Smoking: Why Implementation Of Tobacco Control Act Is Crucial

ABUJA – Nine years after the National Tobacco Control Act was signed into law by former president, Goodluck Jonathan, the law is still not fully implemented as smoking in public places remain a common practice in Nigeria.

The National Tobacco Act makes provision for restriction of smoking to designated smoking areas in indoor public places and workplaces. It also prohibits smoking in public transport, outdoor spaces like restaurants and bars, playgrounds, amusement parks, public parks, bus stops, vehicle parks, seaports and any public gathering, including sale of single sticks of cigarettes and sale of cigarettes in kiosks among others.

Public health experts have said that smoking in public does not only endanger the life of the smoker but also the lives of those around.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), tobacco use harms nearly every organ in the human body, saying even smoking one cigarette a day can seriously harm a person’s health.

“Tobacco use can lead to lung, mouth, throat, oesophagus, stomach, bowel and other cancers. It increases the risk of chest and lung infections, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and other conditions. There is no safe form of tobacco,” says WHO.

Despite the public health threat posed by tobacco, available data shows that over 20 billion sticks of cigarettes are consumed annually in Nigeria, and 5.6 per cent of adults (4.5 million) currently use tobacco products. About 82 per cent of the entire population of the country are exposed to second-hand smoke when visiting bars and nightclubs and 29.3 per cent (6.4 million) when visiting restaurants.

In the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) for instance, smoking is very common in motor parks, within hotel premises and bars. sticks of cigarettes are still being sold in kiosks in neighbourhoods and motor parks especially.

This disregard for the law is not restricted to FCT as the same is observed in almost all major cities across the country. This has, therefore, raised the concerns over the enforcement of the Tobacco Control Act.

Meanwhile, WHO has urged Nigeria and other African countries to implement and enforce a 100 percent ban on public smoking and the use of electronic cigarettes (vaping).

WHO regional director for Africa, Dr. Moeti Matshidiso, gave the advice during the 2024 World No Tobacco Day commemoration, with the theme: “Protecting Children from Tobacco Industry Interference”.

Moeti also urged African Leaders to apply excise tax and price measures to reduce tobacco consumption and implement effective measures to communicate health risks through graphic health warnings to populations, including children and youth.

World No Tobacco Day is observed every May 31 to draw attention to the dangers associated with tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke.

Moeti said, “Today, we reflect on our progress in tobacco control while recognising the challenges in our efforts to stop the tactics employed by the tobacco industry to frustrate tobacco control efforts.

This year’s theme is aimed at mobilising international efforts to shield young people from harmful tobacco and nicotine products and the deceptive strategies often used by the tobacco industry to market their products.

By this theme, young people across the world have a platform to call out for the tobacco industry to stop targeting them with products that are harmful to their health.”

Quoting the WHO global report on trends in prevalence of tobacco use 2000-2025 Fifth Edition, Moeti said there are 7 million tobacco users in Africa, adding that an estimated 1.3 million people die from second-hand smoke every year.

In the African Region, tobacco use among young people aged 13 to 15 years is at 11.1 percent for boys and 7.2 percent for girls, which is about 7 million tobacco users[ (WHO 2023: WHO global report on trends in prevalence of tobacco use 2000-2025 Fifth Edition).

“An estimated 1.3 million people die from second-hand smoke every year. These deaths are entirely preventable. People exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke are at risk of dying from heart disease, stroke, respiratory diseases, type 2 diabetes, and cancers, ” she said.

She urged WHO Member States in the African region to step up their efforts to protect young people from tobacco industry interference by ensuring governments honour and abide by their obligations under WHO FCTC Article 5.3 by introducing safeguards to protect tobacco-control policy from tobacco industry interference.

Countering tobacco industry tactics through evidence-based arguments and best practices with full involvement of civil society organisations.

“Raising awareness among the public on the tactics of the tobacco industry; and exposing industry efforts to target youth and attract generations of people with addiction through innovative approaches, including marketing new and emerging products and using flavours.”

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