President of the United Nations Association of Nigeria (UNAN), Joan Agha has urged Nigerian youths to desist from smoking cigarette as smokers stand higher risk of several diseases, including cancer.
Speaking at a one-day forum organised for Secondary School students in Lagos by UNAN in collaboration with Nigerian Heart Foundation and the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC), Lagos to mark this year’s World No Tobacco Day which came under the theme, “Quit Smoking Tobacco” Agha stated that smoking causes more than 5 million deaths globally per year and added that current trend shows that the number would increase to 8 million deaths annually by 2030.
She said: “On average the life expectancy of a smoker is 10 years less than that of a nonsmoker. Cigarette smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, 70 of which are known to cause cancer.
“Smoking is responsible for about one in 5 deaths annually, further more second hand smoking causes about 600,000 deaths per year. You will agree with me that these are not very interesting statistics and something should be done urgently to salvage the situation.”
Quoting a report from the World Health Organisation (WHO), she said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has made millions of tobacco users want to quit smoking. With nearly 60 percent of tobacco users around the world wanting to quit smoking, but only 30 percent of the global population having access to quality tobacco cessation services, WHO launched a global campaign under the slogan ‘Commit to Quit’ to celebrate the World No Tobacco Day 2021’’.
Giving a brief history of ‘World No Tobacco Day’, the UNAN president explained that it was created by the member states of WHO in 1987 and is celebrated globally every year on May, 31.
She also expounded that the essence is to draw attention to the tobacco epidemic and the preventable death and disease it causes.
Continuing she said: “This yearly celebration informs the public on the dangers of using tobacco, the business practices of tobacco companies, what WHO is doing to fight the tobacco epidemic, and what people around the world can do to claim their right to health and healthy living and to protect future generations’’.
Reading a statement by the WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at the event, Agha said: “Smokers have up to a 50 percent higher risk of developing severe disease and death from Covid-19, so quitting is the best thing smokers can do to lower their risk from this coronavirus, as well as the risk of developing cancers, heart disease and respiratory illnesses.”
Speaking on, “Their tobacco our violence” keynote speaker, Adeyelu Olusola stated that smoking can damage every parts of the body.
Reckoning some of the chronic diseases caused by smoking, Olusola who is also a medical practitioner said they include cancers; stroke; blindness, reduced fertility; hip fracture, heart disease, chronic lung disease among others.
To quit smoking, he advised that a smoker should set a quit date; tell others about his decision to quit; anticipate challenges and plan to overcome; remove everything cigarette; and talk to your doctor.
On his part, UNAN Secretary general emeritus, Ganiyu Owolabi UNAN noted that the decision to focus on the youths in the campaign against smoking was ideal as his organisation aimed to catch them young.
According to Owolabi who is the immediate past secretary general of the UNAN, opined that it is easier to discourage youths from smoking than asking them to quit.
In his words: “Once they start smoking, it will be very difficult to quit because quitting cigarette smoking is not an easy task.”
However, he stressed the need for youths to be continuously reminded on the dangers associated with cigarette smoking and added that such would enable them not to get involved in such detrimental habit.
On his part, the secretary-general of UNAN, Remi Olutimo affirmed that the annual event had gone a long way in education people including the young ones on the hazards and side effect of smoking.
Olutimo identified peer pressure and rejection by parents as some of the factors responsible for youth’s involvement in smoking.
He therefore, advised parents to monitor what their children does at home as well as in the school, adding “We should be friends to our kids, parents should also partner with the schools of their wards so as to know them better, such monitoring will checkmate their activities.”
Founder of S.T & T. Regency Schools Ikeja, venue of the event, Margi Ibru who commented on the debate which involved three Secondary schools in Lagos, said that the participating students from R.S &. T. Regency Schools; Ifako International Secondary School and Clasam Schools did excellently well, adding that their presentations were an indication that Nigeria had brilliant children.
It is interesting to note that the debate which came under the theme, ‘Quit smoking tobacco; Yes or No”, had speakers of R.S.&.T. Regency as the winner, while second position went to Ifako International School, Clasam Schools came third. They all went home with awards.