A report released by the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) yesterday (June 20) has exposed how social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are now used to flout Nigeria’s National Tobacco Control Act and its Regulations.
The report detailed how companies like British American Tobacco (BAT) and Philip Morris International Nigeria Limited (PMINL) and their vendors promote Corporate Social Responsibility (CRS) and Tobacco Advertising Promotion and Sponsorships (TAPS) in contravention of the tobacco laws to gain good public rating.
According to CAPPA Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi, the research, supported by a grant from the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) on behalf of STOP, a global tobacco industry watchdog, focused on popular social networking platforms between 2016 and 2021 and flagged 226 activities involving tobacco companies and their allies in Nigeria. The activities are categorized under CSR, promotions, recognition, endorsement, partnerships, advertising, and sponsorships.
CAPPA Director of Programmes, Philip Jakpor said that tobacco companies while embarking on their CSR activities deploy different strategies to gain the affection of policymakers, reflect partnerships and collaboration with state institutions and organizations that ultimately help them build good public ratings. It also exposed growing cases of tobacco industry vendors such as an organisation known as Smoke Box Ng and another, Da Smoke Hub flout the ban on advertising, promotion, and sponsorships by using their social media platforms to flagrantly market tobacco products.
Some of the platforms most exploited by the tobacco industry include Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Blogs, and LinkedIn, while the sectors the industry is most active include agriculture, education, and entertainment. The most visibility activities performed by the tobacco industry were observed in 2018 and 2021.
Jakpor revealed that certain gaps in the National Tobacco Control Act 2015, and National Tobacco Control Regulations 2019 as regards the ban on TAPS provide allowances for the tobacco industry to carry on business as usual in contravention of tobacco control in Nigeria.
CAPPA Programme Manager, Ogunlade Olamide said the research was carried out by social media monitors who scrutinized the internet for tobacco industry CSR and other visibility engagements. The monitors flagged 226 visibility engagements which were carried out in the period between 2016 and 2021 and then categorized them into sectors that the industry has captured.
The report noted that with over 109.2 million internet users at the start of January 2022, the increasing usage of the internet in Nigeria bolstered by its burgeoning young demographic, comprising more than 70 percent of its over 200 million population, makes it a highly desirable market for the tobacco industry.
The Nigerian government was urged to protect public health policies with respect to tobacco control from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in line with Article 5.3 of the WHO-FCTC and commit to implementing these measures across all branches of government that may have an interest in, or the capacity to, affect public health policies with respect to tobacco control.
It was also urged to strictly enforce Section 12 of the National Tobacco Control Act 2015 which prohibits all forms of TAPS including CSR that advertise or promote the tobacco industry.
You can download the full report here: Tobacco Industry Capture of the Virtual Space in Nigeria