Smoking in Nollywood and the Next Generation of Nigerian Youths

What seemed like an insignificant issue in 2007, when tobacco control activists screened 10 randomly-selected movies and found out that the tobacco industry has been using Nollywood to promote tobacco, smoking has grown into a mega monster.

A new research carried out by Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa, CAPPA, in 2020 shows how Igbo, Yoruba, and Hausa movies sold in the open market now glamourise tobacco use. In the study, 36 recent films were chosen from the three ethnic groups and all portrayed smoking as socially acceptable, desirable, and even classy.

Shocking as the findings are, they reinforce the World Health Organisation, WHO, position that movies and entertainment materials are the most veritable tools for transfer of ideas and promotion of alternative lifestyles.

WHO is of the view that the youth, who are generally impressionable, are enticed by what they see and are initiated into tobacco products’ use through advertising and subliminal promotion of smoking scenes in movies, music videos and product placement.  This development, however, threatens to worsen an already looming tobacco epidemic with as much as 8 million annual deaths especially in Low- and Medium-Income Countries, LMIC, because of tobacco.

One undisputable fact stands out: the tobacco industry has a history of creating misleading impression of tobacco use and they continue to do so — unabated. Through movies and music videos the industry entices and addicts young persons.

To confront this menace, the WHO requires parties to its Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, FCTC, the first public health treaty, which Nigeria has also signed and ratified, to implement a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship.

The guidelines for implementation of Article 13 of the WHO-FCTC includes a statement that the depiction of tobacco use in films is a form of promotion that influences tobacco use, particularly by young people, and include specific measures, which are addressed more fully in the WHO report.

Taking a cue from this, a host of countries have put in place measures to ensure their youth are protected from the industry’s manipulation of music and movies to market their lethal products. The United States, US, led the way when the Master Settlement Agreement was reached in 1998.