A non-governmental organisation, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa, has called on the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission and all relevant regulatory bodies to enforce the use of graphic health warnings on tobacco products.
The group, which focuses on accountability in the health sector, stated this at a press briefing held on Wednesday in Abuja.
The Executive Director of CAPPA, Akinbode Oluwafemi, said that by virtue of the ‘Graphic Health Warning’ directive of the Federal Government, graphic warnings must be boldly inscribed on packs of tobacco products and must cover at least 50 per cent of the front and back of the package.
He said, “A text-only health warning must also be displayed on one of the lateral sides of the package. For cigarette cartons, text-only warnings are required to cover 50 per cent of the front and back surfaces.”
He explained that the new requirement replaces the former warning, which only required manufacturers to inscribe the message, “The Federal Ministry of Health warns that smokers are liable to die young”.
Oluwafemi noted that graphic health warnings were also recommended by the World Health Organisation under its Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which Nigeria signed and ratified in 2004 and 2005 respectively.
He revealed that findings from an investigation carried out in partnership with the Nigerian Tobacco Control Alliance, indicated that level of non-compliance was high, with 95 per cent of dealers noted to have not complied with the regulation, while 40 per cent non-compliance was recorded on cigarettes.
“The CAPPA and NTCA team conducted the monitoring exercises in 13 states of the federation between September 2021 and March 2022.
“The exercise targeted shopping malls and open markets, and through the visits, 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.
“Our interaction with the retailers, kiosk owners and other categories of tobacco product sellers indicated that the level of awareness about the policy is still low,” Oluwafemi said.
He, however, demanded that tobacco manufacturers who flout the policy must be sanctioned accordingly.
“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.”
“They should also be compelled to recall all products without the graphic health warnings still with retailers and replace them with products that are with graphic health warnings on them,” he said.
While acknowledging that the FCCPC had been at the forefront of the enforcement, Oluwafemi encouraged other agencies to join the exercise.
“Agencies like Standards Organisation of Nigeria in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health must also play their statutory roles in the enforcement of this life-saving policy,” the CAPPA boss added.
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