The Nigeria government says it will as from 23rd June 2021, begin the implementation of graphic pictorial health warning messages on tobacco products.
The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, says the pictorial campaign will replace the age-long health warning texts, which reads: “The Federal Ministry of Health Warns that Smokers Are Liable to Die Young”.
Dr Ehanire, stated this at a Press briefing in Abuja, to commemorate the 2021 World No Tobacco Day.
“The graphic health warning is important and more effective because the picture on the product package drives the warning message home to those who cannot, or do not care to read about the damaging effects of tobacco use,” he said.
Death toll from Tobacco
According to him, the death toll from tobacco is high in Nigeria, as the Tobacco Atlas of 2018 reports estimates of more than 16,100 deaths from tobacco-related diseases every year.
“Another research finding published in 2021 by the Centre for the Study of the Economies of Africa showed that 29,472 deaths in Nigeria were attributable to smoking. In tackling the tobacco menace, Nigeria signed and ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2004 and 2005 respectively. In furtherance of the WHO FCTC, Nigeria enacted the National Tobacco Control Act 2015 and the National Tobacco Control Regulations 2019,” the Minister explained.
Dr Ehanire, also said that ”in Nigeria, findings from the 2012 Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) show that 5.6% (4.5 million) Nigerians 15 years and older, currently use tobacco products of which 3.9% (3.1 million) are smokers. The GATS result further shows that 45.4% of the smokers had attempted to quit in the past 12 months prior to the survey, of which 61.1% attempted to do so without any assistance while 15% tried counseling and 5.2% tried pharmacotherapy.
“Tobacco use or exposure to second-hand smoke is the leading preventable risk factor for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like hypertension, stroke, cancers, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases. The WHO data shows that there are over 1.3b tobacco users in the world, and that tobacco is in one way or another responsible for more than 8m deaths each year, more than 7m of which are as the result of direct tobacco use while around 1.2m are the result of non-smokers being indirectly exposed to second-hand smoke.”
Dr. Ehanire said that the theme for the 2021 “World No Tobacco Day”: “Commit to Quit” comes at a good time, when the global community is battling the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This is especially so, as evidence has shown that tobacco users and those with underlying non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) are at higher risk of severe Covid-19 outcomes. Assisting people to quit tobacco use will therefore improve COVID-19 treatment outcomes,” he stressed.
The Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunibe Mamora, commended all the International non governmental organisations for sustaining the tempo in the struggle to curb tobacco menace.
He said that ”although tobacco is not an illegal product, its use is extremely harmful.”
The World Health Organisation has revealed that around 1.2m non-smokers die from exposure to tobacco smoke every year.
The WHO Country Representative in Nigeria, Dr. Walter Molumbo, says that millions of people were motivated to quit tobacco during the Covid-19 pandemic because of evidence showing tobacco smoking impairs lung function, making it harder for the body to fight off coronaviruses and other diseases.
“Tobacco use harms nearly every organ in the human body. 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,” Molumbo said.
According to him, ”of the 1.3 billion tobacco users globally, 60% have expressed the desire to quit but only 30% have access to the tools to do so successfully.”
The Country Director also congratulated Nigeria for being among the recipients of the WHO 2021 awards.
Also the Executive Director of Corporate Accountability and Public Participation, Africa, Mr. Akinbode Oluwafemi, said ”government must enforce the ban on tobacco advertisements and promotion, including the ban on smoking in movies and entertainment platforms.”
The 2021 World No Tobacco Day is with the theme “Commit to Quit”.
The objectives of this year’s campaign are; ‘To advocate for strong tobacco cessation guidelines and programmes;
”To promote increased access to tobacco cessation services such that at least 100 million tobacco users worldwide are offered help and empowered to make successful attempts to quit the use of tobacco; and
”To raise awareness on tobacco industry tactics.’
The World No Tobacco Day is marked on May 31st to draw attention to the risks associated with tobacco use.