Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Why you should stop smoking, now!

Just last Wednesday, 48 hours to the end of the Jonathan administration, the former President decided to give the country some parting gift by signing six bills into law among the scores awaiting his assent. One of the lucky few to be signed into law was the Tobacco Control Bill. The National Tobacco Control Act 2015 is a domestication of the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The new law is aimed at ensuring effective regulation and control of production, manufacturing, sale, labelling, advertising, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco and tobacco products in Nigeria.
I commend ex-president Jonathan for giving Nigeria a new legal framework for combating the monstrous challenge of controlling the consumption of tobacco. I dare say however that it is the easiest part that has been done. The most challenging aspect is that of enforcement of the law. Banning of smoking in public places did not start today. The law has been there but has been observed in the breach. In fact, some states like Lagos and Ekiti have laws which ban smoking in public places yet the act is carried out with impunity.
In the past, tobacco advertising companies were compelled to warn smokers of their likelihood to die young while cigarrete manufacturing companies were also asked to write on the pack that the substance is dangerous to human health. These warnings have not in anyway stopped more people from smoking. A 2012 Global Adult Tobacco Survey carried out in Nigeria revealed that the bulk of Nigeria’s 4.5 million estimated adult smokers were male. While 10 per cent of adult men in Nigeria consumed tobacco, only 1.1 per cent of the women did. Unfortunately, the 4.5 million smoking adults exposed 27 million others to harmful secondhand smoke, the report added, with government buildings and restaurants the most likely places nonsmokers get exposure to tobacco. The survey also estimated that an average smoker in Nigeria spent N1, 202.5 on tobacco products monthly. On the whole, Nigerians spent an average of N7.45bn on tobacco monthly, and N89.5bn yearly.
According to my research, smoking is the most preventable cause of death in the United States. Almost one-thirds of deaths from coronary heart disease are attributable to smoking and secondhand smoke. Smoking is linked to about 90 per cent of lung cancer cases in the United States. About 20 per cent of adult men and about 16 per cent of adult women smoke. The highest percentage of people who smoke are between the ages of 21 and 34. About 54 per cent of American children ages between three and 11 years are exposed to secondhand smoke. On the average, smokers die more than 10 years earlier than nonsmokers. Another study has also shown that China has more than 300 million smokers, and that more than one million people die each year due to smoking-related diseases, according to the National Health and Family Planning Commission.
Given the grave danger smokers constitute to themselves and the society at large, it is important to step up the enlightenment campaigns in order to rid this country of one veritable source of preventable death, one which kills more people than HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. Someone said smokers are wittingly or unwittingly committing suicide.
That’s true! For instance, smoking is said to harm nearly every organ of the body and affects a person’s overall health. Smoking can make it harder for a woman to become pregnant and can affect her baby’s health before and after birth. Smoking increases risks for preterm (early) delivery; stillbirth (death of the baby before birth); low birth weight; sudden infant death syndrome (known as SIDS or crib death); ectopic pregnancy and orofacial clefts in infants
Smoking can also affect men’s sperm, which can reduce fertility. Smoking affects the teeth and gums and can cause tooth loss. It can increase risks for cataracts (clouding of the eye’s lens that makes it hard for people to see). Smoking is a cause of type 2 diabetes mellitus and can make it harder to control. The risk of developing diabetes is 30-40 per cent higher for active smokers than nonsmokers. Smoking is also a cause of rheumatoid arthritis.
If all these health hazards affect only the smokers, one would have shrugged and exclaimed that “It serves them right!” However, smoking equally affects nonsmokers. According to an investigation, secondhand smoke constitutes danger to nonsmokers, especially children. Nonsmokers who have high blood pressure or high blood cholesterol have an even greater risk of developing heart diseases when they are exposed to secondhand smoke. Studies show that the risk of developing heart disease is about 25-30 per cent higher among people exposed to environmental tobacco smoke at home or work. Children of smokers also have more respiratory infections than children of nonsmokers.
Given the serious health implications and complications of smoking, why then do people still smoke? A lot of people smoke out of curiosity, peer pressure, for social integration, to relieve stress, and for fun. Whatever reasons that may be advanced for this killer habit, it is not good enough considering the fact that the habit is suicidal. It behoves the federal and state Ministries of Health and Information to wage a sustained campaign against tobacco smoking in Nigeria.
There is no doubt that this ugly phenomenon of preventable death via smoking is a global challenge. This newspaper in its Monday, June 1, 2015 edition published a report on how China is dealing with the problem. It says, “Tough anti-smoking measures have gone into effect in the Chinese capital, where smoking is now banned in restaurants, offices and on public transport. Under the law rolled out on Monday, anyone in Beijing who violates the bans, which include smoking near schools and hospitals, must pay $32.25. The current fine, seldom enforced, is just $1.60. Anyone who breaks the law three times will be named and shamed on a government website. And businesses can be fined up to $1,600 for failing to stamp out smoking on their premises. The government will also no longer allow cigarettes to be sold to shops within 100 metres of primary schools and kindergartens, according to state media.” The report also claimed that at least 1,300 inspectors would be dispatched to enforce the ban, supported by volunteers.
I do hope our government will come out with creative and effective ways to combat this menace, especially in public places. If anyone chooses to die young, so be it but smokers should stop constituting public nuisance to the non-smoking populace.
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