Guardian News Papers.

GROWING public outcry against cigarette smoking and production appears to be attracting the attention of the Federal Government.

Besides renewed move to ban cigarette smoking in pubic places, the government has turned down an application by a foreign firm to establish a N9.6 billion ($80 million) tobacco plant in Nigeria.

Health Minister, Prof. Adenike Grange, made the disclosure in Abuja yesterday. Also, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Dr. Aliyu Modibbo Umar, has said that a law banning smoking of cigarette in public places in the FCT was being put together.

At the inauguration of a group, Coalition Against Tobacco (CAT) in Abuja, Grange expressed worry over the health implication of tobacco consumption and pledged that the government would take every step within the law to protect citizens from the menace.

"I must emphasise that it was in demonstration of government's unwavering determination to protect its people and safeguard their health that it sometime last year ignored a huge investment and job opportunities by refusing a foreign firm from starting another cigarette producing factory in the country worth about $80 million," Grange stated she did not give the identity of the firm.

On his part, Umar said that a bill on the ban on tobacco would be sent to the National Assembly soon.

The FCT minister said: "I am proud to be associated with CAT in the fight against tobacco consumption. I will personally ensure that the consumption of tobacco in the FCT will be banned from June this year. A bill will be forwarded to the National Assembly through the FCT representatives at the National Assembly. By June this year, I can assure you that the FCT will be a smoke-free place."

"As a Minister of Commerce in the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, I was dazed during a visit to the British America Tobacco factory in Ibadan, when told that the 93 million cigarettes produced yearly by the company were consumed in Nigeria alone, without any being exported," he said.

The Co-ordinator of CAT, Onaolapo Toyosi, said that the reason tobacco production should be stopped in the country was the problem of "second hand smoke."

He said: "One other reason why it is expedient to stop the tobacco companies from continuing with their trade is because of the problem of second hand smoke, which is also known as Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS). This is a combination of the smoke from cigarette, which a smoker exhales as well as smoke, which comes out of the burning end of a cigarette, exposed to a non-smoker.

"As far back as 1988, the late Minister of Health, Prof. Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, said Nigerians smoke close to seven million sticks of cigarette daily adding up to 49 million sticks a week or 190 million sticks a month. This was before BAT established its factory in Nigeria. We now know that smoking increases by no less than 24 per cent yearly in Nigeria. This is at best an epidemic waiting to happen.

"Today, our concern is how to stop these tobacco companies from selling cigarettes to young people, and how to ensure that smoking is banned or strictly controlled. The reason why this is urgent is because, as I had said earlier, the tobacco company's targets are the young people," he said.

The Deputy Minority Leader of the Senate, Olorunnimbe Mamora, a medical doctor, who gave an insight into the hazards of tobacco consumption, assured the forum of a speedy consideration of the bill promised by Umar.

Similarly, the Director-General of National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Prof. Dora Akunyili, said that there was no single cigarette-producing factory again in the United Kingdom (UK) wondering why the firms chased out by their home governments should be allowed into Nigeria.

She added that the World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics showed that 5.4 million human beings died of tobacco-related diseases in 2006, averaging one death every 6.5 seconds.


From Lemmy Ughegbe,


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