Nigeria and Tobacco Control: How regulation can be successful for West African countries; An IMANInsight Analysis.


Nigeria is making yet another attempt to control the use of tobacco in country. Measures are coming into place that have not been missed by the international community and Nigeria has gained the attention of many media houses and health campaigners as a result. The Lagos State Government recently passed a Public Place Smoking Bill which introduces partial ban on smoking in public places. The law lists the different places where smokers can and cannot smoke. Both the Tobacco industry and the Anti-tobacco lobbying groups have applauded the passage of this law.

At this moment the National Tobacco Control Bill has been proposed in the Senate and is being debated. The bill includes a ban on all advertising, sponsorship, and promotion by tobacco companies; the inclusion of graphic health warnings to cover at least 50% of the front or all packaging; and the provision of smoke-free public space by restricting all smoking in public areas (Premium Times 2014).

The Lagos tobacco control bill will see that anyone caught smoking in public is fined $62 and/or three months in jail (BBC 2014). Additionally, failure to display ‘No Smoking’ signs at public establishments such as restaurants will see owners of those establishments paying an even bigger fine and the possibility of an even longer jail term (up to six months) (BBC 2014). The Law will become effective on the 17th of August 2014, which is six months after the Governor’s assent, as stipulated in the Law.  It allows for Smoking in open places such as on the streets, roads and highways as well as in private homes and residences. It also allows for owners of Hotels, Bars, Night club and Tertiary institutions i.e. (universities etc.), to demarcate at least 10% of their premises as a Smoking Area .

It cannot be disputed that some tobacco products, especially when used as regularly as cigarettes often are, will have health implications on the individual and then the wider society by extension. Globally, six million people die annually from tobacco-related diseases. More than ten per cent of those deaths are non-smokers who have been exposed to the threat of tobacco-related diseases either by a close relative or at public spaces such as restaurants. In Nigeria, 29.3% of non-smoking people surveyed in the nation’s Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) identified as being exposed to tobacco via the latter (GATS Nigeria 2013). Twenty-seven per cent of smokers did agree that as a result of seeing health warnings on cigarette packing, they had wanted to quit smoking (Nigeria GATS 2013). The implementation of a law such as the NTCB 2013 will therefore have its benefits as it would reduce the exposure to cigarette smoke for those who have chosen not to smoke and will facilitate the decision to quit for the 27% of smokers who choose to, but understandably due to the natural addictiveness of tobacco, cannot. Furthermore, studies in the United Kingdom have shown a twelve per cent decrease in asthma rates among children in the wake of the application of smoking restrictions in the country (BBC 2013). Therefore, there are offshoot benefits from the restriction and regulation of the use and distribution of tobacco products.

Notwithstanding, the implementation of such a control bill should consider all the consequences. Prime amongst them, the economic factor. Currently, Nigeria is the 10th largest tobacco market (PM News Nigeria 2013). The Nigerian government earns fifteen billion naira (US$91.2m) in tax revenues from British American Tobacco alone. In total, the tobacco industry earns the federal government US$364m. Furthermore, the tobacco industry makes significant contributions to the job market. Two-thousand people are employed directly, and a further three-hundred-thousand indirectly by the industry even whilst less than 10% of the population use tobacco products. IMANI highlighted, last year that the UK government lost close to £2billion after bringing in stricter laws to curb the uptake of cigarettes. The Nigerian government is in a process of boosting and expanding its agricultural sector, of which the tobacco industry plays a major part. Investors in Nigeria’s tobacco industry also aide the country’s aims of industrialising as they manufacture there products in-country.

However, the debate on how to sensibly mitigate the health implications of tobacco use whilst maintaining and even expanding the benefits of the revenues it generates should not be restricted to a discussion of economics and health alone. It is the case that such regulations infringe on the freedom laws of smokers, to choose to smoke when and where they would like. Libertarian campaigners bring this issue to the forefront of the discussion on tobacco regulations. It is obviously an argument championed, by the tobacco companies also. On the one hand, with regards to liberty, John Stewart Mill conceded that “a civilised society should exert influence over an individual in order to prevent harm to others” (BBC 2014). This is an important caveat. It forms the foundations of the Senate’s decision to pass the bill. Senator Bukola Saraki who tabled the bill considers the “high percentage of Nigerians (29%) who are non-smokers are inadvertently and dangerously exposed to smoking endangering their health” as a primary reason for his action (TobaccoCtrl Nigeria 2013).

So how does the Federal Republic of Nigeria or even the State Government in Lagos go about sensibly implementing the values of the bill to achieve the desired impact on increasing the standard of life of their citizens? BAT Nigeria is in support of the new Lagos Tobacco regulations. This is because both pro- and anti-tobacco lobbyist aim to minimise the negative effects of tobacco. Any law passed to address smoking in Nigeria must not infringe upon the smoker’s right to choose to smoke and the non-smoker’s right not to. It must also regard the revenues the country is currently receiving from sales of those products and the added benefits, of the corporate social responsibility investments in the country, to its development agenda over the estimated savings to the healthcare infrastructure in a country where the cost is part-borne by the patient and their family.  As such, the federal NTCB would most likely imitate the Lagosian law which allows for establishments to set aside designated smoking areas for smokers. Tobacco regulation must be sensibly done and there is a stark difference from the concessions Lagos State has offered and the laws being proposed at the federal level.

IMANInsight is the consultative thought leadership wing of IMANI the  think tank ranked as the 4th most influential in Africa by the UPenn-UN-Wor
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IMANI Analysis on Tobacco Control