The rate at which Nollywood stars are glamorising smoking of cigarette in movies is frightening. The actors and actresses, whom the youths look up to as role models, are passing a wrong message to the youth that smoking is a habit associated with successful people who are in the limelight whereas it is a deviant act that the youth should be prevented from emulating because of the dangers inherent in it. More worrisome is the fact that many Nollywood films now advertise tobacco brands openly in films, thus raising suspicion that film producers are being sponsored by British American Tobacco (BAT).

BAT had earlier promised that it would not advertise tobacco on billboards because of the youth who could easily be hoodwinked by such adverts and decide to try smoking. BAT has surreptitiously captured the heart of film producers who now allow actors and actresses to advertise tobacco brands in Nolllywood. Teenagers are the biggest audience for films. It then follows that the tobacco industry has recognised that movies are a powerful tool to lure young smokers. This, they have successfully done, through payoffs to actors and the glamorisation of smoking. With the Nigerian film industry growing astronomically in just a few year to become the world's third largest, cigarrete manufacturers have capitalised on the huge burgeoning market to advertise their brands by having actors and actresses smoke them.

Recently, the Environmental Rights Action (ERA), an anti-tobacco body, monitored some of Nollywood films in order to screen them for brand placements, product endorsements by actors and how tobacco is being portrayed in the films. Out of the 10 movies screened, it was shocking that smoking has invaded the Nollywood industry, thus impacting negatively on our teeming youths. Some popular actors such as Jim Iyke, Rita Dominic and Hanks Anuku, among other, now pose with cigarettes and recognisable tobacco packs on the posters and sleeves of films. This development is absolutely unacceptable as our youth who look up to them as role models are likely to imitate them and end up endangering their health and mortgaging their future.

We canvass for stiff sanctions against Nollywood films that promote smoking. Films should be certified smoke-free before they are aired. If South Africa can do it, why not Nigeria? The Nigerian Video Censors Board should enact a law banning or curbing to some extent the rate at which actors smoke in Nollywood films. The Nigerian Guild of Directors, Actors Guild of Nigeria and all stakeholders in the movie industry should stop being tools for the tobacco industry's insatiable pursuit of profit at the expense of the health of the nation's youth.

We back ERA's recommendation that forms of advertising tobacco brands in Nollywood should be banned while product placement in films should be stopped to conform with The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) which Nigeria ratified. Relevant agencies of government should reel out strict regulations in the industry to deter greedy actors and actresses who collaborate with tobacco firms to promote and advertise their products in disguise without caring about the havoc it causes