Corporate Accountability and Public Participation in Africa (CAPPA) has called for strict regulation of the tobacco industry in Nigeria, saying foreign tobacco companies in the country are using their social media platforms to circumvent Nigeria’s tobacco law. Tobacco Control (NTCA).
The call was made today at a press conference organized by CAPPA at the unveiling of its report titled “Capturing the Tobacco Industry of Virtual Space in Nigeria”, in Abuja.
The report revealed how the British American Tobacco Company (BATCO), through its charitable arm, the British Tobacco Nigeria Foundation; Philip Morris International Nigeria Limited and other tobacco entities operating in Nigeria had conducted online visibility activities “that praise their image and hide the harms of their products to attract favorable comments”.
CAPPA Executive Director Akinbode Oluwafemi told the event that the NCTA prohibits such advertising and promotion, but tobacco companies in Nigeria have exploited social media to flout the law.
“The NTCA prohibits the advertising and promotion of tobacco products, but these companies are using loopholes in the law to exploit poorly regulated Internet channels.
“They used targeted online mechanisms or well-crafted communication of their activities to influence public perception, promote tobacco products and benefit their commercial interests,” Oluwafemi said.
He noted that tobacco companies in Nigeria had also undertaken corporate social responsibility activities to win the affection of policy makers and reflected partnerships and collaborations with public institutions to achieve public ratings.
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The report looked at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and a host of other social media platforms between 2016 and 2021.
It was also revealed in the report that tobacco vendors and distributors such as Smoke and Dashmokehub 0.0 aggressively promoted tobacco product sales and a smoking culture on their social media platforms and offered endorsement deals to music icons.
To address the loopholes in the law, Akinbode recommended that the Nigerian government implement penalties for Tobacco Advertising Promotion and Sponsorship (TAPS) and tobacco control violations, in accordance with the Tobacco Policy and Control national.
“State institutions should revoke any collaboration of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) with the tobacco industry and their front groups,” he said.
Amos Abba is a journalist at the International Center for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, who believes that courageous investigative reporting is the key to social justice and accountability in society.