WHO, others lament tobacco industry interference in Nigeria

WHO, others lament tobacco industry interference in Nigeria

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and other stakeholders have bemoaned what they called the high incidences of tobacco industry interference in Nigeria and on the continent, saying more should be done to protect public health policies from commercial and vested interests.
Referencing data from the latest Africa Tobacco Industry Interference Index, they noted that Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania show the most deterioration in scores this year, from their 2021 scores.
They spoke at a virtual news conference organised by the Network for Accountability of Tobacco Transnationals (NATT) ahead of the 10th Conference of the Parties to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC – the global tobacco treaty) in Panama, scheduled for this month in Panama.
Panellists included World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) Legal Officer, Sabina Lacazzi; Deputy Campaigns Director, Corporate Accountability (USA), Keltie Vance; Executive Director, Consumer Information Network (Kenya), Samuel O’Chieng and Executive Director, Vision for Alternative Development (Ghana), Labram Musah.

Others were Tobacco Industry Denormalization Program Officer, Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (Philippines), Irene Reyes; CEO of PROESA – Research Center on Health Economics and Social Protection (Colombia), Norman Maldonado; and Founding Managing Editor, CNS (India), Shobha Shukla.

They provided background on the global tobacco treaty, its pivotal role in saving lives, and the tobacco industry’s tactics to try to undermine it.

In his presentation, O’Chieng highlighted tobacco firms’ romance with the government and people of Nigeria and Ghana, especially through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

“In May 2021, the Lagos State Commissioner for Agriculture praised BATNF, describing the relationship between the state and the foundation as ‘always a fruitful one’,” O’Chieng said.

He referenced this, among others, as an example of why Nigeria scored so poorly on the 2023 Africa Tobacco Industry Interference Index launched on October 18, 2023.

The report puts Nigeria at number 12 out of the 18 worst and best-performing African countries towards tobacco control. With 60 points, Nigeria was just ahead of the bottom six – South Africa, Mozambique, Madagascar, Zambia, Tanzania and Cameroun.

The Index was produced by the African Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA) in collaboration with the Africa Centre for Tobacco Industry Monitoring and Policy Research (ATIM) and the Global Centre for Good Governance in Tobacco Control (GGTC).

The WHO FCTC emphasised the warning that tobacco consumption remains a threat to life and human well-being.

WHO FCTC Secretary Lacazzi said over eight million lives are lost yearly to tobacco, comprising seven million to the use of tobacco products and 1.3 million to exposure to tobacco smoke.

She emphasised the importance of the global tobacco treaty, noting that there were efforts by vested interests to stop the treaty.

“The interference by the tobacco group and individuals that further the tobacco interest has been reported by the parties as the single most important barrier in implementing the treaties, so it is really something we have to keep in mind so we can counter the effort by the tobacco industry.”

Source: The Nation