Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City
An Associate Professor, Institute of Child Health, College of Medical Sciences, University of Benin, Dr. Damian Nwaneri has warned against the exposure of children to second hand smoking, stressing that by 2030, an estimated 500 million persons will die from the use of tobacco products.
Speaking during a monthly seminar of the Institute of Child Health (ICH), tagged; ‘Tobacco smoke in the Air, Its Effect on Child Health,’ he said most of the negative effects of tobacco on children were due to exposure from second and third hand smoke.
Second and third hand smoking is described as tobacco smoke inhaled from smoking by other persons, and inhalation picked from contamination in a room, car, and clothing respectively.
According to him, a research carried out by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2013 on global tobacco epidemic, also showed that by the year 2030, an estimated eight million deaths per year would be due to tobacco usage.
Nwaneri while tracing tobacco smoke to cancer and other chronic diseases like stroke, aortic rupture, heart diseases and reduction in fertility, leukemia, hardening of the arteries, among others, noted that tobacco smoke was more harmful to children than adults because their airways are narrower in children which can result in proportionally greater airways obstruction than in adults.
He added that children have unique vulnerability because they spend more time outside than adults; and that children whose mothers smoke were more exposed to second-hand smoke which is responsible for an estimated 166,000 child deaths each year as well as other respiratory track illness like asthma.
Such children, he stressed would suffer pneumonia and hospitalisation up to 38 per cent in a year as well as 80 per cent infant mortality.
He noted that aside death and illnesses, there was also the economic effect such as the likelihood of living in poverty, decrease in lifetime earnings, decline in healthcare cost on the part of the adult which also affects the child, among others.
He said though people use tobacco because of the physical addiction of the nicotine inherent, the use was reinforced by social habits.
“The use is reinforced by industry advertising, pricing, traditional norm as part of bride price, among others.
“There is the need for the federal government to regulate and monitor tobacco usage as well as put policies in place that would prevent individuals from tobacco use and offer help to smokers to quit.”
He also said the government should enforce ban on tobacco advertisements, promotion and sponsorship, noting that the slogan “Federal Ministry of Health Warns That Smokers Are Liable To Die Young” was not good enough because the attraction in media advertisements outweighs the slogan.
Another option, he added, was to have no smoking on billboards, offering help to smoking family members to quit smoking, among others.
“Moreover, the only way to protect non-smoking family members from second hand smoking is for family members to quit smoking,” Nwaneri declared.