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  NGO Faults Anti-Tobacco Groups' Attack on Lagos Governor …Calls for caution on tobacco control bill

By The Citizen

A coalition of civil society groups working on consumer rights issues in Nigeria has condemned the media war and campaign of calumny mounted against the Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola by anti-tobacco groups in the country over the recent courtesy visit by the management of British American Tobacco to the Lagos Government House in Alausa.

The group, Consumer Rights Advocacy Network of Nigeria (CRANN), in a press statement signed by one of its Coordinators, Mr. Shina Loremikan, referred to the outcry by the anti-tobacco groups against the visit as unwarranted and uncalled for. The network also urged both the Lagos State government and the Federal Government to carefully consider legislations on sensitive industries like tobacco, oil and sugar so as not uncritically yield to calls by ill-advised people to pass laws that would be counter-productive and injurious to the health and interests of consumers on the short and long run.

'The recent call by a group asking the Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola to reject the tobacco company's investment in the State is misguided and inappropriate. And also asking the Governor to apologise to Nigerians for hosting the management of a company legally registered in the country, and operating in a legal industry as a legal corporate citizen is highly unfortunate,' CRANN said in the statement.

'While we all perfectly understand the need to regulate the tobacco industry, it is also well known and accepted that the industry is a legal one; hence asking a company not to interact with government and its agencies is rather presumptuous and smacks of needless grandstanding. This will not in any way impact the drive to reduce tobacco consumption,' the statement noted.

'Beyond emotions, we believe that any attack on the regulated tobacco industry will only put the issue of the uncontrollable smuggling of illicit tobacco, which will be far more injurious to public health, into the country into over-drive. Importantly, CRANN is calling on anti-tobacco groups to rather evolve strategies of educating consumers of tobacco about the lifestyle choices that they are making, instead of attacking the efforts of a hardworking Governor to provide more opportunities for employment creation and income generation in the overladen urban space that Lagos State has become,' the statement concluded.