How the tobacco industry manipulated public health policy in Nigeria

Catherine Egbe, Stella Bialous, and I just published “Avoiding “A Massive Spin-Off Effect in West Africa and Beyond”: The Tobacco Industry Stymies Tobacco Control in Nigeriain Nicotine and Tobacco Research.  This paper uses tobacco industry documents to show how the tobacco industry to show how BAT and other tobacco companies blocked development and implementation of Nigeria’s first tobacco control law in the 1990s. 
 
This bit of history highlights the importance of strong implementation of FCTC Article 5.3, which commits parties to the treaty to keep the tobacco companies from infiltrating the government’s policy making process.  We also illustrate how the industry is continuing such activities today.
 
Another important lesson, which is reinforced from earlier work outside Africa, is that the tobacco companies are acutely aware of the global importance of precedent, something that the public health community often ignores.
 
Africa is a key battleground in global tobacco control and there are initiatives under way to increase taxes there.  This paper illustrates how succeeding in that effort will require understanding and countering tobacco industry influence. 
 
Here is the abstract:
 
Background: Nigeria plays important economic and political roles in Africa and is a significant market for the tobacco industry. This study describes the tobacco industry’s efforts to block Nigeria’s early tobacco control attempts, especially the Tobacco Smoking (Control) Decree 20 of 1990, and efforts to strengthen the Decree in 1995.
Method: Analysis of documents from the Truth Tobacco Documents Library and other Internet resources related to Nigeria’s Decree 20 and earlier tobacco control efforts.
Results: The World Conferences on Smoking and Health and World Health Organization in the late 1970s spurred the Nigerian government to take steps towards tobacco regulation. In response, the tobacco industry lobbied government ministries, used front groups and its trade group, the Tobacco Advisory Council of Nigeria, to block and weaken government efforts. The industry obtained a draft of Decree 20 two years before it was enacted, considered the Decree anti-business and proposed language that led to the passage of a weaker Decree in 1990. It also attempted to influence a potential review of the Decree in 1995.
Conclusion: Decree 20 was a strong law for its time, but was weakened due to tobacco industry interference. Nigeria ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2005, and enacted a comprehensive National Tobacco Control Act (NTCA) in May 2015. Lessons learned from Decree 20’s experience should be applied to protect NTCA 2015, and in compliance with WHO FCTC Article 5.3 which require parties to protect tobacco control policies from tobacco industry interference.
Implications: This is the first detailed account of tobacco industry interference with tobacco legislation in Africa. The emergence of tobacco control in Nigeria threatened the tobacco industry, which believed that success in Nigeria would have a “domino effect” in Africa. The industry used lobbying and front groups to successfully block and weaken Nigeria’s tobacco control, especially the Tobacco Smoking (Control) Decree 20 of 1990 and efforts to strengthen it in 1995. Nigeria and other African countries must learn from this history to protect tobacco control policies from the tobacco industry’s vested interests and vigorously implement Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC.
 
The citation for the paper is Egbe et al.  Avoiding “A Massive Spin-Off Effect in West Africa and Beyond”: The Tobacco Industry Stymies Tobacco Control in Nigeria.  Nicotine & Tobacco Research, 2017, 1–11
doi:10.1093/ntr/ntx037.  It is available here.