The Nigerian Heart Foundation (NHF) has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure effective and sustainable implementation of the recently signed tobacco law in the country.
The Director of Tobacco, NHF, Mr. DapoRotifa, who made the call during the foundation’s event to mark this year’s ‘World No Tobacco Day’ held on Tuesday in Lagos, said the first action to take in reducing tobacco use in the country was for President Buhari to immediately put strategies in place for its implementation, while adding that all stakeholders including the NHF, the World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) and other international and local bodies have pledged to support the government and the Ministry of Health for its effective implementation.
He said the signing of the bill into law meant that Nigerians now have an instrument to ensure effective regulation and control of production, manufacture, sale, promotion, advertising and sponsorship of tobacco products in the country.
According to him, the foundation, in collaboration with UNIC, United Nations Association of Nigeria (UNAN) are championing awareness against tobacco use in the country because of the numerous health risks it presents.
He said: “the goal of the World No Tobacco Day is to encourage a 24 hour period of abstinence from all forms of tobacco use across the globe and draw global attention to the use of tobacco and the negative health effects of the products.”
Rotifa, noted that global tobacco epidemic kills nearly six million people each year, of which more than 600,000 are non-smokers dying from breathing second hand smoke. “Unless we act, the epidemic will kill more than 8 million people every year by 2030. More than 80 per cent of these preventable deaths will be among people living in low and middle income countries,” he added.
He thanked the immediate past President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan for signing the bill into law, while adding that Jonathan courageously ignored more than 30 years of challenges by the tobacco industries to thwart efforts to enact comprehensive tobacco legislation in Nigerian.
The coordinator, Coalition Against Tobacco, OnaolapoOlatoyosi in her remark said the federal government as well as state governments must collaborate and openly demonstrate focus and attention against tobacco use.
She said there was need for the government to consider the possibility of criminal prosecution against the tobacco companies operating in Nigeria and pursue these legal actions to a logical conclusion “because cigarette is the only product which if administered according to the manufacturer’s prescription will definitely kill its users.” Adding that there were about 4,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke; about 200 of those chemicals are poisonous, while more than 60 of which are known carcinogenic agents which causes cancer.
According to her, tobacco smoking causes impotence in men, miscarriage in pregnant women, low birth weight babies and premature births.
While giving details of how tobacco destroys its user, she said some of the chemicals in cigarette were poisonous and harmful to the human body. “Tar which is a major component that causes health hazards in cigarette is used in road construction. Ammonia, which is found in cigarette is a substance found in urine and also used as toilet and floor cleaner. Cadmium found in cigarette is used in the manufacturing of car batteries and plastics.”
She also added that arsenic and cyanide, which are chemicals found in cigarette are rat poisons, “while carbon monoxide is a poisonous emission from car exhaust, and it reduces oxygen in the blood, forms blood clots in the bloodstream and as well leads to heart attack.”
She called on the judiciary not to delay any judicial process instituted against offenders of tobacco law, “particularly curbing time wasting process and applications, especially as it relates to tobacco-related cases.”
She said there was need for various anti tobacco organisations and the civil society to intensify tobacco-control advocacy and education.
According to her, people need to be educated on what the recently passed tobacco bill entails. She therefore listed some provisions in the bill which includes, “prohibition of sale of tobacco products to and by minors, ban on all forms of tobacco advertisement, prohibition of sale of cigarette by stick; which means it can only be sold in packs of minimum of 20 sticks,
“It is only in Nigeria that cigarette is sold by the stick. When a single stick is sold, it makes it more easy for anyone, including children to purchase it because a stick is more affordable than buying the whole pack.”
She explained that in United Kingdom, that cigarettes were only sold in packs. “A pack of cigarette in UK is 7 pounds which is about N2,000 in Nigeria. If we as well raise the cost of cigarette in Nigeria, it would go a long way in discouraging people, especially the youths and the low income earners from purchasing it.
In his remark, the Director, NHF, Dr. Kingsley Akinroye, called on WHO member countries, including Nigeria to support the framework convention on tobacco control to eradicate illicit trade in cheaper tobacco products.
“This illicit trade tends to lure younger and poorer groups into addiction while depleting the ability of states to charge taxes that could support health services. By striking at the criminal gangs and tobacco companies that engage in this reprehensible trade, we will advance public health and sustainable development,” he added.
Published: 11 Jun 2015. By Martins Ifijeh
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