Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, has taken its advocacy on tobacco control to Abia State in its quest to reduce the harmful effects of tobacco consumption on the citizenry, and shore up revenues for Government.
Programme Manager of CISLAC, Mr Okeke Anya, who led a team of experts from the non-governmental organisation to the state, presented a draft bill on tobacco control to the Ministries of Health and Environment, as well as a lawmaker.
Presenting the bill to the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health/Acting Commissioner for Health, Mrs Franca Ekwueme, the CISLAC Programme Manager, decried the devastating effects of tobacco consumption on the populace particularly the youths.
He noted that the effects of tobacco on second-hand and third-hand smokers (those who inhale tobacco smoke from smokers) were often under-emphasised.
Anya said that since the cost of cure for tobacco-induced diseases is usually huge and unaffordable by average income earners, the best way to avoid them is through taxation and regulations.
He further argued that most people involved in drug abuse started with cigarette smoking, hence the compelling need to control tobacco consumption.
He said “there are multiple layers of benefits” derivable from the proposed bill “including health wise, environmental wise and economic wise.”
Anya said that Abia State Government “stands to benefit much by domesticating the National Tobacco Control Law,” noting that the law when domesticated, will provide regulations for effective control of tobacco in the state.
He explained that states could earn revenues through penalties on violators of tobacco regulations.
“Since the Federal Government is in charge of license and tobacco taxation, states can generate revenues by issuing permits on how tobacco is sold and where it can be consumed.”
Making similar presentation earlier at the Ministry of Environment, Anya said cigarette thumbs which are usually discarded after smoking are non-biodegradable, pollute the environment, and can lead to fire outbreak.
Responding, the Acting Commissioner for Health, Mrs Ekwueme, expressed worry over the rate of drug abuse among youths in the state.
She applauded CISLAC for the draft bill which she promised to study for necessary actions.
Similarly, the member representing Arochukwu state constituency in the Abia State House of Assembly, Hon. Okoro Kalu Uchenna, after receiving a copy of the draft bill, promised to work in collaboration with the Executive arm for the sponsorship and passage into law.
He also commended CISLAC for its advocacy on tobacco control, promising to support every effort towards saving the public from harmful effects of tobacco.