Tobacco control campaign during a pandemic—lessons and opportunities

…Govt set to implement graphic pictorial health warning messages  — HEALTH MINISTER

…More than 16,100 non-smokers die annually — WHO

As the world marked World No Tobacco Day, with the theme “Commit to Quit”, the Nigeria Heart Foundation, NHF has tasked the Federal government over non-implementation of the 2007 Tobacco Act, even as it raised the alarm over the increasing number of Nigerians who smoke.
The Executive Director, NHF, Dr Kingsley Akinroye who lamented that despite the passage of the National Tobacco Control Act in 2015 following ratification of the World Health Organisation, WHO,  Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2007,  implementation of the policy has been less than satisfactory due to increased prevalence of smoking at about 4 percent per year.
Noting that it had been a war getting the enforcement of the Tobacco Control Act to regulate all facets of tobacco control including packaging, promotions and smoke-free areas, Akinroye regretted that even the department that oversees  implementation of the policy has no budget line.
He called on the Federal government to commence full implementation of the Tobacco Act to save lives of 1.2 million non-smokers annually.
Calling for more cessation centres  across the country, he said it would reduce involuntary smoke exposure and tobacco-related poverty for household members.
According to NHF, the number of current smokers in 2015 was estimated to increase from 8 to 11 million over a 30 year period while the average number of cigarettes consumed per person per day was 10.1, accounting for 110 million cigarettes per day and over 40 billion cigarettes consumed in Nigeria in 2015.
Also speaking, the NHF’s Tobacco Committee Chairman, Dr Oluwakemi Odukoya,  said tobacco use contributes to poverty by diverting household spending from basic needs such as food and shelter to tobacco and also significant health care costs for treating diseases caused by tobacco use.
“In Nigeria, among men who smoke cigarettes daily, more than one-third (38 per cent) smoke less than 5 cigarettes each day, while one-third (33 per cent) smoke 5-9 cigarettes, 8 per cent of daily cigarette smokers smoke about 15 sticks of cigarettes daily.
“Within 12 hours, the blood carbon monoxide levels drop to normal. Within 2-12 weeks, circulation improves and lung function increases. Within 1-9 months, coughing and shortness of breath decrease. Within 5-15 years, stroke risk is reduced to that of a non-smoker. Within 10 years, lung cancer death rate is about half that of a smoker and within 15 years, the risk of heart disease is similar to that of a non-smoker.”
FG implementing graphic pictorial warning messages — Health Minister 
Speaking, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire who said the death toll from tobacco was high in Nigeria, as the Tobacco Atlas of 2018 reports estimates of more than 16,100 deaths from tobacco-related diseases every year, said the Federal government  would commence   implementation of graphic pictorial health warning messages on tobacco product packaging from 23rd June 2021.
The new messages, according to the minister, will replace the age-long health warning -“The Federal Ministry of Health Warns that Smokers Are Liable to Die Young”.
He said the graphic health warning was 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.

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Ehanire said  the Ministry in collaboration with WHO and the Nigeria Tobacco Alliance (NTCA), will be setting up a tobacco cessation toll-free call centre, and a mobile tobacco cessation (mCessation) services to provide support to Kano, Ogun, Imo, Edo and Bayelsa states.
He disclosed that another research finding published in 2021 by the Centre  for the Study of the Economies of Africa showed that  29,472 deaths in Nigeria were attributable to smoking.
Ban smoking in  entertainment platforms — CAPPA
The Federal Government has been advised to ban smoking in movies and entertainment platforms.
The Executive Director, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa, CAPPA, Akinbode Oluwafemi, who made the call in Abuja, urged the government to enforce the ban of the sale of tobacco products to underage and raise taxes on tobacco products.
“The most effective steps towards getting people to quit, is by removing any environment that promotes smoking or  encourages the youth to take up smoking.
“Government should  remove those conditions by implementing the WHO -FCTC compliant laws and policies. So, we  call on the Nigerian government to begin comprehensive enforcement of the National Tobacco Control Act 2015 and the National Tobacco Control Regulations 2019.”
Oluwafemi insisted that government must enforce the ban on tobacco advertising and promotion including the ban on smoking in movies and entertainment platforms and ban  sale of tobacco products to the underage while raising tobacco taxes.
“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.”
3,200 children under 18 smoke  — COKER
The Ogun State government on Monday disclosed that 16,800 Nigerians die of tobacco-related illness annually.
The state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Tobi Coker, who disclosed this in Abeokuta said about 3,200 young children and teenagers under 18 smoke their first cigarette while more than 2,100 young adults become daily smokers.
“Part of the efforts of the state to curb smoking and drug abuse among students is the establishment of Drug Free Clubs in both public and private secondary schools”.
She attributed the causes of death from cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive lung diseases and lung cancer to smoking of tobacco, especially cigarette.
Tobacco kills 1.2 million non-smokers every year — WHO
The World Health Organisation has warned that smoking just one cigarette a day can seriously harm a person’s health even as it disclosed that 1.2 million non-smokers die from exposure to tobacco smoke yearly.
The WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti said  tobacco kills half of its users as it harms nearly every organ in the human body.
“There is no safe form of tobacco,” she asserted.
On the 2021 theme: “Commit  to quit”, she said: “Millions of people have been motivated to quit tobacco during the COVID-19 pandemic because of evidence showing tobacco smoking impairs lung function, making it harder for the body to fight off coronaviruses and other diseases.
“Of the 1.3 billion tobacco users globally, 60 per cent have expressed the desire to quit but only 30 percent have access to the tools to do so successfully.”
She called on governments and communities to be at alert to industry tactics to attract new users and keep people using tobacco, even when they are trying to quit.
Vanguard News Nigeria


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