THE Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) has called for strict regulation of Nigeria’s tobacco industry, saying foreign tobacco companies in the country are utilising their social media platforms to circumvent the Nigeria Tobacco Control Act (NTCA).
The call came today at a press conference CAPPA organised at the unveiling of its report titled, ‘Tobacco Industry Capture of the Virtual Space in Nigeria’, in Abuja.
The report revealed how the British American Tobacco Company (BATCO), through its charity arm, the British Tobacco Nigeria Foundation; Philip Morris International Nigeria Limited, and other tobacco entities operating in Nigeria had been performing online visibility activities “that laud their image and hide the harm in their products to attract favourable comments.”
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The Executive Director of CAPPA, Akinbode Oluwafemi, said at the event that the NCTA prohibits such advertisement and promotion, but that the tobacco companies in Nigeria had been exploiting the social media to flout the law.
“There is a ban on advertisements and promotion of tobacco products by the NTCA, but these companies use loopholes in the law to exploit loosely regulated internet channels.
“They have been using targeted online mechanisms or well-drafted communication of their activities to sway public perception, promote tobacco merchandise and benefit their business interests,” Oluwafemi said.
He noted that tobacco companies in Nigeria had also been undertaking corporate social responsibility activities to gain the affection of policymakers, and reflecting partnerships and collaborations with state institutions to gain public ratings.
The report examined Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and a host of other social networking platforms between 2016 and 2021.
It was also revealed in the report that tobacco vendors and distributors such as Smokehubng and Dasmokehub 0.0 were aggressively promoting sales of tobacco products and a smoking culture on their social media platforms and giving music icons endorsement deals.
To address the gaps in the law, Akinbode recommended that the Nigerian government should enforce penalties for tobacco advertising promotion and sponsorships (TAPS) and tobacco control violations, in compliance and accordance with national tobacco control and policy.
“The state institutions shold revoke all ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) collaboration with the tobacco industry and their front groups,” he said.
Amos Abba is a journalist with the International Center for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, who believes that courageous investigative reporting is the key to social justice and accountability in the society.
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