The recent signing into law of the Lagos State public place smoking bill by the Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola has drawn commendation from the British American Tobacco Nigeria.
The BATN is known to have opposed strict regulation of tobacco business and smoking culture in Nigeria for decades.
However, the tobacco multinational through its Director of Corporate and Regulatory Affairs in West Africa, Mr. Freddy Messanvi, said that the Lagos State government has shown a good example of how to create a balanced and effective law.
According to Messanvi, the process leading to the signing of the bill into law was a transparent one that gave consideration to all relevant views.
He reiterated earlier position of the company on the new law saying "the bill itself was neither excessive nor discriminatory."
Messanvi said he hoped that there will be adequate sensitisation of all Lagosians especially those who trade in tobacco or who will enforce the laws. "For laws to be effective, it must be enforced in a just manner as this is the only way it can achieve its intent," he explained.
The Public Place Smoking Law which was passed by the Lagos State House Assembly in January was assented to by the Lagos State governor on Monday. .
The law prohibits residents of the state from smoking in public places such as libraries, museum, public toilets, schools, hospital, day-care centres, public transportation and restaurants among others.
Section 12 of the 16-section law also instructs owners of public places to place signs with the inscription; 'No Smoking' or symbols as part of enlightenment for smokers and would-be violators of the law.
Section 4 of the law says that it shall be the duty of those who own or occupy public places to ensure that approved signs are displayed conspicuously at each entrance and in prominent locations throughout the premises to inform smokers about the prohibition.
In such public places, the owners are mandated by the law to create areas where people could smoke but that it should not be close to the vicinity.
Any person who repeatedly violates the provisions of the law shall on conviction be liable to a fine of N50,000 or six months imprisonment or both.
For non-compliance by owners of public places, the law states that such offenders shall be fined N100,000 or six months imprisonment or other non custodial punishment that the judge may deem fit.
The law further states that any person who smokes in the presence of a child commits an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine of N15,000 or one month imprisonment term.
Where the offence of refusal to place the sign or symbol is committed by a corporate body, the director, manager, company secretary or any person concerned in the management of the affairs of the corporate body would be liable. In this case, he would be fined the sum of N250,000 upon conviction.
The law states that it is an offence to obstruct duly authorised officers from carrying out their duties under the provision of this law. It also gives authorised commissioners of the state the opportunity to designate more places as non-smoking areas for the sake of effective implementation of the law.
The law gives the state Environmental Protection Agency the powers to implement it while giving aggrieved residents who have complaints against officials of the state saddled with implementing it the opportunity to report to the state Ministry of the Environment.