BusinessDay

Nigeria Cancer Society seeks elimination of smoking imagery from big screen

The Nigerian Cancer Society has petitioned movie producers in a smoke-free campaign seeking the elimination of scenes extoling the use of tobacco on big screens.

The digital petition launched to mark this year’s World Cancer Day aims to reduce the role that the Nigerian film industry plays in normalising harmful smoking habits that result in poor health outcomes such as cancer.

Adamu Umar, president of the Nigerian Cancer Society in a statement provided to BusinessDay said tobacco use is responsible for over 70, 000 deaths in Nigeria, with movies influencing more than one-third of them to start the habit.

“Many Nollywood films today contain smoking scenes that glamourise the use of tobacco products such as cigarettes, and Shisha and unconsciously recruit viewers into damaging habits that harm their health,” he said.

He explained that tobacco use is a leading cause of cancer and about a third of smokers started the habit through the influence of movies.

Endeared characters that appear on big screens as comfortable using tobacco project the feeling it’s a safe and trendy habit. But, Umar warned, it is not.

“Tobacco kills up to half of its users and leaves others with a lifetime of health complications. Tobacco is responsible for lung, mouth, throat, bladder, kidney, liver, stomach, pancreas, oesophagus, larynx, colon, rectum, and cervix cancers. There is no safe or relaxed level of tobacco use,” Umar explained further.

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As the Nigerian Cancer Society president, I call on Nollywood filmmakers, particularly streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, and distributors such as FilmOne, Genesis, and Ebony Life, to remove tobacco use from movies.”

He said the call resonates with the Nigerian Tobacco Control Act which prohibits tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship.

Films depicting historical tobacco users as characters should contain strong anti-smoking narratives and health warnings, he said, noting that many filmmakers globally are already toeing this path in the interest of public health.

According to the 2021 World Health Organisation (WHO) report on the global Tobacco Epidemic, many countries have progressed in their effort to control tobacco as smoking prevalence in people over 15 declined from 22.7 percent to 17.5 percent.

Eight countries including Nigeria adopted large graphic pack warnings. Nigeria also joined 93 other countries that have large graphic warning labels on tobacco products.

But Tedros Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO remains worried over fresh challenges presented by new products such as electronic nicotine delivery systems and heated tobacco products. He said their full risks remain and the impact of nicotine delivery devices is clear.

The report called for the government to place bans that cover all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship activities including direct promotion and indirect promotion product placement on TV or films.

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