Recently on May 31, the international community celebrated the World No Tobacco Day (WNTD). It is a day set aside to remind every one of the dangers of tobacco and also to encourage them to, as much as possible, do away with smoking considered a health hazard. The promoters of the day intend it as a drive towards total abstinence from all forms of tobacco consumption around the globe.
Also, the activities of the day serves to put in the public sphere the inherent danger in getting involved with the habit of tobacco consumption. Health authorities, in particular, are worried about the widespread prevalence of tobacco use and the challenges it poses to consumer’s health. Official records indicate that currently tobacco consumption is the major cause of over six million deaths each year worldwide, 600,000 of which are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.
WNTD is the creation of member states of the World Health Organisation (WHO) out of a felt concern about the negative effects of the product. They met in 1987 and decided to initiate the day.To demonstrate its importance and the seriousness of the matter, they thought it appropriate to make it an annual event. In the past 29 years, the day has been met with both enthusiasm and resistance around the globe from governments, public health organisations, smokers, growers, and the tobacco industry.
Since that year and after, WHO and partners mark World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) to highlight the health and additional risks associated with tobacco use, and advocating for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption. The theme for this year’s event is “Tobacco – a threat to development.”
Specifically, this year’s campaign is designed to demonstrate the threats that the tobacco industry poses to the sustainable development of all countries, including the health and economic well-being of their citizens. Invariably, measures will be proposed and presented to governments and the public suggesting ways to go in the promotion of health and development in the efforts to confront the global tobacco crisis.
WNTD campaign this year highlights the links between the use of tobacco products, tobacco control and sustainable development while at the same time urging countries to include tobacco control in their national responses to 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.
The WHO uses the opportunity provided by the occasion to support member states and civil society in their drive to combat tobacco industry interference in political processes as a way of ensuring stronger national tobacco control action.
Without doubt, the issue is urgent enough to encourage a broader public and partner participation in national, regional and global efforts to develop and implement development strategies as well as plans to achieve goals that prioritise action on tobacco control.
WHO is, therefore, calling on countries to prioritise and accelerate tobacco control efforts as part of their responses to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
It is a general assumption that all countries stand to benefit from successfully controlling what is also considered the tobacco epidemic. This can be achieved if they make a policy to protect their citizens from the harms of tobacco use and reducing its economic toll on national economies. And to emphasise the need for the campaign, tobacco control has been enshrined in the Sustainable Development Agenda because it is seen as one of the most effective means to help achieve SDG target 3.4 of a one-third reduction globally, by 2030, of premature deaths from non- communicable diseases (NCDs), including cardiovascular disease, cancers and chronic obstructed pulmonary disease. Strengthening implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco in all countries is an additional target to be met by governments developing national sustainable development responses.
The world body is certain that in addition to saving lives and reducing health inequalities, comprehensive tobacco control contains the adverse environmental impact of tobacco growing, manufacturing, trade and consumption. It also believes that tobacco control can break the cycle of poverty, contribute to ending hunger, promote sustainable agriculture and economic growth, and combat climate change.
In Nigeria, the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria is worried that the passage of the Tobacco Bill is becoming unnecessarily delayed.
Ironically, in our opinion, tobacco industry worldwide, is attracting investments in billions of dollars, creating jobs, providing revenue for government through taxation and contributing to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This is part of the dilemma involved in the all-out move to shut down the industry.