The authorities should enforce the National Tobacco Control Act
In a March 2018 fact sheet that should worry critical stakeholders in Nigeria, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that the abuse of tobacco kills nearly seven million people annually. It also noted that over the course of the last century, about 100 million deaths were recorded from tobacco use, thus indicating that tobacco smoking is perhaps the single most important cause of preventable and premature deaths across the world.
While it may no longer be news that tobacco kills and harms the health of millions of Nigerians. Tobacco atlas, an online platform that tracks use and abuse of tobacco in countries of the world, stated that in its 2015 survey, there were more than 2,994,700 men who smoke cigarettes each day in Nigeria, while within the same period, more than 539,100 women smoke cigarettes each day, making it an ongoing and dire public health threat. Further on its survey, the online tobacco tracking platform explained that there were more than 19,500 young boys who smoke cigarettes each day in Nigeria, as well as more than 6,100 young girls. On deaths recorded from tobacco abuse, it said that in 2016, tobacco killed 246 Nigerian men every week, and 64 women every week, thus indicating that an action is urgently needed from the country’s policymakers. The impact of tobacco consumption on the health of the country also has a bearing on the wealth of the nation.
Still, many more continue to use tobacco every day in Nigeria, indicating a failure of the system put in place to enforce the National Tobacco Control Act 2015 enacted to curb the incessant abuse of tobacco smoking in the country.
Records have shown that most smokers actually begin at their adolescent years, before growing into the habit to further make it difficult to curb nicotine addiction. And because these young people are heavily involved in tobacco use, the industry subsequently takes advantage of their unique position to keep them trapped with enticing adverts as evidenced in the large percentage of money voted for adverts that would encourage them to smoke more.
In the face of such complacency which appears to insulate the tobacco industry in Nigeria and subsequently ensures that deaths related to abuse of tobacco continue to rise each passing year, we are compelled to call on the government and advocates of laws and enforcements on controlled use of tobacco to quickly strengthen efforts on this threat to the wellbeing of Nigeria.
Clearly, Nigeria has not done enough to control the abuse of tobacco by its citizens. Every other day, smokers are seen at public places and building puffing out smokes from their cigarettes. New options in the form of shisha – an oriental tobacco pipe with a long flexible tube connected to a container where the smoke is cooled by passing through water, have even opened up to become attractive to young Nigerians especially women. All these point to the fact that the country’s laws on use of tobacco have fallen apart.
Because smokers need help to quit the habit, we are of the view that hard-hitting anti-tobacco advertisements and graphic pack warnings against smoking especially at designated public places could help increase the number of people who quit smoking. We also believe that proactive mass media campaigns can also reduce tobacco consumption by persuading young people to stop the habit. Similarly, bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship can help reduce tobacco consumption, while heavy taxes on tobacco could help cut down the number of smokers especially among young Nigerians.