By CHIOMA OBINNA
He was walking and all of a sudden he slumped. Thanks to some kind-hearted Nigerians who quickly rushed him to the hospital. Unfortunately, he died on the way to the hospital. Further investigations revealed that the victim who was about 28 years old and just finished his youth service never showed any sign of illness before his death.
It was also gathered that young promising graduate of Business administration was asthmatic. An autopsy carried out by authorities of the hospital to determine the cause of his death revealed that he died of a heart-related disease following his addiction to tobacco smoking.
The victim is just one of the 5.4 million people killed by tobacco use annually and one in 10 adult deaths worldwide.
Mr. Emmanuel Egwu’s case is different. Emmanuel never smoked all through his 35 years on earth. He had never for once tried to have a drag of cigarette. Unfortunately, Emmanuel is down with lung cancer courtesy of the environment where he lives. Emmanuel lives with his three brothers who smoked at least 20 sticks of cigarettes a day! Little did he know that their smoking habit could cause more harm to him instead of the smokers.
Such people as Emmanuel are called passive smokers or secondhand smokers. According to medical experts, passive smokers are people living among smokers and they are exposed to smoke concentration in the atmosphere they live in. Studies have found that passive smoking is a cause of heart disease and lung cancer and can initiate or aggravate respiratory conditions such as asthma and bronchitis. If proper care is not taken, Emmanuel may be counted among the estimated 46,000 nonsmokers who die yearly from heart disease and lung cancer.
Before now, smoking was one habit fashionable and acceptable to the people but has been found after many years of study and linkages with many ailments to be as deadly as the scorpion sting.
According to medical experts, tobacco smoke in any form and at whatever level, precipitates ill-health. Smoking has been implicated in about 60 disease conditions including tooth loss, diabetes, impotence, stomach ulcers, ocular histoplasmosis (fungal eye infection), acute necrotising ulcerative gingivitis (gum disease), hearing loss, osteoporosis, duodenal ulcer, reduced sperm count, dysmenorrhoea (painful periods), early menopause, psoriasis, colon polyps, cataracts, asthma, reduced fertility, buerger’s disease, angina optic neuropathy (vision loss), premature wrinkling, crohn’s disease and asthma amongst others. Clinical records have shown that the odds are said to be more than double for those who smoke in excess of more than 20 cigarettes a day.
Statistics from the World Health Organisation,WHO, estimates that about 1.3 billion people in the world are currently smoking and most of them are in developing countries including Nigeria.
Globally, tobacco causes about 5.4 million deaths yearly compared to three million, two million and one million deaths caused by AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria respectively. By 2020, WHO estimates that global death toll from smoking will hit 10 million.
According to an Independent Tobacco Control Activist, Dr. Olusegun Owotomo, statistics available show that about 93 million sticks of cigarette are produced yearly in Nigeria and every one of those cigarettes is consumed and that between 150,000 and 300,000 children under the age of 18 months get respiratory infections such as pneumonia and bronchitis from secondhand smoke. More than 40 per cent of children who visit the emergency room for severe asthma attacks live with smokers.
Despite these dangers, efforts are checking tobacco smoking is still not significant. According to WHO, the global funding of tobacco control, is below 0 million compared to a billion for AIDS, five billion for tuberculosis and around a billion for malaria. As a result, while there has been a gradual decrease in the incidence of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, tobacco-related deaths have been on a sharp increase.
Smoking is a universal problem, which though may have peculiar geographical approaches in terms of solutions, yet remains one with universal determination in tackling.
Critical health watchers say the ability of the tobacco industry to stage a come back in the country must be checked.
In a write-up, Dr. Olusegun Fakoya, anticipated a huge epidemic of tobacco-related diseases regretting that the resultant strain on public healthcare would be enormous as the majority of these smokers are poor people who have no means to access treatment themselves. Olusegun said with the pathetic state of the country’s healthcare system, the impending chaos is best imagined.
A big thanks to the recent passage of the National Tobacco Control Bill by the National Assembly. He said the Bill when signed by the President will be one of the ways of forestalling the inevitable doom associated with the current kid-glove approach to the unimaginable disaster associated with smoking.
The Nigeria Tobacco Control Bill is a comprehensive law to regulate the manufacturing, advertising, distribution and consumption of tobacco products. It is a bill aimed at domesticating WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control,FCTC.
WHO FCTC is an evidence-based treaty that reaffirms the right of all people to the highest standard of health. It represents a paradigm shift in developing a regulatory strategy to address addictive substances; in contrast to previous drug control treaties, and asserts the importance of demand reduction strategies as well as supply issues.
The Bill is a comprehensive law providing for regulations of supply and demand measures relating to tobacco products. However, the recent prohibition of smoking in public places in the Bill would at least save non-smokers from dying of tobacco-related diseases.
