A national research titled ‘Big Tobacco: Tiny Targets’ released last week in Abuja by the Nigerian Tobacco Control Research Group (NTCRG), the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), and the African Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA), has revealed a third category effect of smoking which could last for over 30 years, Daily Trust reports.
During the public presentation of the report in Abuja which involved some secondary schools students and NYSC members, a student, Miss Janet Yakubu, said her worry is that despite the effects of smoking, the federal and state governments have not taken action against the habit.
“No one should tell me that smoking is a choice. It should have been criminalized as the danger of smoking is both immediate and long lasting. For me I do not see the difference in cigarette and other banned products like Indian hemp, cocaine and codeine,” she said.
Her compatriot, Catherine Agada, urged government to treat smoking like armed robbery and other crimes.
What is known are the two categories of “mainstream smoker”, that is a person who directly smokes cigarette and “secondhand” or “side stream smoker” also known as “passive smoker”, that is the people who inhale smoke exhaled by smokers.
According to international anti-smoking observers with the exception of a few select brands, most common cigarette brands contain not just tobacco, but a variety of other ingredients, including preservatives, humectants, flavours and other additives aimed at increasing a cigarette’s appeal to customers.
“When these are burned, an additional 4,000 substances are created, at least 40 of which are known carcinogens; and as tar and other chemicals coat the lungs over the years, the risk of a smoker developing lung cancer and other bronchial illnesses jumps.”
Such has been the intensity of debates on smoking that many organisations across the country, like other worldwide organisations and activists against smoking speak out.
According to the “Big Tobacco: Tiny Targets” research, tobacco companies are targeting young Nigerians in primary and secondary schools for recruitment into smoking to make them succeed the dwindling number of adult and ageing smokers in Nigeria.
“Tobacco companies strategically situate tobacco products and advertisements near primary and secondary schools in the country with the aim of enticing kids to try the products in experimental smoking and ultimately get addicted,” the report stated.
The Coordinator of Nigerian Tobacco Control Research Group (NTCRG) Dr Akindele Adebiyi, who presented the report said that the research was conducted in 221 schools of five states of the country: Lagos (18), Lafia (Nasarawa) (26), Enugu (38), Kaduna (65) and Ibadan (Oyo) (74).
He said third and new category of smoking was not being talked about despite its being known.
According to him, the effect of a stick of cigarette was such that the heavy metals releases after it has been smoked in a room would still be in such a room such that dusts or sands swept in such a room would continue to have traces of the heavy metals including lead, nickel, cadmium, arsenic and aluminum among others.
“We all have to protect the smokers and non-smokers alike,” he said adding, “We might wake up one day and discover that we are all suffering one ailment or another.”
The chairman governing board of NTCA and Deputy Director of the ERA/FoEN Akinbode Oluwafemi, said the signing of the National Tobacco Control Act (NTC) on May 25, 2015 provided the legal framework for the protection of present and future generations of Nigerians from the devastating health, social, economic and environmental consequences of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke.
He however called for full implementation of the act rather than talks and rhetoric.
The Sub-Regional Coordinator, West Africa of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK), Mrs. Hilda Ochefu, urged government to live up to its responsibility of protecting the citizens on what they are exposed to through purchase or otherwise from smoking.
She said tobacco use was the single most preventable cause of deaths and that the tobacco industry deliberately targeted kids as replacement smokers hence the need for the immediate enforcement of provisions of the NTC Act announced by the Minister of Health, which included ban on single stick sale of cigarettes and ban on smoking in public places.
The report recommended urgent passage of the regulations guiding implementation of the National Tobacco Control (NTC) Act 2015 by the National Assembly and proactive prohibition of placement of tobacco products within 100 meters of any educational institution by the federal, state and local education authorities.
It demanded the enforcement of the comprehensive prohibition of Tobacco Advertising Promotion and Sponsorship (TAPS) and the setting up of a framework for monitoring the implementation of the ban on single sticks and cigarettes packs of less than 20 sticks as contained in the NTC Act 2015.