Thursday, 25 January 2018

Civil Societies Call for Ban of Shisha Smoking, Tobacco Control Enforcement

Rebecca Ejifoma

A group of civil societies in Lagos, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN),  have called on government at all levels and relevant agencies to the urgent need to ban shisha smoking in Nigeria as well as enforce tobacco control law.

The Organisations made this clarion call at a media parley in Lagos yesterday when it stated its dissatisfaction over the rate of Nigerians, especially artistes in the music, movie industries and shisha bars are patronising this health danger across the country.


The Deputy Executive Director, ERA/FoEN, Mr. Akinbode Oluwafemi, expressed that despite their wish to have a smoke-free New Year, analysis of some of the activities of the tobacco corporations last year showed that the industry was unrepentant and would continue operating with the same impunity this year unless concrete actions were taken by all levels of government.

“Aside cigarettes, a growing fad among the youth is water-pipe tobacco otherwise known as shisha. While the promoters of shisha are very silent on the constituents, medical experts have warned that the content of shisha, like cigarettes, includes nicotine, tar, carbon monoxide, arsenic, lead and other poisonous and cancer-causing chemicals and some contain heroin and cocaine,” he added.

While citing experts, he said that a pot of Shisha contained about two hundred sticks of cigarettes. “Just like cigarettes, the side effects of smoking shisha may not be noticed immediately. With time, the toxic vapours slowly damage vital organs of the body of the smoker, causing diseases like cancer and death.”

According to him, states like Kano, Lagos Abuja, Port Harcourt and other cities across the country now have thriving shisha bars patronise by the elite, celebrities and supposed role models who not only smoke the product, but also circulate pictures and videos of their shisha parties on social media, feeling cool and hype.

Speaking further, he commended media for their sustained harp and scrutiny of the issues last year. “It exposed the tobacco industry’s tactics of addicting our kids to smoking, and getting the Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole’s to announce commencement of the enforcement  nine key provisions of the Act which do not require regulations.”

The nine Nations Tobacco Control Acts are: 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 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 among others.

Lamenting the rate at which Shisha has crawled into Africa including Nigeria, Seun Esan of Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance, added that while Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda have ban it in their countries, Nigeria is yet to take any concrete action to save her youths.

Therefore, the Organisations' call on government at all levels, relevant agencies to begin enforcement of the nine  key provisions of the NTC Act. “States and local governments must no longer wait for the federal government before acting. The lacuna that exists in regard to enforcement of the NTC Act is being exploited by the tobacco industry to evolve newer tactics of marketing their products and addict our kids. 

Other calls include: Government at all levels begin enforcement of the nine  key provisions of the NTC Act that do not require regulations such as smoke-free public places, restriction on underage access and ban of sale in single sticks, among others. Since health is on the concurrent legislative list, the states and local governments must not wait for the government at the center to enforce the NTC Act. States and local governments must no longer wait for the federal government before acting. The lacuna that exists in regard to enforcement of the NTC Act is being exploited by the tobacco industry to evolve newer tactics of marketing their products and addict our kids.

•         Relevant agencies of government such as the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) and security services begin a clampdown on infractions.

•         Need for mass public education to be spearheaded by the Federal Ministry of Health in concert with the National Orientation Agency (NOA) should commence without delay.

•         The Federal Ministry of Health should urgently send the draft Regulations to the National Assembly for approval as soon as they receive.

•         Nigeria should imitate Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda that have banned shisha use and shisha bars.

Delay is dangerous. The enforcement of the NTC Act is not solely the responsibility of the federal government. It is everyone’s duty!