• Saturday, June 22, 2024
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World Tobacco Day: WHO wants Nigerian govt to ban tobacco products

‘Tobacco consumption responsible for 8 million deaths yearly’

The World Health Organization (WHO) has called on the Nigerian government to implement a ban on tobacco products, noting a concerning increase in tobacco consumption, particularly among children.

Walter Kazedi, the WHO Country Representative to Nigeria, made the call during a ministerial briefing organised by the Federal Ministry of Health to mark the World Tobacco Day.

Kazedi also emphasised the need for swift action, urging the government to expedite the full implementation of the 2015 National Tobacco Control Act and its regulations which are designed to protect current and future generations from the harmful effects of tobacco.

“I look forward to a day when tobacco products will be banned in Nigeria; when they will not be allowed,” Kazedi stated.

He stated that the World Tobacco Day 2024 theme, ‘Protecting Children from Tobacco Industry Interference,’ aims to raise awareness among young people about the tobacco industry’s harmful targeting practices.

While highlighting the global impact of tobacco, Kazedi reminded the audience that tobacco is responsible for more than 8 million deaths annually, with over 7 million resulting from direct tobacco use and around 1.2 million deaths caused by exposure to second-hand smoke.

Quoting a recent WHO report, ‘Hooking the Next Generation,’ the country representative revealed that an estimated 37 million children aged 13-15 use tobacco worldwide. In many countries, the rate of e-cigarette use among adolescents surpasses that of adults.

The report also noted that most adult tobacco users started when they were children or young adults, with the majority becoming addicted before the age of 21. This pattern indicates that the tobacco industry strategically targets youth to secure lifelong customers.

“The range of products the industry uses to appeal to youth has expanded significantly, from cigarettes, cigarillos, and shisha to newer products like e-cigarettes, heated tobacco products, and nicotine pouches,” Kazedi said.

“Flavored products, sleek designs, and child-friendly packaging make these addictive products even more appealing to youths.”

Despite regulations, he expressed concerns that companies continuously launch new products to evade current laws, aiming to capture market share before new regulations can be enforced. Evidence shows an alarming uptake of products such as e-cigarettes by children, indicating the industry’s success in creating a new generation of users.

In his address, Muhammad Pate, coordinating minister of health and social welfare emphasised the urgent need to protect children from the tobacco industry’s manipulative practices.

“Tobacco remains one of the biggest public health threats worldwide,” Pate stated.

Citing data from the 2012 Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS), the minister revealed that 5.6% of Nigerians aged 15 and older use tobacco products, with 3.9% being current smokers. Additionally, the Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) of 2008 showed tobacco use among adolescents aged 13-15 years ranged from 13.1% to 23.3% in Lagos and Cross River States, respectively.

Pate, who was represented by Kachollom Daju, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Health, called for stronger governmental policies to combat the “manipulative practices,” stressing the profound and long-term health impacts of tobacco on children including respiratory ailments, cognitive impairments, and a higher likelihood of addiction.