To commemorate this year’s World No Tobacco Day, advocates and public health workers around the world have called on governments to focus on policies that have been proven to reduce tobacco use.

During a press briefing to celebrate the event in Abuja on Thursday, participants encouraged President Muhammadu Buhari to prioritize the application of the National Tobacco Control Act (2015) in its next four-year term.

They said that the approval of the Draft National Tobacco Control Regulations by the Senate and House of Representatives is a gift that will guarantee the well-being of the current and future generation of Nigerians and should be implemented quickly.

The draft regulations were approved by the National Convention, last Tuesday.

The 2019 WNTD is themed ‘Tobacco and lung health’.

The groups present at the event include the Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance (NTCA), Environmental Rights Action / Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA / FoEN), Cedars Foundation, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Center (CISLAC), and the University of Abuja Smoke – free Club, among others.

Oluseun Esan of the NTCA said this year’s WNTD theme reminds Nigeria and other governments that tobacco causes death for users while a safe air for breathing will result in good lung health and longevity for all.

Mr Esan said until the adoption of the draft regulations, only a few provisions of the NTC Act, such as the ban on the sale of cigarettes to minors, were enforceable.

“The void it has created has been exploited by the tobacco industry to market deadly products to children,” he added.

Philip Jakpor, head of media and campaigns at ERA / FoEN, said the 2019 WNTD reiterates the fact that smoking is responsible for more than two-thirds of lung cancer deaths worldwide.

He further noted that secondhand smoke, to which many Nigerians are exposed in daily commitments, increases the risk of developing lung cancer for non-smokers.

Mr Jakpor said the millions of deaths due to tobacco use were the reason why governments around the world were committed to promoting lung health by protecting their people from the effects of tobacco use and implementing the proven tobacco control measures contained in the WHO strengthen framework. Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC).

Hilda Ochefu of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK) praised Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara for joining Nigerians in approving the regulations, even as she praised the media has come under pressure from the government through penetrating reports exposing tobacco industry antics to frustrating tobacco control in Nigeria.

Around the world, tobacco companies and their marketing tactics remain the single biggest obstacle to combating the global epidemic that kills eight million people every year.

More than 80 percent of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries targeted by tobacco companies as promising markets for growth.

Major tobacco companies such as Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco promote themselves as part of the solution to the health problems due to tobacco use.

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Matthew Myers, the CTFK president, described such moves as a “hypocrisy that should be rejected for the fable it is.”

“Today, we call on governments around the world to look beyond these misleading efforts to re-brand and prioritize the implementation of proven tobacco control policies that save lives,” Mr Myers said.

“Without urgent action, tobacco will claim one billion lives this century.”

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