25 Sep 2014

Senate moves to ban tobacco production and consumption in Nigeria

The Senate has begun moves aimed at permanently banning the manufacturing, consumption and promotion of tobacco in Nigeria.

But the development generated controversies among senators, yesterday, during debate on a bill to that effect just as the Senate President, David Mark, lamented that powerful individuals who were against the ban and regulation of tobacco in the country influenced Presidency to withhold assent on a similar bill sponsored and passed by the 6th Senate.

Senators, who spoke during debate on the bill which was presented by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, PDP, Delta North for deliberation, were sharply divided.

Although the bill, as presented by Senator Okowa merely sought repeal of the act on tobacco manufacturing, sale, promotion and sponsorship in the country, majority of the senators who contributed to the debate on the issue, insisted that tobacco should be outrightly banned in the country.

But the Senate President explained that the bill, as he understood, merely seeks to regulate advertisement about smoking in the country, given the danger associated with tobacco.

He said: “The essence of the Bill is to highlight the dangers inherent in smoking and it also seeks to regulate advertisement about smoking. We have gone one step further to ban it also but when it goes to public hearing, then we will get public opinion on that.

Contributing to the debate on the bill, the Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, PDP, Cross River Central, said: “I support and concur with all the arguments as canvassed in the lead debate by Senator Ifeanyi Okowa but I want to ask that in this bill, there is the health component just as it has the economic component.
“In spite of the dangers of tobacco, we have to deal with the use of tobacco in such a regulated manner that it doesn’t create any economic distortion because if we don’t address the economic issues properly, then we will end up with more of smuggled tobacco that is unregulated and our own tobacco industry here will become un-protective. So when it gets to public hearing, I want to urge the relevant committees to balance the health issues with the economic issues.”

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