How Nigeria’s online stores flout country’s tobacco control law

Online retailers in Nigeria are defying the tobacco control law and continue to make brisk business selling tobacco and its products to the public through their websites.

Checks by PREMIUM TIMES showed that these online retailers not only market products like cigarettes and shisha, they do not have mechanisms to ensure prospective buyers are aged 18 and above, a flagrant violation of the National Tobacco Control Act.

The NTCA 2015 in Section 15(4) stipulates that ‘A person shall not sell or offer to sell or distribute tobacco or tobacco products through mail, internet or other online devices”.

In Section 15(2), it states that ‘Prior to any tobacco or tobacco product sale or trade, the seller or trader shall verify the age of the purchaser by checking any form of official identification prescribed by law’.

The law defines tobacco products as ‘products entirely or partly made of the leaf tobacco as raw material which are manufactured to be used for smoking, sucking, chewing or snuffing’.

Tobacco For All

Nigeria’s tobacco control legislation came into existence in 2015, signed into law by former president Goodluck Jonathan after years of delays.

But its implementation has been stalled due to a controversial clause in the law which requires parliamentary approval of regulations – which cover about 70 per cent of implementation needs of the Act – before enforcement.

To mark the 2017 World No Tobacco Day, Isaac Adewole, the health minister, outlined nine key provisions of the NTCA, which do not need the regulations, for implementation.

The provisions included the prohibition of the sale of tobacco products to and by anyone below age 18 as well as a ban of sale or offer for sale or distribution of tobacco or tobacco products through mail, internet, or other online devices.

But Nigerian online retailers have ignored the legislation, blatantly advertising for sale on their websites, packs of cigarettes and other by-products of tobacco.

On Konga, for instance, some of the tobacco products on sale include United Arab Emirates-made Al Fakher Shisha Tobacco, described as among the oldest and most famous brands of shisha tobacco in the world. Part of the product description read: “Al Fakher is made from only the best parts of the tobacco leaf and the finest European flavours”.

Other products on the website include the Complete Maryjane Shisha Flavor Hookah Pot and liquid tobacco such as Ice Tobacco described as a mixture of American tobacco and fruits, caramel, and mint.

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By Ben Ezeamalu