British American Tobacco Nigeria (BATN) Limited has restated its commitment to the successful implementation of the Lagos State Public Place Smoking Law, which came into effect on August 17. The company said that it would continue to support key stakeholders in the country to drive a fully compliant and well regulated tobacco sector in a transparent and responsible manner.
The statement came against the backdrop of a reaction to BATN’s recent sensitisation of officers of the Lagos State Police Command on the Lagos State Public Place Smoking Law.
The company stated that it was surprised that a Lagos-based NGO would fault the sensitisation of enforcement agents on the recently passed Lagos Public Smoking law. Freddy Messanvi, Area Director, Corporate and Regulatory Affairs, BAT West Africa, said that the company believes that this was a task which such NGOs should spearhead.
Messanvi stated that help is needed from NGOs and other stakeholders to enhance understanding and appreciation of the law, and not a time to engage in industry de-normalisation tactics. Other issues requiring the urgent attention of all stakeholders include stemming the increasing tide of illegal trade within the sector and using the funding that the NGOs get from their international partners to build the capacity of agencies who work on tobacco control to ensure that there is compliance with stated laws and regulations.
He said that engagement with stakeholders such as the recent sensitisation event of officers of the Nigeria Police in Lagos was held in accordance with the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, FCTC, Article 5.3. The sensitisation of the Police was done in public and the engagement was transparently conducted.
In a welcome development and quite contrary to the norm, Lagosians have in recent times been empowered to understand what exactly the law says. The Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency, LASEPA, which is tasked with enforcing the Lagos State Public Place smoking Law, had embarked on sensitising Lagos State residents on the provisions of the law which came into force on August 17, 2014.
Recently, a public hearing was held by the Joint Committee on Health and Justice of the House of Representatives. Stakeholders at the public hearing welcomed further regulation of the sector but tasked the legislators to ensure that the legislation was balanced and enforceable. Pro-industry stakeholders at the public hearing also asked the legislators to ensure that there is balance in whatever law that is passed.
In recent times, stakeholders have asked NGOs involved in tobacco control to get more involved in consumer education and funding of research of alternative and healthier products for consumers, who insist on smoking as these areas are critically needed in countries like Nigeria.
The Lagos State Public Place Smoking Law has been generally acknowledged as a balanced law and one worthy of being a model for other such legislations.