By Hassan Zaggi
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that children exposed to second-hand tobacco smoking have the high tendency to develop pneumonia, bronchitis and lower respiratory infections.
The WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, disclosed this at a media briefing to mark the World No Tobacco Day, in Abuja, yesterday.
Represented by the Officer in Charge, WHO Nigeria office, Dr. Clement Peters, the Regional Director revealed that around 165,000 children worldwide die before the age of 5 years because of lower respiratory infections caused by second-hand tobacco smoke.
Exposure to tobacco smoke toxins in-utero reduces lung growth and function.
He, therefore, called on “all individuals, parents and their children, as well as other community members, to protect their health and avoid the harms caused by tobacco. Let us promote non-smoking as a social norm and by ensuring smoke-free environments.”
Dr. Moeti appealed to governments to adopt and enforce tobacco-control policies aimed at reducing the demand for tobacco; promoting tobacco cessation; and adequately treating tobacco dependence.
This, according to him, should encompass educational institutions, healthcare facilities, workplaces and sporting environments.
The UN Chief, however, lamented that tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced.
According to him: “Tobacco kills up to half of its users. The most effective way to improve lung health is to reduce tobacco use and second-hand tobacco smoke exposure.
“We need to embrace the proven health benefits of stopping tobacco use as well as the feasible actions that the public and governments can take to reduce the risks to lung health posed by tobacco.”
While vowing it will continue to promote and strengthen awareness of the benefits of tobacco-free lifestyles and the cessation of tobacco use, the WHO called on members states to respond to the tobacco epidemic by fully implementing the provisions of the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
“Treatment of tobacco dependence should be part of a comprehensive tobacco control policy along with the establishment of smoke-free public places, health warnings on tobacco packages and a ban of tobacco advertising.
“In addition to an individual approach, including behavioural and/or pharmacological interventions, a supportive environment is needed to encourage tobacco consumers to quit,” he said.