By Hassan Zaggi
No matter how you smoke it, either in style- using your last two fingers, or smoking through one side of your mouth in a sophisticated style, tobacco smoking is dangerous to one’s health.
Definitely, there are no safe substances in any tobacco product anywhere in the world. From acetone and tar to nicotine and carbon monoxide, the substances one inhales affect both his lungs and the entire body.
Smoking, according to medical experts, can lead to a variety of ongoing complications in the body, as well as long-term effects on the body systems. While smoking can increase risk of a variety of problems over several years, some of the effects are immediate.
Experts further revealed that smoking is the most common preventable cause of deaths around the world and that while the effects of smoking may not be immediate, the complications and damage can last for years.
Smokers, experts further said, are more likely than nonsmokers to develop heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer.
Smoking, experts further revealed, can cause cancer almost anywhere in the body including bladder, blood, cervix, colon and rectum, esophagus, kidney and urethra.
Findings also revealed that smoking can also affect men’s sperm, which, at the long run, can reduce fertility and also increase risks for birth defects and miscarriage.
On the other hand, women who are beyond child-bearing age who smoke have weaker bones than women who never smoked. They are also at greater risk for broken bones. Smoking can increase one’s risk for cataracts. It can also cause age-related macular degeneration.
According to the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, globally, there are more than 1 billion smokers, and more than 7 million people are killed by tobacco annually. Of this, more than 6 million die from direct tobacco use, and close to 900,000 from exposure to second-hand smoke.
The most worrisome dimension is that Nigeria and other low and middle income countries bear nearly 80% of the global burden.
Data from the 2014 World Health Organisation (WHO) – NCD Global Status Report showed that heart related diseases including cancers, diabetes and chronic respiratory disease killed 38 million (68%) persons out of the 56 million global deaths recorded in 2012, and more than 40% of these deaths occurred before the age of 70 years.
It is generally agreed that tobacco will kill more than 50% of its users when used exactly as recommended by its manufacturers.
Speaking at a media briefing to commemorate the 2018 World No Tobacco day, in Abuja, Adewole disclosed that over 20 billion sticks of cigarettes are consumed annually and that 4.5 million adults, representing 5.6 per cent currently used tobacco in Nigeria.
According to him, about 82% of the entire population are exposed to second-hand smoke when visiting bars/nightclubs and 6.4 million when visiting restaurants representing 29.3% ( according to data from the Nigeria Global Adult Tobacco Survey which was carried out in2012).
Recent studies, he said, among University of Abuja undergraduates reveal that 33.3% of the students are current smokers.
“Let me draw attention to the fact that tobacco use is responsible for huge economic losses emanating from both direct and indirect medical costs. It is estimated that Nigeria losses $800 million annually to stroke, heart disease and diabetes.
“In 2015 the projected accumulated loss to tobacco was put at $7.6 billion.
“Evidence also shows that for every $1 gain from tobacco business about $3 is expended on healthcare cost,” the minister stressed.
Commenting on government’s efforts, Adewole noted that Nigeria was the first country in Africa to set the pace in monitoring tobacco by conducting Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) in 2012.
He disclosed that his ministry in 2017 developed a work plan on some provisions of the NTC Act which stakeholders can immediately implement before the approval of the NTC Regulations.
“The work plan outlines education, enforcement and monitoring for compliance including the ban on sale of tobacco products to and by anyone below 18 years of age; ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship of any kind; ban on smoking in public places; and ban on sale of tobacco products in piecemeal quantity but in packs of 20 sticks for cigarettes or 30g for smokeless tobacco.
“The FMOH is also looking beyond the work plan as we are developing a comprehensive 5-year National Tobacco Control Strategic Plan that will provide the roadmap for complete tobacco control. In addition to this, the FMOH participated actively in the review of the Nigeria Industrial Standard for tobacco products convened by Standards Organisation of Nigeria in collaboration with Consumer Protection Council (CPC).
“A key outcome of this review was the ban on all characterizing flavours including the addition of menthol into tobacco products. This decision is to protect our children from getting enticed by flavoured tobacco products.
“Let me stress that the ban on tobacco products with characterizing flavours is still in place and the ban includes shisha because it has flavor,” the minister said.
Other efforts of the government, Adewole reiterated is that, “very soon cigarette packets will carry strong pictorial messages reflecting the dangers of smoking as against the present message that says ‘Federal Ministry of Health warns that smokers are liable to die young’.
“As you may be aware, tobacco products are very cheap in Nigeria, the FMOH with support from the National Tobacco Control Committee, Civil Society Organizations, and Tobacco Taxation Technical Working Group, had discussions with the Federal Ministry of Finance which resulted in the recent tax increase on tobacco products which has been approved by Mr. President.
“May I inform you that the new rate come into effect from June 4, 2018. It is a tax increase of N20 per pack of 20 sticks of cigarettes; this would be raised to N40 per pack in 2019 and subsequently, N58 per pack in 2020.
“Although the tax increase is below the ECOWAS tax directive of at least 50% ad valorem plus USD 0.02 per stick of cigarette, cigar and cigarillos (or USD 20 per net kilogramme for all other tobacco products).
“I am glad to inform you that Nigeria is on its way to ratifying the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products. The memorandum on the protocol was approved by the Federal Executive Council on the 23rd of May, 2018.”
Speaking, the World Health Organisation (WHO) representative in Nigeria, Dr. Wondi Alemu, reiterated the need to eliminate tobacco use. This, according to him, will help to prevent millions of people of dying from Cardiovascular disease.
Represented by Dr. Mpazanje Rex, the WHO representative charged the federal government to hasten it’s move in the passage of the regulation to enforce the National Tobacco Control Act 2015, as well as the enforcement of the act as announced by the Minister at the last World No Tobacco day celebration.
The WHO representative further reiterated the continued support of the WHO to enable Nigeria achieve full implementation of the WHO framework for Tobacco Control. The 2018 World Tobacco Day, was with the theme “Tobacco and Heart Disease.