A study on “The use of tobacco products among Nigerian adults: A general population survey” by Isidore S. Obot, Department of General and Applied Psychology, University of Jos, showed that Nigerian men smokes more than females, adding that the poor, uneducated smoke more than the relatively rich and educated.
According to the study, “Smokers had a higher incidence of health problems and both nonsmokers and heavy smokers were less aware of the risk of smoking than light smokers.” The study suggested that health education should be a major component of tobacco and health policy in Nigeria.
“Exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) increases the risk of respiratory symptoms and lower respiratory tract illness in children, and it also increases the frequency and severity of asthma symptoms. There is evidence that parental smoking causes acute and chronic middle ear disease.”
Analysis of chemicals in the urine of women who live with smokers demonstrates that tobacco smoke carcinogen, are absorbed by nonsmokers from second-hand smoke. Women who live with smokers absorb five to six times more chemicals linked to lung cancer than do women who live with nonsmokers.
It has also been discovered that the risk of wives developing lung cancer doubled when the husbands smoked over 20 cigarettes a day. There was also an increased incidence of emphysema and asthma, although to a lesser degree.
Many studies have also shown that when parents smoke, their children cough. Babies are most at risk, with the highest percentages for bronchitis and lung ailments in infants under a year old.
Although, cigarette packets carry warnings approved by health authorities, none lists the diseases caused by smoking. The introduction of photo warnings was a desperate action by concerned governments over a habit that refused to abate despite numerous interventions.
Warnings on packs
Critical observers are calling for the inclusion of large, graphic warnings, which is proven to motivate people to stop using tobacco and reduce the appeal for people not yet addicted to it.
Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Health, Dr. Femi Olugbile, said the effective enforcement of the bill when passed into law is also imperative. “Introduction of bold warnings that would take no less than 30 per cent of the space on cigarette wrappings.
In particular, the introduction of photographic warnings showing cancerous growths caused by cigarettes as obtained in countries like Thailand, Brazil, Canada and Britain, will go a long way in making an informed decision on the part of (potential) smokers to tobacco smoke, death tolls and crippling heart attacks, strokes, cancers and respiratory diseases that are becoming prevalent will be reduced.”
However, Akinbode Oluwafemi, Programme Manager, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria,ERA/FoEN, sees the passage of the Tobacco control Bill as not an attack on smoker.
Another aspect of tobacco activities is the issue of youth markets. Today, Nigeria has become one of the largest markets in Africa. Statistics show that youths form over 40 percent of the Nigerian population and 18 per cent of the youths smoke. Unless drastic steps are taken, many youths may become addicted. A situation experts say signifies social concern and also portends dire economic consequences.
Measures for Tobacco Control
Complete ban of advertisement, including points of sale.
High taxes on cigarettes to discourage more people going into the venture.
Protection of non-smokers from the often underestimated harmful effects of second-hand smoking.
Expansion of smoke-free public places.
Assistance to tobacco farmers to discourage the planting of tobacco.
Assistance to pro-tobacco victims to ameliorate the resultant harmful effects of smoking.
Provision of adequate support to states instituting litigations for damages.
20 tips on how to stop smoking
Believe in yourself. Believe that you can quit.
Sit down and write your own list, customised to your personality and way of doing things. Create your own plan for quitting.
Write down why you want to quit (the benefits of quitting):
Ask your family and friends to support your decision to quit.
Set a quit date. Decide what day you will extinguish your cigarettes forever.
Talk with your doctor about quitting. Support and guidance from a physician is a proven way to better your chances to quit.
Begin an exercise programme. Exercise is simply incompatible with smoking. Exercise relieves stress and helps your body recover from years of damage from cigarettes.
Do some deep breathing each day for three to five minutes. Breathe in through your nose very slowly, hold the breath for a few seconds, and exhale very slowly through your mouth.
Visualise your way to becoming a non-smoker.
Develop your own creative visualizations.
Cut back on cigarettes gradually (if you cut back gradually, be sure to set a quit date on which you WILL quit).
Quit smoking “cold turkey”.
Many smokers find that the only way they can truly quit once and for all is to just quit abruptly without trying to slowly taper off. Find the method that works best for you: gradually quitting or cold turkey. If one way doesn’t work do the other.
Find another smoker who is trying to quit, and help each other with positive words and by lending an ear when quitting becomes difficult.
Have your teeth cleaned.
After you quit, plan to celebrate the milestones in your journey to becoming a non-smoker.
Drink lots of water.
Learn what triggers your desire for a cigarette, such as stress, the end of a meal, arrival at work, entering a bar, etc. Avoid these triggers or if that’s impossible, plan alternative ways to deal with the triggers.
Find something to hold in your hand and mouth, to replace cigarettes. Consider drinking straws.
Write yourself an inspirational song or poem about quitting, cigarettes, and what it means to you to quit. Read it daily.
Keep a picture of your family or someone very important to you with you at all times.
Whenever you have a craving for a cigarette, instead of lighting up, write down your feelings or whatever is on your mind.