The Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) has commended the Lagos State Government on its decision to rehabilitate the five students smoking shisha in a recent viral video but wants the state government to complement that action by enforcing the ban on the sale of tobacco products near schools as contained in the National Tobacco Control Act 2015.
The disturbing video which trended on social media last week, was widely condemned by Nigerians at home and in the diaspora, who called for sanction against the pupils and their parents.
In a reaction to the incident, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Education, Tokunbo Wahab, said “appropriate steps are being taken to address the issue with the aim of preventing future occurrence in the state. Wahab however took a swipe at parents, insisting that everything should not be left to the government and the school.
But in a statement issued in Lagos, CAPPA said that while the steps taken by the Lagos government were in good stead, the government has a bigger share of the blame for failing to enforce the National Tobacco Control Act 2015 and National Tobacco Control Regulations 2019. It also berated the Lagos state government for failing to implement the recommendations of a national research which exposed the insidious strategy that the tobacco industry uses to introduce school children to smoking.
The research, title: “Big Tobacco, Tiny Targets: Tobacco Companies Targeting of Achool Children in Nigeria”, released in 2017, shows that tobacco companies strategically situate tobacco products and advertisements near primary and secondary schools with the aim of enticing kids to experiment smoking. The study was conducted in Lagos, Enugu, Oyo, Nassarawa and Kaduna States.
CAPPA Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi said, “we can see clearly that our kids are the innocent victims of an industry that manipulates the minds of the youths to ensure they take to the smoking habit. As we had noticed in the study, there is deliberate display of tobacco products next to sweets and drinks, making them easily accessible.”
Oluwafemi explained that the school pupil’s incident is only a tip of the iceberg as the industry continues to innovate on how to grab the lungs of the younger generation.
“Beyond point of sale near schools, we are also witnessing a shocking upsurge in indigenous movies and music videos that glamourize smoking and these are happening right before our eyes and in front of our kids.”
Shisha smoking started in the Middle East, especially Arab countries and has been embraced in several parts of the world, including Nigeria. The prevalence rate of shisha smoking, especially among the youth, is now a public health concern. The rising prevalence of shisha smoking is attributable in part to the public misconceptions about their safety compared with cigarettes.
“While we commend the swift intervention of the Lagos government, the time for talk publicity stunt is over. It is now time for the Lagos government and all tiers of government to work collaboratively to ban point of sale near schools and all the conditions near our schools that induces smoking. Doing otherwise will have dire consequences on us as a people and on our kids”, Oluwafemi advised.