Prof. Isaac Adewole, the Minister of Health, has announced the enforcement of ban on sale of cigarettes to persons under 18 years in Nigeria, and in units among others.
This is coming as the World Health Organisation (WHO) disclosed that over 4.5 million Nigerian adults are addicted to smoking tobacco substances.
Adewole made the announcement during a press briefing in Abuja as part of activities to mark the World No Tobacco Day.
He also called for the immediate implementation and enforcement of key sections of the 2015 National Tobacco Control (NTC) Act.
He said: “Having carefully analysed the NTC Act 2015, I wish to announce with high sense of responsibility that government will begin implementing the following provisions;” Adewole said, as he listed the actions to be implemented as follows;
“Prohibition of sale of tobacco products to and by anyone below 18; ban of sale of cigarettes in single sticks. Cigarettes must be sold in packs of 20 sticks only; and smokeless tobacco shall be sold in a minimum of a pack of 30 grams.
“Ban of sale or offer for sale or distribution of tobacco or tobacco products through mail, internet or other online device; prohibition of interference of tobacco industry in public health and related issues; and Prohibition of smoking in anywhere on the premises of a child care facility; educational facility; and health care facility. Other prohibited places for smoking include playgrounds; amusement parks; plazas; public parks; stadium, public transports, restaurants, bars, or other public gathering spaces.”
The minister also directed the “prosecution of owner or manager of any of the places listed above, who permits, encourages or fails to stop smoking in the above listed places; prohibition of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship of any kind; and compliance with specified standard for content as set out by Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON).
Adewole noted that available evidence from World Health Organisation (WHO) indicates that tobacco use costs national economies immensely, through increased health-care cost and decrease productivity, adding that it worsens health inequalities and increase poverty as the poorest people spend less on essentials such as food, education and health care.
He said the country is currently exploring using tobacco tax and levies as means of financing the Universal Health Coverage agenda of the Muhammadu Buhari administration.
“Increasing taxes and levies on tobacco products can reduce its consumption and generate revenue which can be used to finance universal health coverage and other developmental health programme,” he said.
He announced that the health ministry in partnership with Washington DC based Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids will in June 2017 launch a six-month behavioural change campaign, which he said would “create awareness among our people above the provisions of the act as well as the grave danger and burden of disease associated with tobacco use.”
Speaking earlier, the country representative of the WHO, Wondi Alemu noted that tobacco use is one of the leading predisposing factors for non-communicable diseases in the country. He cited the report from a Global Adult Tobacco Survey conducted in 2013, which revealed that at least 4.5 million adult Nigerians smoke tobacco.