The Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) has urged Governor Babajide Sanwo Olu of Lagos State to stop the partnership between different ministries of the state and the British American Tobacco Nigeria (BATN).
In a letter to the Governor, CAPPA said that the tobacco industry continues to exploit the cosmopolitan nature of Lagos and its huge youth population in subtle marketing of tobacco products.
CAPPA said that the growing partnerships between the state and the tobacco giant was worrisome when counterbalanced with the enviable strides that the state under Sanwolu had made in the health sector in areas such as renovation of public health facilities and the commissioning of primary healthcare centres across the state, among others.
The Group revealed that in 2010 BATN was called out by activists for organising secret smoking parties, an all-night musical concert in Lagos where young kids were practically initiated into smoking even as it added that Lagos was also listed among cities in Nigeria targeted by the tobacco industry in the Big Tobacco, Tiny Targets 2016 Report which indicted tobacco companies for targeting children for the sale of their tobacco products.
The report concluded that through deliberate visual appeal methods such as placement of tobacco products on counters, stores and kiosks situated within the vicinity of schools and frequented by kids, minors are exposed to tobacco products.
The Group noted with particular concern the Lagos Ministry of Agriculture partnership with BATN Foundation on October 16 annually to organise the Lagos Farm Fair, pointing out that the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC) which Nigeria has signed and ratified, urges Parties to ban or restrict all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship, including their so-called Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives through which they partner with public officials.
Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC urges Parties to protect their public health policies from the commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry, the letter noted.
The Lagos Governor was reminded that the burden of tobacco illnesses on the economy of Lagos informed the lawsuit filed by the state against three tobacco companies in 2007 seeking 2.7 trillion naira ($22.9 billion) in public health costs for treating tobacco-induced illnesses.
According to the WHO, an estimated 8 million people, mostly in Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMIC) like Nigeria die annually from tobacco smoking-induced illnesses. Research by the Center for Studies of the Economies of Africa (CSEA) in 2021 also estimates that about 28,876 Nigerians die yearly due to tobacco induced illnesses.
The Group opined that a progressive government like Lagos must not partner or be seen to be partnering with such an industry even as it urged the Governor to terminate all partnerships and any other collaboration that can compromise public health and give the impression that the tobacco business of death and diseases is at home in Lagos.
It urged the Sanwolu administration instead, to join hands with the federal government to enforce the ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorships as mandated by Nigeria’s National Tobacco Control Act 2015 and the National Tobacco Control Regulations 2019, as well as other policies including the ban on smoking in public places.