The tobacco industry in Nigeria is allegedly exploiting social networking platforms to promote and market its products in contravention of provisions of the National Tobacco Control Act 2015 and its regulations, a new report has revealed.
The report launched Monday in Abuja, by the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) also revealed how the tobacco industry captured the virtual space in Nigeria to market its products.
The Executive Director of CAPPA, Mr. Akinbode Oluwafemi during the public presentation of the report decried how the tobacco industry was making use of social media platforms to aggressively promote sales of tobacco products and a smoking culture.
He said the research was supported by a grant from the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) on behalf of STOP, a global tobacco industry watchdog, researched popular social networking platforms between 2016 and 2021 and flagged 226 activities involving tobacco companies and their allies in Nigeria.
The report documented how tobacco companies while embarking on their corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities deploy different strategies to gain the affection of policymakers, reflect partnerships and collaboration with state institutions and organisations that ultimately help them build good public ratings.
The report further exposed growing cases of tobacco industry vendors such as Smoke Box Ng and Da Smoke Hub, allegedly flouting the ban on advertising, promotion, and sponsorships by using their social media platforms to flagrantly market tobacco products.
The report added: “As the title suggests, the report documents how the tobacco industry in Nigeria craftily uses social networking sites to burnish their image and foster partnerships with state actors and institutions in contravention of provisions of the National Tobacco Control Act 2015 and its Regulations.
“The report examined Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedln, and a host of other social networking platforms used by over 100 million Nigerians for the period between 2016 and 2021 and found that British American Tobacco Nigeria (BATN), through its charity arm, British American Tobacco Nigeria Foundation (BATNF), Philip Morris International Nigeria Limited (PMINL) and others operate unchecked in the virtual space and use it to gain favourable public rating while mentioning nothing about the harms of their products.
“CAPPA found that tobacco vendors and distributors such as Smokehubng and Dasmokehub, use their social media platforms to aggressively promote sales of tobacco products and a smoking culture which relies largely on promoting content showing Nigerian music icons smoking profusely.”
The report noted that the documented visibility activities of the tobacco industry were mostly in the agriculture, education and entertainment sectors of the Nigerian economy which is subtly targeted at fostering engagement and collaboration with stakeholders in the sectors.
Some key findings of the report also revealed that the tobacco industry most preferred and exploited digital and internet channels were: Facebook which was estimated at 40 per cent; Twitter – 36 per cent and Youtube – 14 per cent in the period under review; Instagram – five per cent; Blog/Website – three per cent, and Linkedin – two per cent.
The report therefore blamed existing gaps in the National Tobacco Control Act 2015 and the National Tobacco Control Regulations 2019, as it pertains to enforcing the ban and endorsement of tobacco industry CSR activities by state actors and institutions for the manipulation of the space by the tobacco industry.
It recommended that the federal government should enforce penalties for Tobacco Advertising Promotion and Sponsorship (TAPS) and tobacco control violations in compliance and accordance with national tobacco control and policy.
It also urged the government to revoke all Ministries, Departments and Agencies’ (MDAs’) collaboration with the tobacco industry and their front groups.