- Alerts On Implications of tobacco industry’s interference
Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) in its TakeApart Nigeria report has revealed latest efforts by tobacco multinationals operating in Nigeria to continue to use front groups and proxies to derail the implementation of tobacco policies and action plans targeted at reducing tobacco use among Nigerians.
Several of the ongoing schemings by tobacco front groups were documented in the report entitled: ‘The Big Tobacco Allies – How tobacco companies use intermediaries to foster their corporate social responsibility initiatives and promote their image in Nigeria’, which was presented to the media in Lagos, Friday.
Whereas Nigeria passed the National Tobacco Control (NTC) Act in 2015 and its regulations in 2019, the report indicated that the tobacco industry has evolved strategies to ensure the implementation of the law never see the light of the day.
The report exposed series of instances where tobacco multinationals use intermediaries to foster their efforts to undermine implementation of the WHO FCTC, maps tobacco industry allies and exposes how tobacco companies use them to clean their image and grow their business.
Relying on surveys carried out by CAPPA across Nigeria with support from the African Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA), the report exposes for instance amongst others, “how tobacco multinationals undertake partnerships with the Nigerian government; how several entities organize events and implement programs that promote tobacco industry initiatives; how several entities provide technical and/or intellectual support to the tobacco industry; how front groups launder tobacco industry image through social development engagements; how tobacco companies hide behind front groups to promote educational initiatives; how front groups whitewash tobacco industry image through environmental projects; how tobacco companies use fronts to organise trainings and seminars; and how tobacco multinationals use front groups to undertake unnecessary interactions with government officials, among others.”
The report highlighted the fact that the use of intermediaries by the tobacco industry poses a threat to the advancement of tobacco control in Nigeria as it facilitates interaction of the industry with public officials, enabling multinationals to garner good media reviews and further their inroads into the public space.
Presenting the report to the media at a briefing, Friday, CAPPA Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi said: “Tobacco industry interference is a major challenge to effective tobacco control. The TakeApart Nigeria Report is a vital tool that will enable the Nigerian government and public health advocates to identify and plug loopholes that the tobacco industry and its allies and front groups have exploited to interfere in public health policy.”
Oluwafemi, who noted that sections 25, 27, 28 of the NTC Act clearly defined how the government should limit interaction with the tobacco industry and also addressed issues bordering on conflict of interest, also lamented that both national and subnationals have continued to flout the law.
He added that the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic has made it important for the government to urgently stop tobacco industry’s interference in the implementation of its own laws, warning that research had shown that tobacco intake further exercerbates Covid-19 morbidity.
According to CAPPA Director of Programmes, Philip Jakpor “The TakeApart Nigeria Report is a product of painstaking investigation which unearthed how the tobacco industry and their front groups pull wool over our faces. We are now handing the Nigerian government the resource that is necessary to ending the unnecessary interactions that the tobacco industry initiates.”
Some of the report’s recommendations on how the tobacco industry can be checkmated include: “Full implementation of the National Tobacco Control Act 2015 and the National Tobacco Control Regulations 2019; Halt of economic incentives and benefits to the tobacco industry; Prohibition of all interactions with the tobacco industry not related to policy implementation;
Others are “Establishment of a policy for government agencies to fully disclose minutes and proceedings of meetings and interactions with the tobacco industry; Regular updating of information websites to ensure easy information dissemination that will in turn guarantee transparency; Sensitisation of authorities on the public health implications of interactions with the industry; and Periodic declaration of no conflict of interest by stakeholders must interact with the tobacco industry.”
The New Diplomat recalls the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) 2012 had revealed that 10.0% of men, 1.1% of women, and 5.6% overall (4.5 million adults) use tobacco products in Nigeria.
The Tobacco Atlas puts adult tobacco use at 13.7%, accounting for more than 7 million adults in 2015. The report also indicated that Tobacco may be responsible for up to 246 deaths among men weekly in Nigeria.
With the morbidity and mortality caused by tobacco use in the country, the loss in economic terms to individuals, families and the country is better imagined amid the associated high health risks for smokers upon contracting Covid-19.