Owhor Greatman Adiela and Eluozo William

Tobacco is obtained from one of the species of the cured leaves of a tobacco plant. Tobacco use can include the smoking of tobacco; inhaling the tobacco smoke consisting of particles and gaseous phases. It can be simplified as” taking tobacco smoke into the mouth and then releasing it as is done by some with tobacco pipes and cigars”. The World Health Organization key facts on tobacco state that tobacco kills up to half of its users. A lot of people die each year from tobacco and 80% of the 1.1billion smokers worldwide live in low-and-middle-income countries where this burden of tobacco consequently causes diseases, economic distress and social implications.

Youth and thread line of Tobacco smoking

Health effect of tobacco use and cigarette smoking includes risk of coronary heart disease, risk for stroke, lung cancer, reproductive diseases, diabetes, stroke, coronary heart disease; Respiratory diseases such as lung disease, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, lung cancer, asthmatic attack; Cancers such as, pancreas, liver, tracheal and stomach. According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “smoking harms nearly every organ of the body and affects a person’s overall health”.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that “globally, smoking causes over US$500 billion in economic damage each year”. The economic harm associated with tobacco is; about 2 trillion dollars each year, economic loss due to loss of productivity from those sickened or killed as a result of tobacco; another 30% of these economic costs are the healthcare-related expenses of managing smoking-attributable diseases. Notably, this cost does not include other substantial costs, such as the costs caused by second-hand smoke, non-combustible tobacco products, the environmental and health damages from tobacco farming, smoking-related fire hazards, cigarette butt littering, and, foremost, the immeasurable pain and suffering of tobacco victims and their families.

Social effects of tobacco use include social stigma and isolation, lack of social freedom among individuals, lack of self-control. Social vices such as rape, robbery, cultism, addition, uncontrolled spending leading to bankrupts and poor financial state, unsocial behaviour that is detrimental to the society.

Research by Nigeria tobacco atlas shows that Nigeria has moved from a tobacco-producing nation to a tobacco consuming nation, even though 16100 people are killed by tobacco-caused disease. Still, more than 25000 children (10-14 years old) and 7488000 adults (15+ years old) continue to use tobacco each day. This shows that a large amount of tobacco is consumed by the youths of Nigeria. Hence, the youths have a major role to play in reducing tobacco harm in the country. These can come to reality through:

  • Awareness: The youths are in the best position to spread the news about the harm that is caused by continuous tobacco use in the country. This awareness has to start from each and every youth out there. One has to have said “NO” to tobacco before one can tell others to. Minor campaigns can be done one-on-one, through social media, posters, billboards.
  • Suggestion of alternatives: The youths can promote the use of alternatives such as exercise; this will help get your mind off the urge to smoke and can reduce the intensity of your tobacco craving. According to MayoClinic.com, 30 minutes of moderate exercise can make a tobacco craving go away.
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  • Use of safer alternatives to combustible cigarettes: though the presence of nicotine in alternatives is a subject to various criticisms, research has shown that the use of alternatives such as electronic cigarettes, nicotine gums and nicotine patches are effective in long term quitting aid. These could be introduced to individuals’ already smoking with proper guidance as a way of promoting recovery.
  • Good example: development of nicotine addiction has been known in some cases to come from the young age, hence parents (especially young parents) and guidance are recommended to set good examples for the children under their care to follow. If a parent is involved in smoking, the chances are high for a child to also engage in the same addictive behaviour.
  • Reduction in tobacco promotion: the promotion of these products creates a certain level of attraction and potential benefits that drive youths to its usage. Reduction in the promotion of tobacco-related products will aid to minimize this cause.

Tobacco harm has been a serious public health care problem even though it is classified by WHO as one of the most preventable causes of diseases. Tobacco use has caused lots of harm for individuals, families, communities and the entire country of Nigeria. It is the role of youths to see to it that its harm is reduced especially amongst the highest consumers of tobacco (the youths). But as a matter of fact, everyone has a role to play, as we move towards a tobacco-free-Nigeria.


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