The Tobacco Products Regulation and Control Bill, 2014 currently being considered by the Senate is not aimed at closing down multinational firms producing the product but designed to safeguard the health of the people.
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, gave the assurance during a public hearing to consider the harmonised National Tobacco Control Bill 2012 (Senate Bill) and 2014 (Executive Bill), which seeks to repeal the Tobacco (Control) Act 1990.
The senator, who was reacting to fears expressed by the Oyo State Government that any stringent regulations in the industry would worsen the economic situation of its people, assured that the interest of all stakeholders would be taken into consideration in the passage of the bill.
Earlier, the Director of Public prosecution in the Oyo State Ministry of Justice, Mr. Tajudeen Abdul Ganiyu, had told the committee that hundreds of Oyo indigenes especially youths, would be left unemployed if the new bill forced the British American Tobacco Company in Ibadan to shut down production.
Abdul Ganiyu said, “We are looking at a situation where by the bill would put the industry out of business and throw the workers working there out of employment because we are going to suffer the immediate result of people being thrown out of market as it is going to increase the crime rate in our state.
“We are also concerned about the area of partnership between the state government and BATN. The company has been helping the Oyo people by empowering them by setting up small entrepreneurs throughout the state. We have the tobacco farmers, who are also being empowered too by the tobacco firm.
Responding, Sen. Okowa said, “Our intention in the National Assembly is not to drive the industry away by stopping them from manufacturing. We only believe that they need to be regulated so that they will continue to act in a responsible manner.
“It is not only about the industry but also about the retailers and our attitudes as Nigerians. It is a comprehensive thing. Our intention is not to create unemployment in a responsible manner.
“People have the right to smoke but we also want people to realize that smoking is injurious to their health and that they need to protect the right of other people who do not smoke and of course, the young ones need to be protected.
“Cigarette is the only product that we allow people to buy and sell in Nigeria legally even when we know it has a lot of injury and health hazards”.
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