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December, 2007


Nigeria sues tobacco for $40 bn

Abuja — The Nigerian government is suing three leading tobacco companies, seeking more than $40 bn in damages for the cost of treating smoking-related diseases.

“It is the first time ever that an African state files a case against a tobacco company. No other state in Africa has ever done it,” Babatunde Irukera, the lawyer representing the government told AFP, and who also represents Nigeria in its $6.5 bn against US pharmaceuticals company Pfizer Inc. for an alleged illegal drug trial.

The suit filed against British American Tobacco Plc, Philip Morris International, and International Tobacco Ltd, a Nigerian company, accuses them of concealing the harmful nature of smoking and of promoting underage smoking.

The government is also seeking an injunction compelling the companies to stop the marketing and sale of cigarettes.

Some of the damages being claimed are intended to offset future healthcare costs that Nigeria expects to incur from treating tobacco-related illnesses. Public healthcare in Nigeria has been undermined by decades of neglect and corruption and critics say the system now barely functions.

The next hearing is expected to take place in January. Four states of the federation—Lagos, Kano, Oyo, and Gombe—have also filed similar suits against the tobacco companies and three other states intend to do likewise, he said.

European Union
European Parliament really hates smoking
Brussels — The European Parliament has called for wide-ranging measures to restrict smoking in public places and make it harder for underage people to buy cigarettes, according to a Europarl report.

And it also wants to get its own house in order. Parliament has condemned the disregard shown by some of its members and staff for the restrictions on smoking in the parliament.

In a report responding to the European Commission’s green paper, ‘Towards a Europe free from tobacco smoke: policy options at EU level’, MEPs urged the Commission to designate environmental tobacco smoke a class 1 carcinogen and recommend that, within two years, member states impose smoking bans in all enclosed workplaces.

BAT wants changes smoking laws
Nairobi —British American Tobacco, is asking Nairobian civic authorities to lift a ban on public smoking to conform with a new federal law that came into force in October.

BAT says the arbitrary arrests of smokers and their confinement to “smoking zones,” has been superseded by the Tobacco Control Act, which excludes streets as public places.

“The provisions of the Act take precedence if there are any conflicts between council by-laws and those contained in the Act itself,” said convenor Patrick Lumumba during BAT’s recent social reporting seminar with external stakeholders’.

Thus, the onus of creating awareness on the correct and legal position lay squarely with the Nairobi City Council, he said. “The same people who passed the law should be able to tell them that the (Tobacco Control) Act is the only law that can regulate tobacco issues,” he said.

When contacted, NCC Town clerk, John Gakuo was categorical that its officers would carry on their mandate according to the council’s by-laws. “We will continue arresting (offending) smokers. If there are any rules superseding our by-laws then let us meet in court,” he said.

Despite the rules coming into force this month, the tobacco industry was given a 9-month transition period to adjust to it, meaning enforcement begins in July next year.

The consultations are part of BAT’s community social responsibility efforts on engaging its various stakeholders dubbed ‘East Africa Community Social Reporting Program’ on matters concerning regulations, environment, health and safety.

BAT acknowledged that its share price had declined by Sh80 from Sh250 in the past months and blamed it on investors perceptions of the effects of regulation.

Tobacco International - December, 2007

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