Tobacco control campaigners have challenged communities to do more to make the Nigerian government to enforce the National Tobacco Control (NTC) Act 2015 to avert a looming health crisis in the country.
They made this demand at a Community Tobacco Control Parliament held in Jahi 1 community, Abuja, where the dangers of tobacco to the youth dominated discussions.
Among a host of groups that were at the community are the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), the Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance (NTCA), Gatefield, and Cedars Foundation, among others.
Philip Jakpor, ERA/FoEN Head, Media & Campaigns, while explaining the purpose of the Parliament, revealed that tobacco kills nearly six million people annually with the figures set to hit eight million from year 2020 if nothing is done to nip it in the bud.
In his presentation titled: “Health Impacts of Tobacco”, Jakpor said that the decision of the tobacco community to commence aggressive grassroots campaigns as exemplified by the Parliament was because of the rising deaths from tobacco which can be pegged to smokers’ ingestion of 4000 chemicals including some carcinogens and pathogens while smoking or causing others to via second hand smoke.
He listed some of the dangerous chemicals in cigarette to include carbon-monoxide, tar which coats the lungs like soot in a chimney, methane, Acetone which is used in nail polish remover, and formaldehyde – a colorless liquid used to preserve the dead. Others are ammonia which is used as flavoring in dry cleaning and benzene which is a hydrocarbon obtained from coal.
Akinbode Oluwafemi, deputy executive director of ERA/FoEN, in a presentation titled: “Reversing the tobacco menace through the National Tobacco Control Act”, said that the rate of addiction to tobacco by the youths, particularly girls was becoming worrisome, even as he added that tobacco is the gateway to addiction to other harmful substances such as cocaine, heroin and marijuana.
He also drew the attention of the participants to shisha which he said, the tobacco industry deliberately portrays as less harmful even when medical experts have through researches proven otherwise.
The ERA/FoEN boss said that the campaign at the policy level with documents was being complemented at the local level with pictorials that will help the under-informed to grasp the magnitude of tobacco harms. He promised the community that the tobacco control community will ensure that pictorial advocacy materials get to them before the commemoration of the 2018 World No Tobacco Day event themed: “Tobacco and Heart Diseases”.
Adewunmi Emoruwa of Gatefield spoke on the threats posed by youth uptake of the smoking habit while Micheal Olaniyan, representative of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK), said that the tobacco menace is global in nature but more prevalent in Nigeria and other developing nations with weak legislations and no legislation at all in some places. To that effect, he said the CTFK is working with its local partners to ensure that effective legislation guided by the World Health Organisation- Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC) is in place.
Earlier, Village Head of Jahi 1 community, Seriki Adamu Dogo, said that the visit to the community was a very welcome one and encouraged the TC community not to relent but to take the campaign to other communities across the country.