The Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Health, Mr Abdullahi Mashi, has urged Nigerians to support the fight against tobacco to avert lung diseases and other tobacco-related conditions in the country.
Mashi made the call in Abuja on Saturday, June 1, 2019 at the commemoration of 2019 World No Tobacco Day.
This year’s theme is “Tobacco and Lung Health”.
Mashi said that the event sought to raise awareness on the magnitude of illnesses and deaths from lung diseases, including cancer of the lungs, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and pulmonary tuberculosis
He said that evidence had shown that the diseases could all be caused by direct tobacco use and exposure to second hand-tobacco smoke.
He also said that the commemoration was meant to bring stakeholders on board to reinforce the ministry’s efforts in the promotion of “lung health” with a view to achieving overall health and well-being of Nigerians.
“Although tobacco is a legitimate product, its use in any form or disguise, including exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke, is very hazardous as it has no permissible safe limit.
“Laboratory analysis shows that tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals of which at least 250 are proven to be harmful and more than 69 are known to cause cancer.
“According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) report, there are over 1.1 billion adult smokers worldwide and at least 367 million persons use smokeless tobacco products.
“Eight million die annually through the effect of tobacco of which over six million are by direct use and about 890,000 by exposure to second-hand smoke.
“At least 50 per cent of lifetime tobacco smokers will die before they reach 70 years of age, and the average loss of life from smoking is a full decade of life,” he said.
Mashi, therefore, urge all Nigerians to do their best to prevent tobacco-related lung diseases.
According to him, globally, lung cancer, which is the deadliest cancer, kills 1.76 million people each year of which approximately 37,748 of the deaths occur in Africa.
“It is estimated that 65 million people worldwide have moderate to severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), from which about three million die each year.
“Similarly, tuberculosis afflicts 10.4 million people annually with a corresponding 1.4 million deaths.
“All the lung diseases and deaths mentioned are closely linked to tobacco. In fact, some studies have documented positive history of direct tobacco use or exposure to second-hand smoke in almost all cases of lung cancer,” Mashi said.
He stated that in Nigeria, findings from 2012 Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) showed very high burden of tobacco in the country with over 20 billion sticks of cigarettes consumed annually.
He said that the Nigerian GATS found 4.5 million adults to be current users of tobacco products, adding that the rate of exposure to second-hand smoke in public places was very high, at 82 per cent.
The permanent secretary stated that to forge ways to adequately control the tobacco-supply chain, Federal Government ratified the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products on March 8, 2019.
“While the ministry is mobilizing resources for a national awareness creation and capacity building, we are not unaware of the urgent need to assist those already using tobacco products.
“In collaboration with WHO and European Respiratory Society, the ministry is currently piloting Tobacco Cessation Services in some selected health care facilities in the FCT.
“We intend to scale up nationwide pending availability of resources so as to offer help to tobacco users to quit the habit,” he said.
He also said that it was critical for tobacco manufacturers, importers and distributors to comply with the Act and inform their chain of retailers to do same to avoid prosecution.
Mashi urged hospitality and entertainment industry to comply strictly with regulations by ensuring smoke-free places in their facilities.
“They are to remove ashtrays and all other accessories used to consume tobacco products, and they are to display conspicuously a warning notice in English Language and at least one predominant local language.
“It should contain the statement that reads ‘No Smoking Area – Smoking here is an offence’, ‘Penalty is N50, 000 or imprisonment for a term of six months or both’.
“From now, each tobacco business shall apply for license to the ministry through the National Tobacco Control Committee (NATOCC).
“Tobacco company that manufactures tobacco products for sale in Nigeria shall print pictorial graphic health warning messages on the packages of their tobacco products as prescribed in the National Tobacco Control Regulations,” he said.
Mashi added that the pictorial graphic would become effective 18 months from date of official gazette of the Regulations and would replace “the outdated text warning of `Federal Ministry of Health warns that smokers are liable to die young.”
By Jessica Onyegbula