Stop minister nursing ‘personal hatred’ for tobacco firms, group urges FG

A pro-choice coalition group, Liberty Forum Initiative (LFI), has urged the Federal Government to call ministers making ungaurded statement on sensitive issues in the country to order.

The group, for instance, frowned at a statement credited to the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewale seeking to ban tobacco companies from operating in Nigeria.

In a statement by the coalition, Deputy Liason Officer of the group, Mr Waheed Ademola faulted a statement made by the Minister when some anti-tobacco groups paid him a courtesy visit.

According to Ademola, “The office of the Minister of Health is an exalted position and never a position to inflict injuries on any firm because of a ‘personal hatred’.

Minister of Health, Prof. Adewale

“It is either you are there for the Federal Republic of Nigeria or you are at home with your problems. The Minister should be concerned that in Edo State, about 12,000 people have been certified positive of HIV/AIDs by W.H.O, and he is busy chasing tobacco firms.

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“Do we need whistle blowers to increase your tax incentive? All our leaders are supposed to be pro-active.”

It would be recalled the minister had stated that he would do anything possibke to stop Nigerians from smoking.

Prof. Adewale had stated, ‘I have a personal and official reason for fighting tobacco and will do anything to make our people stop smoking.’

Reacting to the statement, another member of the coaliton, Mr Wakama Nnanna, said “The problem is that there are lot of things in life that are potentially not good for us. Now, smoking may come quite high up that bar, but drinking too much alcohol, drinking too much sugary drinks, eating too much fatty food and dairy products, there are lots and lots of things that are potentially bad for our health and we can’t go around banning all these things.

“The exciting thing about these emerging products is that they give control back to the consumer. I mean we have got to put this in perspective. Smoking rates in the UK have fallen dramatically over the last 30 or 40 years and if you go back to the fifties, half of the adult population smoked. Now, the figure is about 16 per cent.

“So that’s been a pretty dramatic drop but of course, the really dramatic drop actually happened between the mid seventies and the early nineties when there were very few restrictions on smoking and most people absorbed the health messages and they chose either not to start smoking or they decided they’re going to quit.”

For Damilola Harrison “Prohibition doesn’t work. I think everybody knows the example of America where they tried to prohibit alcohol and they had to give up that experiment after 12 years because it was a terrible failure because the people who took over the market were the criminal gangs and the bootleggers. “So from that experience I think the tobacco control lobby has understood that prohibition never works and over the last few decades globally, we’ve seen an attempt to wean people off tobacco, trying to get them to give up completely, and again that hasn’t worked as well as the tobacco control lobby would have liked because, simply, there are millions of people who enjoy smoking.”

“I think the health message has got across to most people and in many cases that has discouraged people from taking up smoking in the first place. It has also encouraged some people to give up, but many people are prepared to take the risk because they enjoy smoking and because they enjoy it they’re not going to give it up until a product comes along that gives them the same pleasure that smoking tobacco does.”

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