WHO to scale up programmes to help people quit tobacco use

Says 3.5m hectares of land destroyed annually

Nigeria spends N526bn annually on tobacco induced diseases

As tobacco kills 29,000 Nigerians annually

By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja

As Nigeria joins rest of the world to commemorate World No Tobacco Day 2022, the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa, CAPPA, Monday, tasked the Federal Government to stop tobacco pollution of the environment.

The call was made by the Executive Director, CAPPA, Akinbode Oluwafemi, at a press to mark the World No Tobacco Day 2022.

Oluwafemi explained essence of the World No Tobacco Day 2022, which he said the World Health Organisation, WHO, and its country partners draw attention to the health risks associated with tobacco use and encourage governments to adopt effective policies to reduce smoking and the fallouts of its use.

According to him, the message behind the theme of WNTD 2022, ‘Protect The Environment’ is the fact that, throughout its lifecycle, tobacco contaminates the environment and impacts adversely on the health of consumers and non- consumers alike.

He said: “From cultivation which involves the use of pesticides that are harmful to tobacco growers, to the cutting and burning of trees for tobacco curing which leads to deforestation (about 3.5 million hectares of land are destroyed each year) and the use of large quantities of water to cultivate tobacco, the health of man and the ecosystem is negatively impacted, and climate resilience reduced.

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“In the manufacturing of cigarettes, tobacco companies are believed to contribute 84 megatons of carbon dioxide equivalent to greenhouse gases. Disturbingly, because of stringent laws in the Global North, most of the tobacco corporations have relocated to low- and middle-income countries like Nigeria.

“As these companies continue their active marketing of lethal products in Africa, so do they also concentrate about 90% of tobacco production in the same region which now bears the highest environmental burdens.

“80 per cent of over 8 million people that die every year due to tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke live in low- and middle-income countries under, which Nigeria is categorized.

“It is therefore fitting that as Nigeria joins the global community in commemorating the 2022 WNTD, the Nigerian government and the public health community look inwards and revisit the status of tobacco control in the country, especially the enforcement of the smoke-free public places policy contained in the National Tobacco Control (NTC) Act 2015.

“The indoor public places where smoking is restricted listed in the Second Schedule of the Act include healthcare facilities, primary and secondary education facilities, shops, police stations and prisons, higher education facilities, transport facilities, theaters, cinemas, and stadiums among others.

“Unfortunately, Section 9 of the Act provides for designated smoking areas to be created where there are “sufficient number of rooms” where smoking is prohibited.

“This provision falls short of the obligations of Parties implementing Article 8 of the WHO-FCTC on providing effective protection from public and workplace exposure to tobacco smoke, to completely prohibit smoking in all parts of all indoor public places; in all parts of all indoor workplaces; on all means of public transportation; and in specified outdoor or quasi-outdoor spaces where a hazard exists due to tobacco smoke exposure. Because of the lacuna in the Act, Nigerians, including children are daily exposed to secondhand smoke in many indoor public spaces, non -smokers working in bars and restaurants where cigarettes, shisha and other tobacco products are brazenly displayed and consumed are also victims.”

He also expressed concern as Nigerians contend with the environmental impacts of tobacco and to compound the issue, the tobacco industry has invaded the entertainment space with tobacco adverts.

“As Nigerians contend with the environmental impacts of tobacco, so also do they grapple with the invasion of the media and entertainment space by the tobacco industry which actively promotes and glamourizes smoking in content watched by both adults and children.”

He also alleged that despite a National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) ban, Big Brother Naija show, a Pay TV programme watched by adults and children alike, smoking among housemates is allowed and even promoted.

“In the show, cigarettes are usually conspicuously displayed, and smoking is done recklessly, with total disregard to the health of possible non-smoker housemates.”

According to him, “The screening of 36 Nigerian movies by CAPPA in 2019 out of which 34 had tobacco footage/paraphernalia in the background further reinforces our convictions that the tobacco industry also has a stranglehold on the creative arts industry.”

