BY DOYIN OJOSIPE
As Nigeria joins the world to mark the 2017 World No Tobacco Day, DOYIN OJOSIPE takes a look at local and global efforts to root out smoking.
In the 90s, the advertisements of the different tobacco companies were so exciting, and appealing to the heart that even as a kid one would want to try lighting a stick of cigarette. From the Benson and Hedges to St. Moritz to Rothmans King size and oh! that jingle that senerades with ‘Sun’s gonna shine on everything you do,’ was so convincing that one would imagine that cigarette was one of the best things there is.
The adverts mainly targeted youths and lovers of tobacco, and really they had impacts as they aroused the curiosity to find out if coffin nails as cigarettes are characterised are as cool as the messages potray them.
In fact, a 2001 report by tobaccofreedom.org revealed that out of nine million Nigerians who engaged in smoking of tobacco then, 3.5 million smoked 20 sticks of cigarettes daily, adding that “Nigerians smoke close to seven million sticks of cigarettes daily. This adds up to 49 million sticks a week, or 196 million sticks a month, according to a former health Minister, Professor Olikoye Ransome-Kuti.
However, the big muscular voice at the end of each advert will never be forgotten as the need to control tobacco smoking became obvious.
“The Federal Ministry of Health warns that smokers are liable to die young,” tobacco smoking is dangerous to health,” were warning messages from the worried federal government.
Few days ago, the “2017 World No Tobacco Day” was celebrated. It has been a celebration that has spanned the past 29 years since it was passed as a resolution in 1988.
The health implications posed by continuous smoking of tobacco was one of the major reasons for the resolution at the World Health Assembly.
Despite interventions by the government to help preserve the future of its citizens, smokers have continued to smoke away their lives, ignoring warnings on the dangers it poses to their well-being.
“In Nigeria, though prevalence data differ depending on the source and year, it is generally agreed that smoking prevalence is gradually approaching 20 per cent of the population. This is a huge 32 million persons,” says a Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Center (CISLAC) report.
CISLAC also noted that while Nigeria has become the biggest target for the tobacco industry due to its size of market, the impact of smoking on public health is grim.
While the health indices of Nigeria have continued to be on the negative, many deaths have clearly been linked to smoking of tobacco.
Worrisome is the fact that the primary smokers are not only affected but secondary smokers are not left out of the health hazards incurred.
It was against this backdrop that the Federal Government said it would begin the implementation of various prohibition laws guiding the use of tobacco in the country before the end of 2017.
Speaking at the event to mark the “World No Tobacco Day”, the minister of Health, Prof Isaac Adewole said, tobacco was the only approved drug that kills its users even when used as intended by its manufacturers.
Adewole also noted that the continuous use of tobacco without regulation has affected the country’s economy through increased health care cost and decreased productivity, adding that it has also led to household poverty as smokers will rather spend on tobacco than other matters that would help their lives progress.
The minister also disclosed that the government would also explore the angle of increasing taxes and levies on tobacco use so as to reduce its consumption and also generate income to finance developmental health programmes.
Part of the regulation laws as disclosed by the health Minister is “Prohibition of sale of tobacco products to and by anyone below 18; ban of sale of cigarettes in single sticks, meaning cigarettes would have to be sold in packs of 20 sticks only.
Smokeless tobacco shall also be sold in a minimum of a pack of 30 grams; ban of sale or offer for sale or distribution of tobacco or tobacco products through mail, internet or online platforms; prohibition of interference of tobacco industry in public health and related issues.
Adewole further said that smoking anywhere on the premises of a child care facility; educational facility; and health care facility will prohibited, including smoking in places like playgrounds, amusement parks, plazas, public parks, stadium, public transports, restaurants, bars, or other public spaces adding that there will be prosecution of owner or manager of any of the places listed above, who permits and or encourages or fails to stop smoking in the in such places.
“There is also prohibition of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship of any kind and there must be compliance with specified standard for content as set out by Standards Organisation of Nigeria,” he added.
The World Health Organisation Representative, Mr Wondi Alemu citing a report from Global Adult Tobacco Survey conducted in 2013 said while about 4.5 million Nigerian adults engage in tobacco smoking, it has been established that tobacco use is one of the leading factors for non-communicable disease in the country.