The Federal Executive Council (FEC) yesterday approved a bill which seeks to ban tobacco advertisements in the country and imposes a six-month jail term and/or a N50,000 fine for people who smoke cigarettes outside designated smoking areas.
The Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, told State House correspondents after the FEC meeting in Abuja that the bill was approved by government in order to provide a safer and tobacco-free environment for the citizenry.
He said: “The bill is to protect Nigerians against the harmful effects of tobacco. We know that tobacco is dangerous, tobacco is the cause of many deaths, causes so many illnesses. There are four main non communicable diseases including cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory disorder and diabetics.
“Tobacco alone causes three out of these four illnesses- Tobacco causes cardiovascular diseases, it is been known to cause heart attacks, hypertension and stroke, tobacco indeed causes cancer, cancer of various organs especially cancer of the lungs, tobacco is the cause for chronic respiratory disease
“We have done surveys in Nigeria in 2008, Nigeria conducted the global youth tobacco survey and the youth that were surveyed were between the ages of 13 to 15 and in that survey, it clearly showed that 15 per cent of our children between the ages of 13 and 15 years were already smokers and 55 per cent of our children between the ages of 13 and 15 were exposed as passive smokers.”
He said the bill, which would be forwarded to the National Assembly, also imposes a fine of between one to N5 million on companies who advertise tobacco products in the country.
“The major ingredients of the bill is that there are stiff penalties for individuals , for instance, individuals who fall foul of what will eventually become the National Tobacco Control Act 2014, may pay fine of between N50,000, that is for someone who goes to a place clearly designated non smoking area, the judge could either give u an option of fine or combine it with imprisonment of up to six months, whereas, for companies, it varies from N1 million to as much as N5 million, imprisonment of those companies could vary from one to two years where they fall afoul of the law.”