Reducing tobacco consumption in Nigeria

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Posted on August 23, 2017

The Federal Government recently lamented the high rate of tobacco consumption in the country, stressing that about 4.5 million Nigerians consume 20 billion cigarettes yearly.  This means that 5.6 percent of Nigerians, consisting of 4 million men and 500,000 women, smoke cigarettes, while another 6.4 million others are exposed to tobacco smoke.

Revealing this at a sensitisation workshop for law enforcement agencies and the mass media on the implementation of the National Tobacco Act 2015, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, outlined   preventive measures that should be taken to reduce smoking. These include prohibition of smoking for persons under 18 years of age and a ban on smoking in parks, markets, restaurants and other public places.

Others are a ban on the sale of cigarettes in single sticks, with the product sold in packs of 20 sticks only. Smokeless tobacco will be sold in a minimum   pack of 30 grammes, while tobacco products must not be distributed or sold through mail, internet or other online devices.  He also called on security agencies and the  Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to impose stringent conditions on tobacco companies and sellers to discourage smoking in the country.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) May 2017 report shows that tobacco kills more than seven million people each year.   While six million deaths were traced to direct use of the product, others were due to exposure to tobacco smoke. In that report, Nigeria was among the low and middle-income countries that account for 80 percent of tobacco-related morbidity and mortality.

Other health statistics show that cigarette smoking is harmful to nearly every organ of the body and causes many diseases. It reduces the health of smokers, generally. Smokers are more likely than non-smokers to develop heart disease, stroke and lung cancer. It also causes diminished overall health, increased absenteeism from work and increased healthcare utilisation and costs.

Smoking causes cancers of the bladder, blood, cervix, colon, esophagus, kidney, larynx, liver, oropharynx, pancreas, stomach and trachea. It can also affect men’s sperm and reduce fertility, while also increasing risks for birth defects and miscarriage. It can also affect bone health. Women past childbearing years who smoke have weaker bones than those who never smoked. They are, therefore, at greater risk of having broken bones.

We condemn the high tobacco consumption in the country and call on the government to not only map out, but also implement, measures to reduce it. It is worrisome that 4.5 million Nigerians smoke 20 billion cigarettes annually. The Federal Government should commence in earnest the implementation of the National Tobacco Control Act 2015.

The government should demonstrate the necessary political will to implement the extant law against smoking in public places as enshrined in the National Tobacco Control Act. We say so because smoking is dangerous to both active and passive smokers. Tobacco smoking causes many deaths in the country, so the government should   deploy all forms of the mass media to enlighten the public on its dangers, especially among youths and pregnant women.

The federal, state and local governments should work in concert to ensure the successful enforcement of tobacco control laws. We enjoin all Nigerians,   including tobacco manufacturers, to key into the Federal Government’s programme to ensure effective tobacco control. The officers and men of the NCS have an onerous duty to perform, to ensure the achievement of government’s objectives on tobacco control.


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