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Monday, November 22, 2010

Reducing tobacco-related deaths in Africa

-Alexander Chiejina

As stakeholders advocate passage of Nigeria Tobacco Control Bill

African nations seem poised to undergo the highest increase in the rate of tobacco use among developing countries. This is as about 90 percent of people on the continent, perhaps, remain without meaningful protection from second-hand smoke.
Earlier this year, it was estimated that smoking will claim the lives of six million people globally in 2010, 72 percent of whom reside in low and middle-income countries, Nigeria inclusive. However, it is believed that if current trends continue, tobacco may kill seven million people annually by 2020 and more than eight million people annually by 2030.
Following health risks associated with tobacco consumption, which according to health experts is the second leading cause of death (after hypertension) and currently responsible for the death of one in 10 adults globally, experts are of the view that enacting effective policies towards reducing tobacco consumption in Nigeria will go a long way in saving the lives of people.
In an interview with BusinessDay, Akinbode Oluwafemi, programme manager, Environmental Rights in Nigeria/ Friends of the Earth, said cigarette contains about 4000 toxic and cancer-causing chemicals which are responsible for most cases of lung cancer.
While acknowledging the fact that smoking causes various forms of cancer, Akinbode noted that measures aimed at reducing smoking in Europe and America has driven the tobacco industry to developing countries like Nigeria, where the industry continues to flout regulations, marketing to young and impressionable youths, and ity, there is the need for Nigeria to key into WHO”s FCTC which seeks to protect people from the consequences of tobacco consumption by reducing the demand for and supply of tobacco, call for stronger tax and price measures, regulation of tobacco advertisements and the introduction of strong health messages on tobacco packages, adopting protective measures against exposure to tobacco smoke, the lives of Nigerians would greatly be protected.
It is noteworthy to state that in about less than two years, Kenya and Niger Republic enacted national smoke-free policies, and South Africa, which has been smoke-free since 2007, demonstrated that smoke-free laws could work in Africa. In what seemed as a first for the region, Mauritius recently passed a law that hooking them on smoking.
“Several African countries are fighting against the tobacco industry‘s aggressive campaigns to stop public health interventions by putting smoke-free laws into place, probably protecting more than 100 million more people since 2007. Smoke-free public places are one example of a low-cost and extremely effective intervention that must be implemented now to protect health,” he observed.
For Tosin Orogun, programme manager, Africa Tobacco Control Regional Initiative, Nigeria, “the World Health Organisation insists that strong worldwide enforcement and implementation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) could save 200 million lives by the year 2050.”
Orogun stated that though Nigeria signed the FCTC, which had been ratified by over 168 countries since 2005, there have been deaths relating to tobacco, especially cancer.
As parties to the global tobacco treaty begin their biennial meeting in Uruguay, the African Tobacco Control Consortium (ATCC), a coalition of global and African public health organisations focused on preventing the tobacco epidemic in Africa, there is the need to ensure that adoption of effective guidelines on Article 9 & 10 of WHO’s FCTC which seeks to promote smoke- free environment which tobacco multinationals’ are alleging to scuttle.
At the moment, only Osun, Cross River States and the Federal Capital Territory have passed the law prohibiting people from smoking tobacco in the public in Nigeria. Giving this realCancer
and challenge of management in Nigeriais close to meeting the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control standards, ranking among the most robust anti-smoking measures in the world.
The National Tobacco Control Bill (NTCB), which seeks to prohibit tobacco smoking in places and is now before the National Assembly, saw over 45 non-governmental organisations (NGOs), including local and international organisations, making presentations in support of the bill.
Since the Public Hearing in July 2009, Nigerians and other stakeholders in public health including Babatunde Osotimehin, former health minister; Umar Modibbo, former FCT minister, Nigerians are expecting Senator Iyabo-Obasanjo Bello, chairman, Committee on Health at the National Assembly to return the bill to plenary for adoption. But for how long will the hope of 150 million people be eventually realised?
Stakeholders are of the view that when the bill is passed and enforced, two outcomes are possible: The level of national savings will increase and other forms of consumption expenditure will be substituted for tobacco expenditure.
Studies in several countries have examined the potential economic impact of the complete elimination of tobacco use and production. The evidence shows that elimination of tobacco will not affect the economy. This is because tobacco use has many externalised costs (costs not paid for by smokers or tobacco manufacturers). This involves healthcare costs incurred by governments to take care of smoking -related diseases.
When people no longer spend their money on tobacco, they will spend their money on other things. This alternative spending will stimulate other sectors of the economy. If the money is saved rather than spent, the increased savings are likely to have stimulatory macroeconomic effects.