1 in 4 Nigerian Vendors (25%) sell cigarettes to minors: Lawlessness and Why the National Assembly must Act Now

By Chris Zumani Zimba

  1. Introduction

smoking-fire-hazard-cigarette-buttsThe World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Article 16, section 1 to 2 on the “Sales to and by minors” says: 1. “Each Party shall adopt and implement effective legislative, executive, administrative or other measures at the appropriate government level to prohibit the sales of tobacco products to persons under the age set by domestic law, national law or eighteen. These measures may include:

(a) requiring that all sellers of tobacco products place a clear and prominent indicator inside their point of sale about the prohibition of tobacco sales to minors and, in case of doubt, request that each tobacco purchaser provide appropriate evidence of having reached full legal age;

(b) banning the sale of tobacco products in any manner by which they are directly accessible, such as store shelves;

(c) prohibiting the manufacture and sale of sweets, snacks, toys or any other objects in the form of tobacco products which appeal to minors; and

(d) ensuring that tobacco vending machines under its jurisdiction are not accessible to minors and do not promote the sale of tobacco products to minors.

  1. Each Party shall prohibit or promote the prohibition of the distribution of free tobacco products to the public and especially minors”1.

Although Nigeria claims to fulfil the obligations to the WHO FCTC which the country signed as a party on June 28, 2004, and ratified on October 20, 2005, their National Assembly has deliberately delayed to approve a progressive proposed tobacco control law aimed at protecting minors for reasons unknown to everyone. As it stands, Nigeria does not agree, speak and adhere to the Article 16 of the FCTC provision and the public health of its citizens especially minors is both compromised and threatened.

  1. One (1) in four (4) Nigerian Vendors (25%) sell cigarettes to minors

Smoking among teenagers is known to come along with devastating consequences including health related effects like respiratory and cardiovascular diseases as well as reduced mental development. In Nigeria, it is relatively easy for children to access cigarettes and other tobacco related products. According to the latest findings in a ‘Tobacco Sales Violation Survey report titled “Tobacco vs The People”, one in four vendors (25%) sell Cigarettes and Tobacco products to people under the age of 18 in Nigeria and half (49.6%) of the cigarette vendors in Abuja – Nigeria’s capital city – sell cigarettes to people under the age of 182.

The sale of tobacco products to minors under the age of 18 is the prohibited by Nigeria’s tobacco control legislation which came into existence in 2015, signed into law by former president Goodluck Jonathan after years of delay. But implementation of the law has been stalled due to a clause within which requires that regulations for about 70% of the act be drafted by the Ministry of Health and submitted to the National Assembly for adoption before they can be enforced3.

  1. The Draft Regulations

The proposed draft NTC Regulations, 2018, comprises of 35 regulations and five schedules.

Regulations 3 – 6 explain health warnings and packaging (the health minister in Section 20 of the Act prescribes that a combination of text and graphic pictorial health warning messages be printed on 80 per cent of the principal display surfaces of all tobacco product packages.

Regulation 7 demands that tobacco product manufacturers, importers or distributors submit a report to the Minister of Health at the end of every calendar year, and not later than at the end of the first quarter of the succeeding calendar year.

Regulations 8 – 15 deals with achieving a smoke-free environment while Regulations 16 – 17 focuses on prohibition of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship (TAPS).

In sections 18 – 21, the regulations deal with protection from tobacco industry interferences; 19 – 21 outline the responsibilities of public authority in prevention of tobacco industry interference; and 22 provides a list of authorised agencies to enforce the Act and their duties.

In Regulations 23 – 27, the document explains the procedure and conditions for issuance of licence for tobacco products businesses (manufacturers, importers, and distributors); Regulation 28 states that property forfeited to the State shall be channeled into Tobacco Control Fund (TCF)4.

  1. Conclusion:The Call for Action and join the Campaign

From the voice of the Nigerian advocates, the ultimate goal of the #DontWaitRegulateCampaign is to have strong National Tobacco Control Regulations approved by the National Assembly by next month that will engender full implementation of the National Tobacco Control Act, so that the health and well-being of Nigerian citizens especially minors are protected and promoted. Will the Nigerian National Assembly act to protect minors and public health or is it sustaining the lawlessness status quo? As the #DontWaitRegulateCampaign5 seeks to create awareness about the existing law and pressure the Nigerian government to properly enforce it, your responsibility as a Nigerian is to speak out and demand your national assembly to end this lawlessness in terms of tobacco control amongst minors by approving it. Africa is behind you and you can count on our support. Join the advocacy demand and sign the campaign petition on http://www.regulate.tobaccofree.ng  and on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram via @Tobaccofreeng.

Chris Zumani Zimba is a prolific Political Scientist, Policy Analyst, Author, Blogger, PhD Scholar, Researcher, Consultant, Public Health and Tobacco Control Advocate. He is the lead researcher with “Centre for Advocacy and Research on Tobacco Control in Zambi0a” (CARTOCOZA) under Chrizzima Democracy University (CDU) in Zambia where he is the CEO.  Besides analysing African politics weekly on Voice of the Cape Town, South Africa every Wednesday at 16:45hours CAT, he has also authored more than 10 political and academic books as well as published over 100 well researched articles on African politics and public health. Sometimes, he lectures Political Science-Part Time with University of Zambia (UNZA) and University of Lusaka (UNILUS). Chriszumanizimba.cz@gmail.com or chriszumanizimba@yahoo.com; +260 973 153 815


  1. WHO, (2005:15-17), “WHO FRAMEWORK CONVENTION ON TOBACCO CONTROL (FCTC)”, WHO Press: Geneva, ISBN 978 92 4 159101
  2. The People (2019:1), “Tobacco vs The People”, accessed from http://tobaccofree.ng/thepeople/  Retrieved 15-05-2019
  3. https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/more-news/323947-nigerian-govt-csos-seek-national-assemblys-approval-of-tobacco-control-regulations.html
  4. https://www.vanguardngr.com/2019/04/8th-nass-urged-to-make-tobacco-regulations-a-legacy/;https://www.vanguardngr.com/2019/04/era-to-saraki-dogara-pass-tobacco-control-bill-now/
  5. https://allafrica.com/stories/201904040229.html; https://punchng.com/pass-draft-national-tobacco-control-regulations-ngos-tell-national-assembly/

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