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Anti public smoking law: Cigarette sellers cry out

The Lagos State House of Assembly recently passed a bill seeking to make smoking in public places illegal in the state, with first offenders having options of paying a fine of N10,000, three months in jail or both. The bill which is awaiting the approval of Gov. Fashola, in order for it to be signed into law, prohibits residents from smoking in places such as libraries, museum, public toilets, schools, hospital, day-care centres, public transportation, restaurants among others.
However, the bill has led to many controversies as there are many sides to this coin. A visit to a cigarette seller and local gin concoction seller popularly known as paraga reveals that the bill will have an adverse effect on her family.
Iya Alaje as she is fondly called and a single mother of three, narrates her ordeal and fear if the law is not reversed. “I have been in this business for over fifteen years now. It is the money I make from this paraga business that I use to fend for my three children since their father ran away to marry another woman. Since Tuesday, I observed that many of my customers have deserted my shop. So, I decided to ask what the problem was only to discover that it was Fashola that was behind my problem”.
Iya Alaje further disclosed that she even pleaded with them to take paraga in her shop and find a hidden place to take the cigarette but many of them refused.
But Madam Chika, who operates a bar around Isolo was different in her approach to the bill. She expressed her support for the law, adding that it would not affect her sales in any form. “I know many people in this business will be mad with the government for a law like this but we should not be self centered because the law is for the safety of all citizens. In my case, I knew this would come, so, I was not caught unaware. There is a section of my bar meant for smokers only and smoking has been restricted to that section only.”
The middle aged woman said Lagos state will not be the first to make such a law and even applauds the Lagos state government for this. “I support this law because I know the havoc it does to the human body and we must commend the Lagos state government for taking such a good step. Smoking is even more harmful to non-smokers than the smokers.”
On the right of smokers, she maintained: “Yes, smokers have the right to smoke, but it’s not reasonable if that right is harmful to others. Obviously, if people smoke in public places, non-smokers have no choice but to become second hand smokers. Also, smoking is a cause of pollution. A lot of researches have shown that many kinds of gases that are released by smoking are harmful to the environment, such as tar and carbon dioxide. Everyone knows that our environment is getting worse. And smokers who want to smoke freely have other means to receive nicotine such as nicotine gum and nicotine patches. Smokers can use these products instead of smoking in public places and constituting nuisance in Lagos state.
Though the bill is yet to be signed, it is already generating mixed reactions from members of the public. Retailers of various brands of cigarettes and areas however, opined that there has been a slight drop in sales cigarette over the last couple of weeks. The drop is however attributed to the yet-to-signed law in most part of the states.
In Ojuelegba, Mallam Audu a popular cigarette seller said the  ban has led to a drastic reduction in sales, arguing that people immediately reacted to passage of the bill. “The ban on public smoking has led to a drop in our sales. Before now, we usually sell at least 15 packets of cigarettes a day, but now it has reduced to less than five packets”.
The bill also stated that the penalties for smoking in a “no-smoking area” will be N10,000 fine or  imprisonment for a term not  less than one month and not exceeding three months or both.
According to the bill, any person who repeatedly violates the provisions shall on conviction be liable to a fine of N50,000 or six months imprisonment or both.
The bill also states the penalty for non-compliance by owner/occupier of a “no-smoking area.” The offenders shall attract N100,000 or six months imprisonment, or other non custodial punishments that the judge may deem fit.
The bill also seeks to punish anyone who smokes in front of a child with a fine of N15,000 or six months imprisonment. The bill also directs corporate organizations to place the ‘No Smoking’ sign in their premises. Companies who default would pay a fine of N250,000. The bill when signed into law would be supervised by the Lagos Environmental Protection Agency.
This new development has made most sellers quit the cigarettes business entirely in order to avoid the wrath of the law when it eventually takes effect. Akpan, another cigarettes seller in the area said he would rather avoid trouble by stopping the sale of cigarettes. “I have stopped selling cigarettes entirely. I don’t want to get into police trouble when the law eventually takes effect. Moreover, the profit we make on a packet is just N10”.
Others who spoke to Saturday Vanguard revealed that they are unaware of the  ban, as they still record high sales and their businesses have continued to thrive as usual. Some smokers also disclosed that they are unaware of it.
“My customers are still coming to smoke here. I have not even heard of the law before. Let government allow us to do our business peacefully. Their laws are just too much”, Lovelyn , a bar owner said.
Also reacting, Madam Rukayat, who sells gin and tobacco at a local park in Lagos said, “We have heard about the new law that will soon take effect, but our customers still come to buy cigarettes. We are still doing our business as usual”.
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Hey, I'am Babanature. A webdesigner, blogspot developer, UI/UX Designer and entertainment personality. I'am also a business speaker, marketer, Blogger and Javascript Programmer.

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