Legislators Ban Public Smoking

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Adeyemi Ikuforiji, speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly

The Lagos State House of Assembly has passed a Bill banning smoking in public places

By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Feb. 17, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT

THE Lagos State House of Assembly on Monday, January 20, passed a Bill banning smoking in public places. This means that residents are no longer allowed to smoke in libraries, museum, public toilets, schools, hospitals, day-care centres, public transportation and restaurants among others. The law stipulates that first offenders have options of paying a fine of N10,000, three months in jail or both.

Residents, who break the law repeatedly would either be sent to prison for six months or pay a fine of N50,000, while owners of public places who encourage the breaking of this law would pay a fine of N100,000 or be sent to jail for six months. The law also seeks to punish anyone who smokes in front of a child with a fine of N15,000 or six months imprisonment. The bill also directs corporate organisations to place the ‘No Smoking’ sign in their  premises. Companies which default would pay a fine of N250,000. Section 4 of the bill also states that “it shall be the duty of owners or occupiers of public places to ensure that approved signs are displayed conspicuously at each entrance, and in prominent locations throughout the premises. The law also mandates such owners of public places to create areas far from the vicinity where people could smoke.

The law which is waiting the approval of Babatunde Fashola, governor of the state, gives the state Environmental Protection Agency the powers to implement it while residents are allowed to report to the

Smoking in public places prohibited
Smoking in public places prohibited

state ministry of the environment, any grievances against state officials who are saddled with the implementation of the law. It is, however, an offence to obstruct duly authorised officers from carrying out their duties under the provision of this law. More places may be designated by commissioners of the state, as non-smoking areas for the sake of effective implementation of the law.

Some residents, who spoke to Realnews said it was a welcome development, while others argue that it is an infringement on their rights.Ikechukwu Ogana, resident, thanked the state government for paying attention to public health and safety by enacting the Bill. “This bill is long overdue. Hopefully when passed into law, it will be enforced. Most laws in Nigeria are either not enforced or unenforceable. Apart from the health benefits and sanitation effect of this bill, it will also generate revenue for the state. Again, I hope the revenue it would generate would be used to rehabilitate the offenders when in custody and to educate the residents of the state. The bill should be extended to bus stops, motor parks, private and public vehicles,” he said.

Kingsley Azubuike, another resident of the state, said the law is a good law that is meant to sanitise the environment. “My worry is who will enforce it? Is it going to be like the traffic law, which the police and the LASTMA officials are using to enrich themselves? They abused the traffic law and extort money from people at any given opportunity. If government empowers these law enforcement agencies to enforce the law, then they will abuse it like every other law in the state,” he said.

But Ifeanyi Edeh, said the law is against his fundamental human rights. “Does that mean I can’t relax in front of my house smoking cigarette with a chilled bottle of beer because children or my kids would see me? That a man does not smoke cigarette does not mean his child cannot grow up to smoke India-hemp or even become an armed robber. This is nonsense because the police and Governor Fashola’s boys will seize the opportunity to enrich themselves at the expense of offenders,” Edeh said.

However, the British American Tobacco Nigeria, has commended the Lagos State House of Assembly for the passage of the Bill, describing it as a balanced law. They praised the new law for accommodating the views of all stakeholders whilst also maintaining its responsibility to protect the citizens of Lagos State from the effects of second hand smoking.

Sola Dosunmu, head of regulatory affairs, British American Tobacco, said the passage of the Bill is a welcome development. He said that the Bill seeks to protect the non-smoking public from tobacco smoke and also guarantees the adult cigarette smokers’ right to continue to enjoy the smoking of a legal product in private places, open places and in other designated smoking areas in Hotels, Bars, Nightclubs and tertiary institutions.

A smoker's lungs (right)
Normal and a smoker’s lungs (right)

According to him, the company has studied the law and like the fact that it is not excessive or discriminatory. He noted that the law is balanced and respects choices. He also praised the state House of Assembly for taking on board the views of the owners of Hotels, Bar, Lounges and Café, who advocated for the inclusion of designated smoking areas in the law. Dosunmu also commended the introduction of six months grace period for these owners to implement any changes envisaged under the new law because doing otherwise would have crippled their businesses.

Speaking further, Dosunmu debunked the insinuation that the Tobacco industry was opposed to the passage of the law, rather he reiterated that the Tobacco industry has always advocated for the passage of balanced, evidenced based and workable laws. This he said that the Lagos State House of Assembly has to a large extent achieved by the passage of the law.

According to World Health Organisation, WHO, statistics, there are 1.1 billion smokers in the world today and the number is expected to increase to 1.6 trillion by 2025, which means more passive smokers are affected. It is also estimated that trillions of children are killed by toxic chemicals of smoke and more than 120 million non-smokers are exposed to second hand smoke every day.

Smoking does not just have ill-effects on the smoker; it is a public health hazard. Second-hand smoke is dangerous when a person is constantly exposed to it but just one exposure can be dangerous to people with pre-existing conditions. It is gathered that long-term exposure to cigarette smoke leads to long-term ill health effects. Those who inhale second-hand smoke on a regular basis have the same risks of suffering cancer, heart disease and emphysema, as smokers. Even the United States of America, banned smoking in public places like restaurants to protect restaurant workers and non-smoking patrons in 2010.

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