All the stakeholders must do more to tackle the menace of smoking
The recent call by the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK) for an end to using smoking scenes in movies, music video and other aspects of the entertainment industry, is one we wholeheartedly endorse. According to CAPPA Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi, the entertainment materials are veritable tools for the transfer of ideas and promotion of alternative lifestyles. "Youths are initiated into using tobacco products through advertising and subliminal promotion of smoking scenes in movies, music videos and product placements", said Oluwafemi. "The tobacco industry has exploited the entertainment sector (films and music videos) to entice and conscript young people into smoking."
In her message on this year's World No Tobacco Day, the World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti said tobacco kills half of its users every year and about 1.2 million non-smokers die from exposure to it. The WHO director reports that currently more than 75 million people on the continent use some form of tobacco, adding that this burden is likely to increase as consumer purchasing power improves coupled with intensive efforts by the tobacco industry to expand the African market. Most worrisome, according to available studies, is that about 5.6 per cent Nigerians from age 15 years and above use tobacco products.
That smoking is still a major public health issue in Nigeria was confirmed last week with a recent declaration by the Federal Ministry of Health that about five million Nigerians consume, on an annual basis, more than 20 billion sticks of cigarettes. Nigeria should be worried about such dismal statistics. Given the demography in which young people constitute about 70 per cent of the population, there are obvious dangers of smoking to the health of the country. For instance, it has been established that for every tobacco-related death, two new young people under the age of 26 become regular smokers. The relationship between active smoking, reduced lung function and impaired lung growth is linked to a strong tobacco habit. Therefore, Nigeria needs to focus on protecting young people from starting to smoke. An increase in expenditure on sustained and comprehensive tobacco control programmes has proved effective in the reduction of youth and adult smoking rates in many countries. Our governments, at all levels, need to lend its financial support to these initiatives.
The tobacco industry invests heavily in research on how best to capture the imagination of youth; assured in the knowledge that nicotine (a heavily addictive drug found in cigarettes) would continue to ensure that the target group would persist in smoking into adulthood. Studies have also confirmed that the younger the age, the heavier the addiction and thus the harder it is to drop the habit. The calculation, which has proved true, is that most of these young people never consider the long-term risks.
Until we can curtail the use of tobacco, our young people will continue to get sick, efficiency will continue to decline, and our nation will continue to lose many of its otherwise productive citizens. We must avail our young people the true perspective on smoking; we must aim at creating the environment that makes it difficult for smoking to thrive. We urgently need to prevent the needless suffering of premature disease caused by tobacco, the huge expenditure on health, while committing to save millions of lives.