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Friday, December 2, 2011

Concerns over Jonathan’s failure to sign Tobacco Control Bill

•President Goodluck Jonathan and Vice-President Namadi Sambo, with winners of the Nigeria National Merit Award. With them are (from left): Prof. Andrew Jonathan, Afigo Okpewho, Chairman Governing Board Nigeria National Merit Award, Oluwafeyisola Adekoke
A 28-year old graduate of Economics from Delta State, Dickson Dudu, was rushed to the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) by some kind-hearted Nigerians after he slumped at the Ojuelegba bus stop. Dudu, an applicant, was in Lagos to attend an interview with a bank. His childhood friend disclosed that Dudu started smoking cigarette at the age of 15 when “we were in JSS 3”. He was very addicted to tobacco such that he can’t do without it unless he is asleep or in the lecture room. He has been having respiratory problems in the past three years and has been receiving treatment in the hospital.
His relations withdrew him from LUTH and took him to a private specialist hospital in Ikeja. He was examined by the doctor whose report showed that Dudu has developed lung cancer.  He died after two weeks in the hospital bed. An autopsy carried out by the hospital revealed that he died of a heart-related disease caused by his addiction to tobacco smoking.
Mr John Inyang’s case is different. He never smoked all through his 32 years on earth. But Inyang is down with lung cancer, which he got from the environment where he lives. He lives with his two brothers who smoke at least a packet of cigarettes every day. He didn’t know that their smoking habit could be more harmful to him than the smokers. Such victims like Inyang are called passive smokers.
According to medical experts, passive smokers are people living among smokers and exposed to smoke concentration in their environment. Unless Inyang gets proper treatment, he may be counted among the estimated 46,000 non-smokers who die yearly from heart disease and lung cancer.
Tosin Adeyanju, an undergraduate student, has been on hospital bed for three months for tobacco-related disease. She said cigarette smoking made her lose weight considerably. Before she was admitted in the hospital, she ate less and smoked at least 10 sticks every day. According to Tosin, she preferred smoking to eating. Lanre Onigbongi, a medical doctor at the University College Hospital, Ibadan, said this is one of the myths associated with smoking.
Onigbogi said the others include perception that smokers appear calmer, sophisticated and successful. “The success factor is a myth because very poor people constitute a high percentage of chronic smokers. The habit makes them poorer because of the money they spend on treating tobacco-related diseases”. According to him, tobacco smokers are not calm but are actually very uneasy until they take a few puffs at a cigarette. This is caused by the presence of nicotine in cigarettes.
Mrs Grace Chukwuka, 45, has been married for 15 years without a child. She had experienced miscarriages on many occasions. Her husband had taken her to many hospitals in search of solution to her problem. Reports  showed that Grace used to smoke cigarettes during pregnancy. This, according to the report, put her and the unborn baby at risk. The dangers of smoking during pregnancy, medical experts say, include premature birth, birth defects and infant deaths. Experts explained that smoking can cause problems with the placenta-the source of the baby’s food and oxygen during pregnancy. For example, the placenta can separate from the womb too early, causing bleeding, which is dangerous to the mother and baby.
Another deleterious effect of the tobacco industry in Nigeria is the issue of youth markets. Today, Nigeria is one of the largest markets for tobacco products in Africa. Statistics show that youths form over 40 per cent of the Nigerian population and 20 per cent of the youths smoke.
According to a tobacco control activist, Dr Olusegun Owotomo, statistics show that about 93 million sticks of cigarettes produced yearly in Nigeria are consumed by smokers. He said between 150,000 and 300,000 children under 18 months get respiratory infections, such as pneumonia and bronchitis from second-hand smoke.
The harmful effects of tobacco led Senator Olorunimbe Mamora and ERA/FOEN to collaborate on a law to control the tobacco industry. The law was passed six months ago by the National Assembly, but has remained unsigned since then. Analysts are of the view that Nigerians are the worse for it. Mamora and Akinbode said the president must sign  the bill or give reasons why he has not assented it.
Addressing a news conference in Lagos yesterday, Akinbode said Nigeria has failed to set a leadership role for the rest of Africa.
Will Jonathan heed the call or allow the industry operate almost unregulated? Time will tell.