Anti-tobacco Groups, Oyo Govt Partner For Tobacco Control Education
Tobacco control groups have expressed willingness to work with Oyo State government to correct the ongoing tobacco industry misrepresentations of the likely impacts of the National Tobacco Control Bill (NTCB) when it finally becomes law. During a familiarisation visit to the Oyo State Commissioner for Agriculture Iyiola Hammad, representatives of the Environmental Rights Action, Coalition Against Tobacco, Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance (NTCA), among others, said that lies about the bill were being peddled by tobacco transnationals to generate sympathy so that they can continue the business of raking in profits at the expense of lives lost to the tobacco menace.
In his welcome words, ERA Director, Corporate Accountability Akinbode Oluwafemi said that the portrayal of farmers as the greatest losers in a NTCB regime is misleading and a deliberate attempt by the tobacco transnationals to thwart the passage of a bill that will make them accountable to the people.
Oluwafemi said the visit to the state government and subsequent engagements will be aimed at setting the records straight and getting the state government to understand the real thrust of the NTCB and how it will buoy the wellness of the people, especially farmers currently tied to the loins of tobacco companies.
Earlier, the commissioner had said that Oyo State government had the impression that the tobacco bill was intended to close British American Tobacco Nigeria (BATN) factory and render tobacco farmers in the state jobless.
He advocated more interaction between civil society groups and the state government even as he also welcomed proposals from the groups on alternatives to tobacco farming which he said will keep the farmers fully engaged if they stopped tobacco farming.
To this, Oluwafemi explained that Article 19 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) which Nigeria has signed and ratified like about 200 countries across the globe recommends such alternatives that have huge economic potentials that do not impugn on health like tobacco.
He also reminded the commissioner that the tobacco growing areas of Oyo State like Tede, Ago Are and Iseyin are the food basket of the state hitherto known for cassava, maize and groundnut production.
Now is the time to revive those food crops to the benefit of the farmers and the state’s economy, he said.