maintained that the passage of the draft regulation represents a unique opportunity for Nigeria to give the needed impetus for the smooth enforcement of the National Tobacco Control Act 2015 (NTCA).
While opposing the N35m penalty, the representative Ministry of Trade, Francis Alaneme said, “This stringent measure will eventually lead to job loses and possible relocation of affected companies to neighbouring African countries as was the case with Dunlop and Michelin.
“The massive job loses and social backlashes occasioned by the pull out of these manufacturing companies from Nigeria to Ghana and other neighbouring countries was as a result of unfriendly policies and harsh business environment.”
MAN expressed same concern with emphasis on the fate of field workers if the bill is passed into law with the clause
The Health Minister however, justified the licensing of tobacco dealers, noting that it is global best practice to take that path because of the wider positive effects on the society
He said: “Licensing is an important strategy to control the supply chain of tobacco and tobacco products with the aim of curtailing illicit trade in tobacco products in line with the WHO FCTC (Article 15) and Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products which we are Parties to.
“It is recommended by WHO FCTC that license fee be ploughed back for tobacco control activities. To further secure the supply chain, Parties are obligated to deploy a digital system to track and trace tobacco products.
“It is pertinent to state that Government has already commenced the processes for implementing the track and trace system. Ghana, with a population of about 28 million, charges USD15,000 (5.4 million naira) licensing fee per variant of imported tobacco and tobacco product, which tallies well with Nigeria’s Proposal.
“Nigeria with a population of about 198 million prescribes (i) 35 million naira per variant of tobacco product to be imported or manufactured; or (ii) 30 million naira for distributor’s license.
“Regulation 28 pursuant to Section 37 of the Act states that property forfeited to the State shall be channelled into Tobacco Control Fund (TCF) established under Section 8 of the Act.”
On his part, Speaker Dogara, represented by Deputy Chief Whip, Pally Iriase assured of the passage of the bill before the expiration of the current Assembly in June.
Saying that there is a need to align with global campaign on control measures on the consumption and advertisement of tobacco because of the harmful effect of tobacco use, Dogara added, “Nigeria as a notable tobacco market and influential country in Africa, ratified the World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2005.
“The aim of the Convention is to ensure that tobacco and tobacco product control policies of State/Parties are implemented over and above the commercial and other interest of the tobacco industry.
“A lot of Nigerians are exposed on a daily basis to environmental tobacco smoke, also known as second-hand smoke. This poses serious health risks, especially among infants. Records show that exposure to second-hand smoke is one of the leading causes of preventable deaths.
“According to WHO, tobacco use kills more than seven million people annually and cost over $1.4 trillion in healthcare expenditure and lost productivity.
“In our country, over 17,000 people are said to be killed by tobacco-caused diseases, while more than 370,000 children and over 4 million adults continue to use tobacco each day.
“Also, a report published by the Environmental Rights Action (ERA) groups estimates that the Nigerian government spends as much as $591 million yearly on treatment of diseases resulting from tobacco consumption in the country.”
Some of the Tobacco Manufacturing companies in attendance are: British American Tobacco, Leaf Tobacco and Com. Nig. Ltd; Japan Tobacco International and International Tobacco Company Limited.