A Non-Governmental Organisation, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) has called on the Federal Government to intensify the enforcement of Graphic Health Warning policy on tobacco packs sold throughout Nigeria.
CAPPA made the call at a briefing in Abuja which also had representatives of the Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance (NTCA) and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK) in attendance.
Though statutorily, the Graphic Health Warning policy was supposed to kick-off on June 23, 2021, the Federal Government failed to commence enforcement till December 8, 2021, when the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) carried out the first enforcement exercise in Abuja. The second enforcement exercise was carried out in Lagos on March 2, 2022.
Speaking at the media briefing in Abuja, Executive Director of CAPPA, Akinbode Oluwafemi said, ‘To complement the federal government’s monitoring exercise, our team conducted monitoring exercises in 13 states of the federation between September 2021 and March 2022, targeting shopping malls and open markets and we were able to confirm reports that the tobacco industry had saturated the markets with the products without the new warnings to weaken enforcement by the government. The level of awareness about the policy is still low.’
Making demands to the Federal Government on adequate enforcement, Oluwafemi, on behalf of the alliance demanded that, ‘Enforcement should be carried out in other states, as the exercise is still limited and should be simultaneous in other states of the federation. Tobacco manufacturers who do not comply with the new directive on Graphic Health Warnings should be sanctioned as stated in Section 24 (2) of the National Tobacco Control Act, 2015. Need for sustained awareness creation and sensitization of retailers and wholesalers on the new policy and its effect on public health. Need for continued education and inter-agency collaboration on enforcement of the policy,” he concluded.
Project officer of the NTCA, Chibuike Nwokorie said that tobacco packs without the required pictures and warnings are still sold in the open market in most of the states the team visited. He particularly noted the absence of the warnings on snuff and other tobacco products that the policy also covers.
Nwokorie praised the FCCPC for its activities thus far, even as he stressed the need for other agencies such as the police and the Nigeria Customs to lay their roles since they were also listed as enforcers of the policy.
In her intervention, Sub-regional coordinator, West Africa, Campaign for Tobacco-Free kids (CTFK), Mrs Hilda Uchefo commended the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) and advised them to create more awareness and carry out enforcement, “We are very glad that there have been some forms of enforcement of graphics warnings and we are aware that FCCPC has done some awareness in 2021 and 2022, we will like to urge them to go to other states and do some enforcement.
She continued, “Nigeria is big and it’s important for agencies to go out, raise awareness and carry out enforcements while Civil Society Organizations will continue to monitor on our own part and share our outcomes with relevant agencies.