By Prudence Eboagwu-Ijah, Abuja
The World Health Organisation has revealed that around 1.2million non-smokers die from exposure to tobacco smoke every year while efforts are being made to encourage 100 million people to quit smoking.
WHO Country representative to Nigeria Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo who disclosed this in Abuja at a briefing to commemorate this year’s World No Tobacco Day with the theme “Commit to Quit”because the choice to stop tobacco use is in our hands said Nigeria is amongst the countries selected adding that a call centre for quitting smoking will be set up.
Adding that the WHO, will be supporting countries to scale-up programmes to help people quit tobacco, especially at the primary health care and community levels.
In his address, Dr Mulombo revealed that millions of people were motivated to quit tobacco during the COVID-19 pandemic because of evidence showing that tobacco smoking impairs lung function, making it harder for the body to fight off corona viruses and other diseases.
“Tobacco use harms nearly every organ in the human body. Even smoking one cigarette a day can seriously harm a person’s health, Tobacco use can lead to lung, mouth, throat, oesophagus, stomach, bowel and other cancers. It increases the risk of chest and lung infections, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and other conditions. There is no safe form of tobacco,” Dr Mulombo said.
According to him, out of the 1.3 billion tobacco users globally, 60% have expressed the desire to quit but only 30% have access to the tools to do so successfully.
The minister of Health Dr Osaghae Ehanire advocated for strong tobacco cessation while revealing plans to scale up tobacco cessation services to other parts of Nigeria so as to ensure that more tobacco users have access to this crucial service.
Dr Ehanire added that there will be a set up of tobacco cessation toll-free call centre in the ministry of health to offer cessation services to tobacco users, while a there will be a set up of a mobile tobacco cessation (mCessation) services whereby tobacco users can access quit support using WhatsApp number +41 79893 1892.
The minister of health added that Nigeria will, as from 23rd June 2021, commence implementation of graphic pictorial health warning messages on tobacco product packaging, to replace the age-long health warning texts, which reads: “The Federal Ministry of Health Warns that Smokers Are Liable to Die Young”. The graphic health warning is important and more effective because the picture on the product package drives the warning message home to those who cannot, or do not care to read about the damaging effects of tobacco use.
Earlier, the Chairman of the Board, Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance, Akinbode Oluwafemi, called on the Nigerian government to begin comprehensive enforcement of the National Tobacco Control Act 2015 and the National Tobacco Control Regulations 2019.
According to Oluwafemi, the most effective steps towards getting people to quit tobacco, or not get initiated into tobacco addiction is by removing all the environments that promote smoking or those that encourage youths to take up smoking habit.
In his words, “government should remove those conditions by implementing WHO -FCTC compliant laws and policies. Government must enforce the ban on Tobacco Advertising and Promotion including the ban on smoking in movies and entertainment platforms, enforce graphic health warning on tobacco packs, enforce the ban of the sale of tobacco products to underage and raise taxes tobacco products among other’’.
The laws are there, and the government must rise to the occasion by implementing those laws which it could complement with the incorporation of quitting services into the primary health care system, counselling and public awareness
In a goodwill message, the Sub Regional Coordinator West Africa Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (CTFK), Hilda Ochofu, reiterated the need to carry out implementation of the various regulations. She said that tobacco control laws are being passed in many African countries, adding that with Nigeria’s ever increasing population comes a huge responsibility to protect the future of the kids by ensuring that they don’t pick up the deadly habit of using tobacco.
World no tobacco day is commemorated every 31st of May, to remind everyone that tobacco kills half of its users