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Smoking Endangers 25 Million Nigerian Children

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Over 25 million Nigerian children and adolescents are under the threat cigarette consumption, medical experts in the field said yesterday.

Consequently, the experts, comprising professors in the field, have called for a stop for cigarette advertisement, increase in the cost of cigarette and inscription of danger signs on the pack of every cigarette products.

Speaking at a press conference to mark the World No Tobacco Day, the professors, under the auspices of Paediatric Association of Nigeria (PAN) said that without concerted efforts to discourage smoking, the school population is at risk of tobacco use or smoke exposure.

The of professors are the PAN technical advisor and chief medical director, Bingham University Teaching Hospital, Prof Edwin Eseigbe; PAN past president, Prof, William Ogala; PAN president Prof, Austine Omoigberale and PAN secretary, Dr. Damian Nwaneri.

Prof. Omoigberale who underscored the dangers inherent in second-hand smoking, said everything must be done to save pregnant women and their babies from the dangerous effects of tobacco smoke.

On his part, Prof. Eseigbe, who delivered a paper at the event, said while smoking is deleterious to the health of humans, “exposure to second-hand smoke is responsible for an estimated 166, 000 child deaths each year worldwide”.

He described third-hand smoke as usually the result of chemical residue on surfaces where smoking has occurred, which can persist long after the smoke itself has been cleared from the environment.

“This type of smoke has been found out to have adverse effects on the liver and lungs. Children, especially crawling children, are particularly vulnerable to this type of smoke”.

Speaking further, Prof. Eseigbe said, “Tobacco use has serious health and social implications. Tobacco is a risk factor for the six leading causes of death. It is estimated that by 2030, about eight million persons will die per year from tobacco use.

“In Nigeria, the figure of yearly tobacco-related death is 16,100. It has been reported that 4.7 million Nigerians use tobacco products. 3.1 million smoke and 2.4 million are daily smokers. 3.6 -16.2% in-school Nigerian adolescents aged 13-15 years smoke. 20-50% of these in-school children are exposed, or are at risk of being exposed, to second hand smoke. Childhood tobacco use and exposure to smoke, in Nigeria, has grave implications.

He went on to describe the dangers posed by smoking: According him, burning tobacco produces more than 4,000 chemicals including nicotine, carbon monoxide, and tars. increases mucus production, clogging of the airways, increasing susceptibility to infections, pneumonias, development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (Chronic bronchitis and emphysema), irritation and destruction of lung tissue, exacerbation of asthmatic attacks and lung cancer.

For children, the effects include respiratory tract infections, decreased lung function, asthma attacks, ear infections, tooth decay, sudden infant death syndrome, death from respiratory infection, asthma, cognitive, behavioural issues, more likely to become smokers and many more, he said.

While they called for increased taxation on tobacco, the experts also advocated a ban on tobacco advertisements in order to discourage its usage.

Meanwhile, the permanent secretary, Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH), Mr. Abdulaziz Mashi Abdullahi, has said that over 20 billion sticks of cigarettes are consumed annually in Nigeria.

Mr. Abdullahi disclosed this during the press briefing to commemorate the 2019 World No Tobacco Day, with the theme: Tobacco and Lung Health, yesterday in Abuja.

He said, “In Nigeria, findings from the 2012 Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) show very high burden of tobacco in the country with over 20 billion sticks of cigarettes consumed annually.

“The Nigerian GATS found 4.5 million (5.6%) adults to be current users of tobacco products.  Also, the rate of exposure to second-hand smoke in public places is very high at 82% in bars and nightclubs, 36.3% in coffee shops and 29.3% in restaurants.  Most of our school children age 13 – 15 years, 15.4% are current tobacco users based on the Nigeria Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) that was conducted in 2008 at sub-national level.”

According to him, there are over 1.1 billion adult smokers worldwide and at least 367 million persons use smokeless tobacco products. Of these, 8 million die annually through the effect of tobacco of which over 6 million are by direct use and about 890,000 by exposure to second-hand smoke.

“At least 50% of lifetime tobacco smokers will die before they reach 70 years of age, and the average loss of life from smoking is a full decade of life,” he said.

Abdullahi noted that, globally, lung cancer, which is the most deadly cancer, kills 1.76 million people each year, of which approximately 37,748 of the lung cancer deaths occur in Africa.

“It is estimated that 65 million people worldwide have moderate to severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), from which about 3 million die each year. Similarly, tuberculosis afflicts 10.4 million people annually with a corresponding 1.4 million deaths,” he said,  adding that all the lung diseases and deaths mentioned are closely linked to tobacco.

“In fact, some studies have documented positive history of direct tobacco use or exposure to second-hand smoke in almost all cases of lung cancer,’’ he said.

He went on to state government effort to restrict tobacco use in the country.

“In order to forge ways to adequately control the tobacco supply chain, the  federal government ratified the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade Tobacco Products on the 8th of March 2019, making Nigeria the 51st Party to the Protocol. In line with the Articles of the Protocol, the Ministry is encouraging the Federal Ministry of Finance to fast track establishment of tobacco tracking and tracing system with the aim of curtailing tobacco consumption and enhancing internally generated revenue from tobacco products,” he added.

In her welcome address, the director of Public Health, Dr. Evelyn Ngige said, “This ye’sar World No Tobacco Day has been eventful. A couple of days ago, the Ministry convened stakeholders meeting to develop draft National Tobacco Control Communication Plan, and the National Tobacco Control Committee (NATOCC) also met to continue with its work as stipulated in the National Tobacco Control Act, 2015.

She noted that by Monday, June 3, 2019, the Ministry in collaboration with stakeholders will embark on public sensitisation campaign in Wuse General Market in FCT.

Also speaking, the president of the Paediatric Association of Nigeria (PAN) Prof, Austin Omoigberale said, “The use of tobacco is associated with grave health and socio-economic outcomes. Its use and exposure to tobacco smoke among the Nigerian school population and in Nigerian schools is gradually becoming an issue of public health concern.

“Over 25 million Nigerian children and adolescents constitute the school population and are at risk of tobacco use or smoke exposure.

“Worldwide the implementation of anti-tobacco programs in schools has yielded positive health and social outcomes. The tobacco-free Nigerian school initiative is geared towards propagating awareness against tobacco use and smoke in Nigerian school system, protecting the school population from exposure and adverse effect of tobacco smoke in the school environment, and promoting the implementation of policies and legislative acts against tobacco in the Nigerian school system,” Austin said.

He further said that through a process that propagates anti-tobacco advocacy and capacity development for advocacy among key stakeholders in the school system, Institution and support of anti-tobacco programs in schools, development and enforcement of effect policies against tobacco use and smoke exposure in the Nigerian school system, the tobacco free Nigerian school initiative hopes to create a tobacco-free school environment with a population that has capacity to decide not to use tobacco or be exposed to its smoke.

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