The executive arm of the Nigerian government has sent a bill to the National assembly on Wednesday, which recommends a minimum of six months imprisonment or N50,000 or both for individuals that smoke outside public places designated as smoking areas.
Minister of Information, Mr. Laban Maku and the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, disclosed this to State House correspondents at the end of the meeting presided over by President Goodluck Jonathan.
The health minister also said the penalties for corporate offenders varied from N1million to N5million and one year to two years imprisonment for the chief executives of such firms.
The minister added that any form of advertisement of tobacco products is totally banned under the proposed law.
He added that while the law forbids government from accepting gifts from tobacco firms, it also bans the firms from sponsoring any public event.
When it finally becomes a law, he said 50 per cent of the packaging of tobacco is expected to be used to warn the public of the risks involved in smoking.
He said further that the government would set up a standing committee that would assist law enforcement agencies in implementing the law.
He said the present administration decided to work on the Bill because the provisions of a similar one passed into law in 2001 were considered too weak.
The list of the diseases linked to smoking he gave include cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke; cancer, especially that of the lungs as well as chronic respiratory disorder.
He recalled that a Global Youth Tobacco Survey conducted in 2008 showed that 15 per cent of children between 13 years and 15 years are already smoking and another percentage exposed as passive smokers.
He said the Global Adult Tobacco Survey on its part showed that 10 percent of men in Nigeria smoke while 1.1 percent of women smoke.
This, he explained, showed that almost six per cent of adults in Nigeria smoke.
He said, “This is not the first attempt in Nigeria to control the use of tobacco in this country. In 1990 we had a decree which tried to place some control on the sale and use of tobacco products and in 2001, it was repealed and re-enacted to become the National Tobacco Control Act of 2001.
“The whole idea is to make it stiffer, but when in 2004, Nigeria along with other nations of the world signed the 2004 WHO framework convention on tobacco control, there was then the need to bring our laws in conformity because we actually as a country ratified that convention the next year which was 2005.
“So that attempt by the Executive will eventually culminate in the passage of a revised or amended Act as it were in 2011 by the sixth session of the National Assembly.
“The bill is to protect Nigerians against the harmful effects of tobacco. We know that tobacco is dangerous, tobacco is the cause of many deaths and it causes so many illnesses.”