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RDI boss, Jakpor, health experts decry dearth of national tobacco data

Philip Jakpor | File Image

Cigarettes. | File Image

‘We must not forget that policymakers rely on what they read or hear or watch to make laws that are rooted in facts’

By Valentine Amanze

The Executive Director, Renevlyn Development Initiative (RDI), Mr. Philip Jakpor, and other environment and health experts have decried the dearth of national tobacco data that could aid journalists’ effort in the fight against tobacco-related deaths in Nigeria.

 They argued that data-driven tobacco stories would further expose sharp practices and make development in the tobacco industry more relatable for everyday people.

They raised the alarm at a Tobacco and Data Journalism Training organised by Renevlyn Development Initiative (RDI), in Lagos on Monday.

Jakpor, in his remarks, lamented that journalists reporting on tobacco were often challenged by inadequate national tobacco data, while explaining the reason for training the journalists.

His words: “The Tobacco and Data Journalism Training is premised on the need for more robust and educative reports on tobacco control in the media. For too long reports on this subject in the indigenous media have been limited to statistics about tobacco-induced deaths from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and scanty national data.

 “There are also other interlinking issues from which we can also obtain data that are unfortunately mostly unreported or under-reported.

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“We must not forget that policymakers rely on what they read or hear or watch to make laws that are rooted in facts.

“The task of ensuring the right information gets to them is shouldered by the media.”

Jakpor, a leading tobacco control advocate and environmentalist, said that as the promotional and marketing tactics of the tobacco industry continue to spread through social media and influencers, journalists need to rely more on credible data to enrich their reports in a bid to stop tobacco messaging that contravenes Nigeria’s tobacco regulations.

Also, Ms. Vanessa Adie Offiong, a media strategist, in her contribution, tasked journalists on the need to deploy more data and visualisation in their work to make tobacco stories relevant and engaging to the audience.

Urging journalists to open new frontiers in tobacco reporting, Offiong listed areas where there are scanty tobacco data to include the number of tobacco workers contacting diseases while working on tobacco fields; effect of tobacco on pregnant women and newborns; water and soil contamination due to tobacco; illicit tobacco trade; smoking in public places and second-hand smoking in contravention of NTC Act 2015.

She insisted that more attention should be paid to the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) and the issues arising from its efforts to regulate tobacco consumption in the country.

But, for Austine Iraoya, a Research Analyst, International Food Policy Research Institute, more research is needed to evaluate the corresponding impact of tobacco taxation over the years on the use of tobacco in Nigeria to track consumers’ behavior.

He said the measure would also help to explore the influence of tobacco companies on tax policies.

The highlight of the training includes the unveiling of the Tobacco Control Data Initiative (TCDI) by Ms. Seember Ali of Development Gateway.

The TCDI, which was implemented in partnership with the University of Cape Town’s Research Unit on the Economics of Excisable Products and funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, “aims to supply governments, civil society, and academia with improved access to country-specific data that will inform better tobacco control policy design and implementation.”

Ali explained that the TCDI was a one-stop dashboard that warehouses real-time tobacco control data in the country to synthesize findings and plug key data gaps in tobacco control, as well as visualize specific tobacco content in a more engaging way.

The project, which started in Nigeria in 2019, is also being implemented in Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, and Zambia in a bid to integrate both primary and secondary research to present comprehensive and credible data on tobacco use in Africa.

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