NGOs ask NBC to regulate smoking on Big Brother Naija 7

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BBNaija Season 7 begins July 23, winner to get N100m

By Deji Abdulwahab

Some Non-Governmental Organisations have called on the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to regulate the upcoming Big Brother Naija (BBN) Season Seven, a popular reality television programme, to become smoke free.

The Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance (NTCA) and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids gave the advice on Wednesday at a news conference in Abuja.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Big Brother Naija is a popular reality TV show, hosted on the GOTV and DSTV channels.

The Programme Officer of NTCA, Mr Chibuike Nwokorie, recalled that in 2021, the sixth edition of BBN programme sparked public outrage when its participants flagrantly smoked on live television.

Nwokorie said that this violated the provisions of the National Tobacco Control (NTC) Act, 2015 on on-screen smoking.

He added that it also threatened the gains made on the ban on Tobacco Advertising, Promotion and Sponsorship (TAPS) in the country.

The programme officer said when it happened, the tobacco control community called on the NBC to act immediately.

“This year, as the programme is about to begin its seventh season, we are drawing the attention of the NBC to proactively engage the organisers of the show to ensure that there is no repeat of last year’s violations.

“We wish to make it clear that should there be reluctance on the part of the regulators or the organisers to ensure a smoke free programme, we will explore every available option in the interest of public health,’’ he said.

According to him, entertainment products set the agenda for many young people because they are the eyes through which they see the world.

“We also call on the Broadcasting Organization of Nigeria (BON) to caution its members from flouting tobacco control laws and ensure that they abide by the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria including the NTC Act.

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“We sound a note of caution to the organisers of BBN and a reminder of their responsibility towards the Nigerian population – At this time when Nigerians are hungry for quality leadership.’’

Nwokorie said that a programme with such national reach must be used to portray high standing role models for the Nigerian people.

“At this critical time of our nationhood journey, we cannot afford to have entertainment for mere entertainment sake, and young and impressionable Nigerians must not be manipulated into thinking that smoking is good.

“The National Film and Video Sensors Board (NFVCB) must live up to its responsibility of ensuring that all videos made and consumed in Nigeria strictly abide by the provisions of the NTC Act.

“This applies to the regulation of on-screen smoking and must see to the inclusion of text warnings or outright removal of needless on-screen smoking depictions,’’ Nwokorie said.

Mr Michael Olaniyan, the Technical Resource Officer, West Africa Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, urged the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) to monitor and sanction violators of the TAPS ban in the digital space.

Olaniyan urged government’s agencies to enforce the NTC Act and its Regulations to work together and ensure that the ban on direct and indirect TAPS is comprehensively implemented in the country.

According to him, these should be done in line with Article 13 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

He said that NBC should exercise its mandate to ensure that BBN does not flout any provision of the NTC Act and enforce the law particularly penalties as listed in the law.

Olaniyan said the penalties ranged from N500,000 to N5 million option of fine and from six months to five years imprisonment depending on the gravities of the violations.

The seventh edition of the Big Brother Naija is set to hit the screen from July 23.

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