Censors Board Announces Date To Ban Smoking Scenes In Nollywood Movies

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  • Vows To Confiscate Content That Violates Directive
  • Anti-tobacco Advocates Say Movies New Frontier For Luring Nigerian Kids To Smoking

The National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) on Thursday announced it will stop granting approval to Nollywood movies that contain smoking scenes from 21st of June, 2021 to protect Nigerian children from becoming addicted to the lethal product–tobacco and its variations.

The NFVCB Zonal Co-ordinator, North Central, Mrs. Margarita Oluwole disclosed this on Thursday, while speaking at a one-day stakeholders’ summit on Smoking in Nigerian Movies tagged: #Smokefreenollywood, which held in Lagos.

Oluwole, who lamented over the glamorization of smoking in Nigerian movies, however, clarified that while the directive may not affect movies produced before the set date, the censors board will withhold its approval for the release of any movies with tobacco scenes on the 21st of this month, as well as confiscate such outlawed content.

NFVCB said the directive has been communicated to stakeholders in the Nigerian movie industry, otherwise known as Nollywood, noting that the board’s monitoring and enforcement units have been directed to begin the confiscation of movies that fail to comply with the directive.

“The movie with smoking scenes will remain at it is, but anyone that is coming out from 21st of June, 2021, will not have smoking scenes. They (movie makers) will have to remove smoking scenes in such movies. We (NFVCS) work according to the law of the country because we are the apex regulatory body of the Federal Government.

“Our monitoring and enforcement units will confiscate all the movies that fails to comply with the directive. We have a list of all the registered association, we also hold meetings with them. We also have a platform which includes all the registered association in the movie industry. So, we have every details about them, we hold meetings and pass information through the platform,” she told The New Diplomat.

The directive, this newspaper reports, tallies with the National Tobacco Control Act 2015 and its Regulations gazetted in 2019, prohibiting tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorships in movies and entertainment. Section 12 of the NTC Act also states clear provisions for warnings that should accompany any tobacco depiction necessary for “Historical Accuracy and Artistic Expression” alone.

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Speaking on the effort by NFVCB to adequately inform movie makers on the new directive, Oluwole said: “We have very good rapport with the stakeholders, we don’t do things behind them.”

The New Diplomat‘s checks reveal that the NFVCB, established in 1993, is a Federal Government body that regulates the films and video industry in Nigeria.

The Board is empowered by law to classify all films and videos whether imported or produced locally.

It is also the duty of the Board to register all films and video outlets across the country and provide policy advisory support to the federal and state governments in conformance with global best practices.

Whereas the NFVCB’s directive is set to unsettle operators in the Nigerian movie industry, the move against smoking scenes in movie has been described as a major milestone for tobacco control in the country by Nigeria’s anti-smoking advocates.

Executive Director, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), Comrade Akinbode Oluwafemi, while speaking at the #smokefreenollywood summit said while “arts celebrates life and gives expression to our being and humanity, tobacco is death,.. tobacco is a pollutant of great art of pure mind and soul.”

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According to Oluwafemi, with tobacco advertising ban in place in almost every country, the tobacco industry is embracing ‘covert below the line’ platforms to keep their products in the hearts and minds of potential customers.

“They have identified the use of movies and entertainment as the new advertisement and promotion frontier.”

The CAPPA Director said Nigeria will not be alone in banning smoking scenes in movies as several countries and platforms have done so years back. He listed Hollywood, Bollywood, Netflix, Disney, Warner Bros among other movie hubs that have long stopped the promotion of smoking in films around the world.

In her lead presentation on Tobacco as a Public Health Burden, Dr. Oluwakemi Odukoya, Associate Professor of Public Health, College of Medicine, University of Lagos said tobacco contains over 7,000 chemicals and 70 carcinogens that are damaging to public health.

Odukoya added that the tobacco industry is a “vector” with “high burden of preventable diseases,” and poverty, adding that it affects reproductive sector as “half of the victims die in the middle age (35-69 years).”

She argued that with a population of 200 million people estimated to hit 280 million by 2050, Nigeria is a big market for cigarette sale, hence the much interest by transnational tobacco corporations to further penetrate the country, using enticing content to win over the lungs of young Nigerians as older smokers die off from the effects of puffing the smoke.

According to the World Health Organisation, 370,000 children in Nigeria smoke daily. Research shows that a significant percentage of current adult smokers were influenced by movies.

The summit brought together relevant regulatory agencies of government and stakeholders in the entertainment and media sectors to discuss ways of enforcing provisions of the National Tobacco Control Act 2015 and the National Tobacco Control Regulations that apply to the entertainment and media sectors in Nigeria.

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Participants were drawn from the Federal Ministry of Health, the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB), National Orientation Agency (NOA), Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), the Nigeria Police, and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), among others. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK), Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance (NTCA) and Gatefield Limited were also in attendance.

Nollywood practitioners in attendance include members of the Association of Nigeria Theatre Arts Practitioners (ANTP), the Golden Movies Ambassador, Directors Guild of Nigeria, Motion Picture Practitioners’ Association of Nigeria (MOPPAN), and the Kannywood Women Association of Nigeria (K-WAN), among others.

The stakeholders lamented that six years after the passage of the NTC Act and two years after passage of the Tobacco Control Regulations, enforcement of the laws is yet to begin.

The delay in the enforcement of the National Tobacco Control Act and the Tobacco Control Regulations, especially the provision banning Tobacco, Advertising, Promotion and Sponsorships (TAPS) has emboldened the tobacco industry to addict more kids through movies, says Mrs. Hilda Ochefu, Sub-Regional Coordinator for West Africa, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

In line with Nigeria’s anti-smoking laws, participants harped on the need by the movie industry to use fake cigarettes where the depiction of tobacco use is needed for education purpose or historical accuracy only, noting that this should be followed with a disclaimer that no real cigarette was used in their screening and complemented with the health warnings as contained in the NTC Regulations.

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