By Ayodamola Owoseye
As Nigeria joins the World in commemorating the “World No Tobacco Day”, Nigerians have been urged to support the implementation of the National Tobacco Control Act.
NTCA is an anti-tobacco law which was signed into law in 2015. The law, when implemented among others is meant to protect the health of Nigerian and reduce exposure to second-hand smoking.
Unfortunately, the full implementation of the Act has been stalled because of a clause in the Act which mandates that before implementation, the National Assembly needs to pass another law to regulate the enforcement of the Act.
Nigeria has been able to overcome the hurdle as the law was passed May 28.
By this, the NTCA can be fully implemented in line with the World Health Organisation Framework on Tobacco Control.
The World Health Organisation Regional Director, Matshidiso Moeti, in a press briefing in Abuja to commemorate the day, said tobacco control has become very important as tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced.
Ms Moeti said the control of the use of tobacco has become very important because it has a negative effect on the health of many people especially children.
Tobacco, lung health
The theme of this year is “Tobacco and Lung health”.
The event this year seeks to raise awareness on the magnitude of illness and deaths caused by exposure to tobacco smoke.
Evidences have shown that many lung diseases such as cancer of the lungs, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and pulmonary tuberculosis are caused by direct tobacco use and exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke.
Although tobacco is a legitimate product, its use in any form, including exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke is very dangerous and 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 69 are known to cause cancer.
The WHO Nigeria Officer in Charge, Clement Peter, who represented Ms Moeti, said it has become necessary to raise awareness on the dangers associated with tobacco use and exposure globally.
He said worldwide, about 165,000 children die before the age of five because of lower respiratory infection and other lung diseases which are caused by second-hand tobacco smoke.
“Tobacco smoking is dangerous- it affects the lungs in multiple ways and children are at great risk. Our lungs are fundamental to our health and wellbeing. Smoking is the primary cause for lungs cancer and responsible for more than two thirds of lung cancer deaths.
“The exposure of smoke toxin in the womb reduces lungs lung growth and function. Young children exposed to second- hand tobacco smoke can develop pneumonia, bronchitis and lower respiratory infections.”
According to WHO, in 2018, 39, 353 new cases of lung cancer were diagnosed in Africa and 37,748 deaths occurred.
Mr Peter said there is good news for people who quit smoking as it reduces their risk of lung cancer by 50 per cent after only 10 years.
The permanent secretary, Federal Ministry of health, Abdulaziz Abdullahi, in his speech said the ministry has begun plans to implementing the NTCA.
He said the ministry will be coordinating all national tobacco control activities.
“I am delighted to inform you that the long awaited Regulations to the Act which the National Tobacco Control Committee (NATOCC) drafted, and vetted by the Ministry and submitted to the National Assembly through the Federal Executive Council (FEC), have finally been approved by the National Assembly on May 28 in line with Section 39 of the Act.
Although there are no accurate statistics on the number of people who use tobacco in the country, a finding from Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) shows that over 20 billion sticks of cigarette are consumed annually.
The Nigerian GATS found that 4.5 million (5.6 per cent) adults are currently users of tobacco products.
Meanwhile, the rate of exposure to second-hand smoke in public places is as high as 82 per cent in bars and nightclubs, 36.3 per cent in coffee shops and 29.3 per cent in restaurants.
Among our school children age 13 – 15 years, 15.4 per cent are current tobacco users based on the Nigeria Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) that was conducted in 2008 at sub-national level.
Mr Abdullahi said the ministry in collaboration with the WHO and European Respiratory Society is also planning to assist those already using tobacco products.
He said the Ministry is currently piloting Tobacco Cessation Services in some selected healthcare facilities in the FCT.
He also cautioned the public to comply with the extant provisions of the Act as the relevant Authority will go on full scale arrest and prosecution of defaulters.