Background: Nigeria plays important economic and political roles in Africa and is a significant market for the tobacco industry. This study describes the tobacco industry's efforts to block Nigeria's early tobacco control attempts, especially the Tobacco Smoking (Control) Decree 20 of 1990, and efforts to strengthen the Decree in 1995.
Method: Analysis of documents from the Truth Tobacco Documents Library and other Internet resources related to Nigeria's Decree 20 and earlier tobacco control efforts.
Results: The World Conferences on Smoking and Health and World Health Organization in the late 1970s spurred the Nigerian government to take steps towards tobacco regulation. In response, the tobacco industry lobbied government ministries, used front groups and its trade group, the Tobacco Advisory Council of Nigeria, to block and weaken government efforts. The industry obtained a draft of Decree 20 two years before it was enacted, considered the Decree anti-business and proposed language that led to the passage of a weaker Decree in 1990. It also attempted to influence a potential review of the Decree in 1995.
Conclusion: Decree 20 was a strong law for its time, but was weakened due to tobacco industry interference. Nigeria ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2005, and enacted a comprehensive National Tobacco Control Act (NTCA) in May 2015. Lessons learned from Decree 20's experience should be applied to protect NTCA 2015, and in compliance with WHO FCTC Article 5.3 which require parties to protect tobacco control policies from tobacco industry interference.
Implications: This is the first detailed account of tobacco industry interference with tobacco legislation in Africa. The emergence of tobacco control in Nigeria threatened the tobacco industry, which believed that success in Nigeria would have a "domino effect" in Africa. The industry used lobbying and front groups to successfully block and weaken Nigeria's tobacco control, especially the Tobacco Smoking (Control) Decree 20 of 1990 and efforts to strengthen it in 1995. Nigeria and other African countries must learn from this history to protect tobacco control policies from the tobacco industry's vested interests and vigorously implement Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC.