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Friday, December 18, 2009

Revolutionary case against tobacco use in Nigeria

-Alexander Chiejina

…Tobacco control bill yet to be passed by National Assembly Without a doubt, the health, economic, social, and environmental consequences of tobacco use in Nigeria and the continent are enormous.
Little wonder the World Health Organisation (WHO) recently revealed that African countries are experiencing a 4.3 percent annual increase in the rate of tobacco consumption. This has resulted in an upsurge of lung cancer and related cases which are now prevalent in the society.
It was against this background that experts, at a recent training for health reporters on cancer reporting organised by Journalists Advocacy on Tobacco and Health held recently at Ogba, Lagos urged that the trend should be checked.
Speaking at the event, Akinbode Oluwafemi, programme manager, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth (FoEN), noted that tobacco smoking is responsible for more than 85 percent of lung cancers. This, he explained, is because smoking-related cancer accounts for 30 percent of cancer-related deaths, adding that renowned journalists in the country like Steve Kadiri, Yinka Craig, Momoh Kubanji, Tina Onwudinwe and Beko Ransome Kuti lost their lives due to the health hazards associated with the consumption of cigarettes.
“Research findings have it that there are about 599 approved additives in a stick of cigarette. However, cigarette smoke has been proven to contain over 4000 toxic and cancer causing chemicals; carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, hydrogen cyanide, ammonia, to name but a few,” Oluwafemi disclosed. According to him, cigarette advertising, promotion and sponsorship such as ‘Welcome to London, cool feeling’ have made cigarette smoking appealing to a lot of youths, without some of these tobacco companies apprising the public of dangers associated with smoking.
Lending his view, Tosin Orogun, programme manager, Communications and IT, Africa Tobacco Control Regional Initiative (ATCRI), declared that the rise in cigarette smoking in the society is traceable to tobacco companies which increasingly target the developing world as barriers rise and smoking rates fall in more mature markets. “What we (ATCRI) have been trying to do is to facilitate the adoption, implementation and enforcement of effective in-country tobacco control policies, legislation and programs in Nigeria and across the continent,”
Orogun revealed. Already, a 2009 report on the implementation of smoke-free environments aimed at combating Global Tobacco Epidemic shows that five more countries (Djibouti, Egypt, Islamic Republic of Iran, Malaysia and Mauritius) meet the best practices for health warnings on cigarette packages. Three other countries (Israel, Romania and the United Arab Emirates), meanwhile, offer comprehensive help in the drive to eradicate tobacco consumption. In the same vein, only Panama has joined the small group of countries that ban all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, even as more than 90 percent of people lack protection from tobacco industry marketing. Six more countries (Czech Republic, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, the Netherlands and Seychelles) have levied tobacco taxes higher than 75 percent of retail price.
Lastly, of the world’s 100 most populous cities, 22 are smoke-free. Sadly, though, reports from the recently concluded media summit hosted by the American Cancer Society ahead of the AORTIC cancer in Africa, stated that 55 percent of school students are not aware that secondhand smoke is harmful to health, and only 1 percent of Nigeria’s population are protected by strong smoke-free laws. This lays bare the fact that if nothing is done to hastily check public smoking in the country, the rising figures of cancer and other non-communicable diseases may remain.
The bill to ban cigarette smoking in public places which had its public hearing before the National Assembly 19 July this year should quickly be passed into law. A part of the bill which seeks to protect people from secondhand smoke, raise taxes on tobacco, enforce a level of ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship would in the long run, save Nigerians from self- inducing cancer types.