The federal government has called for collaboration from the global community towards the promotion and protection of public health policies from commercial interests of tobacco companies.

Osagie Ehanire, the minister of state for health, while speaking Wednesday at the ongoing Eight Conference of Parties of the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC) holding in Geneva, Switzerland said that Nigeria has in the past few years made significant progress in tobacco control.

“Through multi-sectoral engagements involving government and civil society organisations, the Nigerian government has begun mass awareness campaigns on provisions of the National Tobacco Control Act 2015, to create the enabling environment for enforcement,” he said.

“Nigeria is strongly desirous of protecting its citizens, particularly the youth from reckless access to tobacco products.

“We, therefore, adopted the regional Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) directive on harmonisation of excise duty on tobacco products in Member States, and revised excise tax regime on tobacco products from 16 per cent to 23.2 per cent.

“This is to be further reviewed upwards over the next two years, as we work with our regional ECOWAS block, towards meeting the WHO recommended excise tax level corresponding to 70 per cent of retail price of tobacco products.”

The minister said the Nigerian government had also reviewed the standards for cigarettes to include the complete ban on cigarettes with characterising flavour, including menthol.

“Nigeria ratified the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products. The instrument of accession will be finalised and deposited at the UN Headquarters imminently.”

On concerns that tobacco multinationals are conducting covert activities to undermine tobacco control activities across the African region, Ehanire said Nigeria is strongly committed to the sanctity its tobacco control policies.

“I am pleased to announce that every member of the Nigerian delegation at this COP8 meeting signed the Declaration of Conflict of Interest (DOI) form, which shall be made available to the COP Secretariat. This is to be Nigeria’s practice for all subsequent COPs.”

The minister, who also spoke on the linkage between tobacco control and climate change, explained that tobacco growing leads to deforestation due to land clearing, cutting of trees for curing of tobacco leaves, contamination due to extensive pesticide use, among other factors.

He invited collaboration with the international community in promoting sustainable environment against the negative impacts of tobacco farming.

Following from the minister’s speech, the Framework Convention Alliance (FCA) which is a global alliance of NGOs working to achieve the strongest possible FCTC awarded Nigeria the Orchid award for making a strong statement on its intent to fully implement the FCTC, including its support for the Global Strategy and transparency of delegations, among others.

The treaty talks ends on October 6.

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