By Johnbosco Agbakwuru, ABUJA
THE World Health Organization, WHO, yesterday said that an estimated 30,000 Nigerians lose their lives yearly from illnesses caused by tobacco.
This is as the Federal Government has launched an initiative that will ensure availability of accurate data on tobacco control activities and the disease prevalence are posted on dashboard to help intervention efforts.
Speaking on the occasion of this year’s World No Tobacco Day in Abuja, the WHO Country Representative Dr. Walter Kazuli Molumbo expressed worry that non communicable diseases are increasingly overtaken communicable diseases in terms the number of deaths they cause in Nigeria.
According to him,, “Close to 30,000 lives are lost yearly due to tobacco related illnesses. This is far more than the 3,000 lives claimed by COVID19 in the three years of the pandemic.”
He said that tobacco is a silent killer which manifests through cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and other ailments.
According to Molumbo this year’s event with the theme: “Tobacco:A threat to our environment” presented an opportunity for Nigeria to right the wrongs of the past when the country failed to take necessary measures to check tobacco consumption.
Molumbo, however, commended the federal government for the current efforts to curb the negative impact of tobacco on the citizen.
He particularly commended the setting up of an emergency inter-ministerial commitee to Fastrack action on advocacy and sensitization programme.
Molumbo said that the next meeting of the United Nations in September may be an opportunity for Nigeria to add her voice to the global efforts to end tobacco consumption.
While speaking on the importance of the tobacco monitoring dashboard, Country Lead Development Gateway: An IREX Venture, Seember Ali said the essence of the initiative which is being funded by the WHO and Bill Gates Foundation is to try and fill the gaps in data in relation to damages caused by tobacco consumption in Nigeria.
She said that the focus was to device a one-stop data shop for gathering of data the needs that will enable to advocates of anti tobacco consumption to engage in proper and effective tobacco control campaign.
Executive Director, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) Akinbode Oluwafemi said that one of importance of the tobacco control dashboard is that it will enable advocates to effectively engage policy makers and other stakeholders towards achieving drastic reduction in the health hazards caused by tobacco in Nigeria.
Also soeaking, the Minister of State for Health, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora said the prevalence of tobacco use is increasing worldwide.
He said that according to the WHO, tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced, killing up to half of its users with more than 8 million deaths recorded annually around the world.
The Minister further said that more than 7 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while around 1.2 million are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke or “what some call “passive smoking”.
Mamorah said that tobacco damages the environment by contributing grossly to global warming, adding that the
environmental damage comes from the various stages of tobacco cultivation, production,
distribution and usage.
He said, “Beyond the environment, tobacco use including exposure to second-hand smoke has contributed to 12 percent of all deaths from heart disease and is the second leading cause of cardiovascular disease, second only to high blood pressure.
“While these numbers are bad for tobacco users, it is important to remember that nearly 900,000 people are killed by breathing in second-hand smoke. In addition to heart disease and hypertension, tobacco use and second-hand smoke cause other notable non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like stroke, cancers, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases.
“From the 2012 Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS), 5.6 percent (4.5 million) Nigerians 15 years and older currently use tobacco products of which 3.9 percent (3.1 million) are current smokers.”