On the 27th of May, 2015, the former president of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan took a giant step towards controlling the consumption of tobacco by signing the Tobacco Control Bill into law. This law is to ensure effective regulation and control of production, sale, promotion, labeling, manufacturing, advertising and sponsorship of tobacco and tobacco products in Nigeria.
This law also repeals the Tobacco smoking control Act enacted in 1990 which was amended years after.
Even with countless warnings from both manufacturers and advertisers of tobacco products on the fact that smoking cannot only reduce one’s life span but also damage vital organs in the body, the rate of smoking in Nigeria has been on a steady rise as these warnings, it seems fell on deaf ears.
According to a survey on global adult tobacco use conducted by the National Bureau of statistics, 4.5million adult Nigerians are tobacco addicts. More disturbing is the fact that these smokers exposed 27 million nonsmokers while smoking in public places. Also the survey shows that an average smoker spent N1, 202.5 on tobacco products every month. The estimate of the survey puts Nigeria’s monthly spending on tobacco at N7.45bn and N89.5bn yearly.
The Head of Oncology department, Prof. Remi Ajekigbe is worried that despite the huge dangers associated with smoking, most people have thrown all caution to the wind and are smoking their lives away.
“We all know that both passive and active smokers are in danger as long as they are inhaling the smoke which contains the toxin ‘Nicotine’. Unknown to some, smoking does not only cause cancer of the lungs but also cancer of the cervix in women and cancer of the head and neck in both male and female. Most smokers take alcohol and this has more addictive effect”
What control do we have over tobacco use in Nigeria?
Public health expert, Dr Doyin Odubanjo says we have little or no control since the tobacco products are easily accessible.
“I’m actually shocked at how cheap cigarettes are. A packet goes for N200. So, at this rate primary school students can afford it. Most countries use cost to regulate it by putting taxes on it so the price will shoot up. The idea is to limit consumption by the affordability. Government needs to adopt this approach to see more results”
On how best to control tobacco use, Prof Ajekigbe says the earlier, the better.
“Campaigns should be carried out in primary schools and pupils should be educated on the dangers of smoking, it’s very key. Don’t ever imagine that they are too young to know because they are going to see it walking on the streets. Children see these cigarettes on the streets and might be tempted to buy after seeing adults smoking them”
Dr Odubanjo advocates for strong and systematic health education specifically targeted at the youths.
“There are a lot of people in tobacco companies whose sole job is to design adverts that subtly appeal to the youths. They have a whole department with experts employed to do studies on youths, what appeals to them and what does not. What they are doing is really working for them so the government needs to come up with ways to deal with this”