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Friday, August 28, 2009

Cigarettes: Ban production not smoking

-Ahmed Raji

MOST people detest smoking. Even the "Turkish" smoker knows that it is not a healthy habit. That smoking poses a grave health hazard to both the actual and passive smokers is beyond argument. And what is more, nobody has been able to identify any benefit derivable from smoking.
Even medically, some say a daily glass of beer is good for the system. They say it clears the bowel. Nothing good is attributable to smoking. I challenge anyone to come up with any benefit derivable from smoking. The entire world over, it is being recommended that all cigarette packets should carry the warning: "Smoking is dangerous to health". Of late, other measures are being rolled out to discourage smoking. Some accounts have it that the death of over 20 million people yearly is traceable to smoking. In Turkey, which is the home of smoking, smoking is about to be banned in almost every public area.
In most parts of the Western world, smoking is not allowed in "public places". Anti-smoking law is about to be rolled out in Abuja and some other parts of Nigeria. But do all these measures constitute any enough deterrence to smoking considering the gravity of damage it does to humanity? I think not. All these prohibitions have not affected the cigarette market in any major way. People still smoke their lives away. It needs not be repeated, the nexus between cigarette smoking and hard drugs like cocaine, cannabis, heroine etc.
A once and for all pragmatic solution will be to outlaw the production of the product in all forms. And that will amount to tackling the problem from root rather than attending to the effect. A grace period of not more than 12 months should be given to all producers of cigarettes to wind down while a comprehensive diversification scheme should be put in place to switch them over to other lines of business. Our pharmacologists and social scientists should be tasked on how to carry out the required therapy on chronic smokers and addicts. It will not be a misstatement to contend that the proposed diversification exercise programme will not cost the world up to five per cent of what the Iraqi war consumed.
Banning the smoking of cigarette while production of cigarette is allowed looks like "a collective mockery of our collective intelligence". The world should rise up to the challenge. Banning the production may also assist in the war against global warming. Nigeria can show example by outlawing all forms of cigarette making in Nigeria and also banning importation and smoking of same. Even the World Trade Organisation (W.T.O.) won't dare complain if we close our borders to cigarette.
And I take this opportunity to appeal to our "smoking leaders" to see this as a sacrifice for the greater good of all. It is a fact that smoking is not an easy habit to quit. But with determination, it is achievable just as this writer took his last stick in 2006.
Notwithstanding doubts as to the sustainability of some of the recent law suits in Nigeria against the major cigarette producers, we must commend the ingenuity of both the plaintiffs and their counsel. Their efforts have further confirmed the menace which production of cigarettes constitutes to our healthy living. Even non-smokers face the danger of passive smoking.
Distinguished senators and very honourable members of the house, the health of the nation is in your hands. If only you can pass a bill banning production of cigarette and allied products Nigerians and the world will forever remember you. You should resist the professional lobbyists with deep pockets who may not be bothered by the death of fellow human beings. Save life please. Initiate the bill today and pass it with the same dispatch with which the Senate passed the 2009 appropriation bill.
Smoking can be a terrible addiction. There is this good but nasty friend of mine who promised his wife that when their first child was "delivered" he would quit smoking. When reminded of his solemn promise after the arrival of the first child, my friend told the wife that he did not "deliver" a baby as a man cannot so do hence he has continued to smoke his Benson & Hedges in spite of all appeals. Despite his blood pressure problem, my friend is yet to quit up till this moment. And his health suffers! Production of cigarette must be outlawed to save the life of millions in my friend's shoes.