Report Exposes Alarming Surge In Tobacco Consumption In Nigeria

Daud Olatunji

A recent report shedding light on the increasing interference of the tobacco industry in Nigeria has sent shockwaves through public health advocates, revealing a significant jump in the industry’s meddling from 53 to 60 points in 2023.

The report was  according to findings released by Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies through the Centre for Good Governance.

Nigeria, having ratified the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control’s Article 5.3 guidelines in 2005, has faced a stark escalation in challenges related to tobacco control measures. 

Despite enacting the National Tobacco Control Act in 2015, aimed at regulating smoking, prohibiting tobacco advertising, and protecting against industry interference, the report exposes critical shortcomings in the government’s adherence to transparency mechanisms.

The report pinpointed the Nigerian government’s struggles and failures in disclosing exchanges with the tobacco industry as mandated by existing regulations, leading to exploitative breaches.

Particularly troubling is the undue interaction between the industry and public officials, notably in the agriculture sector, where top government officials have been implicated in participating in the industry’s activities.

Highlighting another area of concern, the report outlines the tobacco industry’s strategic use of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities to enhance its image and attract individuals, creating a misleading perception of responsibility and desirability associated with its products. 

State authorities endorsing and collaborating on CSR initiatives further compound the problem.

The weak enforcement of preventive measures and ambiguities in the National Tobacco Control Act and its 2019 Regulations have inadvertently allowed the tobacco industry to operate without accountability. 

The report raises flags regarding the discretionary power of the Minister to disclose or withhold information, hindering public health advocates from verifying compliance.

Addressing these challenges, Zikora Ibeh, policy and research officer at CAPPA, emphasizes the need for public officials to periodically sign conflict-of-interest forms to remind them of potential compromises to their duties.

 Akinbode Oluwafemi, CAPPA’s executive director, urges the Nigerian government to fully implement the National Tobacco Control Regulations 2019 and conduct a thorough review to eliminate exploitable gaps that enable industry interference in public health and government policies.

 The report underscores the urgency for regulatory measures to curb the escalating influence of the tobacco industry on Nigeria’s health landscape.

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