However, the CAPPA boss revealed, that, “Nigeria tobacco companies import shredded tobacco leaves from 44 countries to their factory in Ibadan, but they want government to believe that the tobacco leaves comes from Nigeria and that is not true, and I think we should engage government on the number of tobacco farmers, how many tobacco hectares do we have, and others. Zaria used to be huge belt for tobacco farming but it is not so today.

“Globally smoking is reducing but it is increasing in Africa because we are not enforcing the law. We need our government to enforce the law.”

Meanwhile part of CAPPA’s recommendations include; Nigerian government reinvigorate the enforcement the smokefree public places policy; Enforce the ban on Tobacco Advertising Promotion and Sponsorships (TAPS) ban as it pertains to the entertainment and movies sector; Promote inter-agency collaboration and synergy in the enforcement of the ban on TAPS and the smokefree public places policy.

Initiate or strengthen schemes to make tobacco manufacturers responsible for the environmental and economic costs of tobacco product waste; Provide support to tobacco farmers to switch to alternative, more viable and sustainable livelihoods to reduce the environmental impact of tobacco growing, curing, and manufacturing.

Also speaking was the Sub-regional Coordinator for West Africa, Hilda Ochefu, called government to enforce the law on Designated Smoke Areas, DSAs.

“Until establishments apply to build Designated Smoking Areas, DSAs, that means any area that is designated is illegal. We will like to call on the government to step up and enforce”, Ochefu said.

However, she called on Nigerians to take responsibility, and not wait for government to enforce the law because it is about their health.

She also made it known that in the African region in terms of smoke in public places, and generally implementing the laws a lot of countries have stringent laws.

“For example Senegal, Ethiopia and Uganda they have 100 per cent Smoke-free Public Places.

“What that does is that there is no conversation around Designated Smoke-free Areas because everybody knows and adheres to it. Nobody is smoking and endangering the health of others.”

She urged the Nigerian government to provide an alternative livelihood for tobacco farmers as it is in Kenya, where farmers have been able to transit from tobacco farming to other crop farming like beans, maize and others.

The Project officer, Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance, NTCA, Chibuike Nwokorie, called on Nigerians to join hands to discourage smoking in open places as Nigerians working in such places are already suffering from second-hand smoking.

“There should be close and effective collaboration where Ministry of Health, Ministry of Environment, FCCPC, and others come together to make sure our public places are smoke-free.

“We have a law and people are behaving as if there is no law on prohibiting smoking in public places.”

He said NTCA equips Nigerians against second-hand smoking and to obey the law through sensitization, training, use media advocacy.

“These are the ways to empower people, and let them know that he is aware that there is a law, and also to be aware and obey the law”, he said.

He also assured that the NTCA will keep all partnership and collaboration with critical stakeholders to ensure the environment is free from tobacco smoke. 

Also speaking was a Research Associate, Centre for the Study of the Economies of Africa, CSEA, Austin Iraoya, who expressed doubt over the claim by tobacco companies on huge employment of Nigerians because most of them have huge technology integration and how many Nigerians sell and survive with tobacco, and added that they lie to government about it.

He also said second-hand smoking currently affects Nigerians, and the whole of Africa, Nigeria has the least price for tobacco, but when taxes are raised on tobacco it will lead to cessation in tobacco consumption.

“Even at 30 per cent of tax cannot effective reduce tobacco consumption, and it is high time Nigeria come to terms to end tobacco smoking.

“It is only in Ekiti State the laws are minimally enforced. We all have role to play to enforce the law as non-state actors”, he said.

He added that, “A pregnant woman that is exposed to second-hand smoking has higher chances of complications during and after birth.

“We also see that for children that are exposed to second-hand smoking also have higher chances of picking up n or initiating tobacco smoking.

“For the direct impact, the death rate annual in Nigeria of tobacco induced decease is about 29, 000 people. Nigeria’s health system spends about N526 billion annually on tobacco induced diseases that is about $1.7 billion annually.

“Most of this money comes from out of pocket expenditure. This is a serious economic burden to Nigeria.

“Government makes only 10 per cent from tobacco taxes from this expenditure.”

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