Director-General of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), Dr. Garba Abari, has said that the agency is willing and available to work with the tobacco control community to ensure that tobacco products are effectively controlled in the country.
He made the commitment when a delegation of tobacco control advocates from the Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance (NTCA) visited the agency’s headquarters in Abuja.
Chairman of NTCA Board and leader of the delegation, Akinbode Oluwafemi, commended Abari for dedicating time for the meeting in spite of his busy schedule.
He lamented that about 16,000 people die yearly in Nigeria from the use of tobacco products, but added that the figure remained conservative and that the actual number from an updated survey would most likely be higher.
This, he said, is as a result of the proliferation of Shisha in the Nigerian market, which tobacco companies market as a safer alternative to conventional cigarettes; an assertion that science has debunked as untrue. Oluwafemi stressed that Shisha has higher concentration of chemicals, most of which are known to cause cancer and are twice as deadly as conventional tobacco products.
He also condemned the placement of tobacco products in movies and other entertainment products as a form of advertisement by tobacco companies thus violating the provisions of the National Tobacco Control Act 2015, which bans tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship (TAPS).
“This presents a challenge because young people are negatively influenced to take up smoking, which often becomes a gateway to the use of hard drugs. The smoking and public health menace has direct link to the insecurity challenges facing the country,” he said.
He also restated that as a party to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC), Nigeria had gone a step further towards implementing the recommendations of the convention through the enactment of the National Tobacco Control Act in 2015 and approval of its Implementing Regulations in 2019.
“The NOA with its strategic mandate and national reach has a clear duty of public education and awareness in the fight to ensure that Nigeria is tobacco-free,” he added.
The delegation, therefore, requested to partner with NOA to take the tobacco-free message to local communities and all Nigerians.
Responding, Abari said the issue of tobacco control was important because of its devastating impact on society, adding that tobacco control required critical attention, because Nigeria’s youth population was high and that most youths are impressionable and easily influenced by who and what they see in movies.
He agreed that smoking and consequent drug use is a vice that permeates all levels of society, causing rifts, sickness and hardship and, therefore, pledged to open the doors of the agency for collaboration on effective tobacco control.
He made the pledge in company of his management team including the Director, Planning, Research and Strategy, Samuel Soughul, Director, Reform Coordination and Service Improvement, Samuel Attah, Director of Orientation and Behaviour Modification, Theresa Nnalue, Director, Public Enlightenment and Mass Mobilisation, Mrs. Theresa Maduekwe and Director, Documentation, Translation and Publication, Mrs. Victoria Kansa.
The NTCA delegation had Director of Programmes, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), Philip Jakpor; Project Officer of NTCA, Chibuike Nwokorie; Communication Officer of NTCA, Paul Ashibel and Digital Media Manager of CAPPA, Abayomi Sarumi.