Nigeria: Call to Integrate Smoking Cessation Into National Healthcare Delivery Systems

24 June 2021

In commemoration of the '2021 World No Tobacco Day', themed 'Commit to Quit', the Corporate Accountability & Public Participation Africa in collaboration with The Africa Centre for Tobacco Industry Monitoring and Policy Research harped on the need to integrate smoking cessation into the country's healthcare delivery system.

Annually, May 31 marks the celebration of 'World No Tobacco Day'. The celebration is aimed at informing the public on the risks associated with tobacco use, and what individuals can do to claim their constitutional right to a healthy environment.

The theme for this year poses a challenge to smokers by encouraging them to 'commit to quit' smoking. And it was in line with the theme that Corporate Accountability & Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) and Africa Centre for Tobacco Industry Monitoring (ATIM) also called for the integration of smoking cessation into the country's healthcare delivery system.

In his address, CAPPA Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi said the theme for the year was significant in view of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on smokers.

According to him, "research has shown that COVID impacts are more precarious for smokers who are already susceptible to lung damage due to smoking. The studies suggest that there is a higher incidence of severe lung complications for smokers who contract COVID as compared to non-smokers.

"A scientific brief released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) earlier this year goes further to show that smokers are at higher risk of developing severe disease and death from COVID-19. In view of these findings, it is safe to conclude that smoking cessation has major health benefits for smokers.

"The benefits which can be either instantaneous or over time include reduction in the likelihood of developing cancers, heart attack, stroke, chronic lung disease, hospitalisations, and deaths from COVID-19. By committing to quit, smokers will not only secure health benefits, but also financial gains that come with the redirection of money that would otherwise have been spent on purchase of tobacco products for productive use. When you quit, you win."

According to the WHO the benefits of quitting smoking are immediate and also long term. According to WHO, within 20 minutes of quitting smoking, the heart rate and blood pressure of a smoker drops; in 12 hours, the carbon monoxide level in the blood drops to normal. Between two to 12 weeks, the circulation improves, and the lung function increases. Between one to nine months, coughing and shortness of breath decrease. Within one year, the risk of coronary heart disease is about half that of a smoker.

In five years, stroke risk is reduced to that of a nonsmoker, in 10 years, the risk of having a lung cancer falls to about half that of a smoker and the risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, cervix, and pancreas decreases.

The world health body likewise noted that in 15 years after quitting smoking, the risk of coronary heart disease becomes that of a nonsmoker.

Oluwafemi continued that for Nigeria, the WNTD2021 presents an opportunity to reflect on our peculiar situation with regards to tobacco control.

"In as much as we join the global call encouraging smokers to quit, we must equally highlight the fact that the environment required to make this happen in Nigeria has not been created."

He lamented the delay in the enforcement of the National Tobacco Control Act 2015 and the National Tobacco Control Regulations 2019, which according to him, "can make that environment a reality."

He said this delay has created loopholes that the tobacco industry exploits to further their business interests.

"Noticeably, they now target kids as replacement smokers by their flouting of the ban on tobacco advertising promotion and sponsorships in the entertainment and media sectors."

Oluwafemi likewise condemned the glamourisation of smoking in movies and product placement, as he claimed that there was an "assumed worrying proportions as evidenced in the production of movies in indigenous languages with a high prevalence of unnecessary smoking scenes."

He therefore concluded that the Nigerian government must exploit all the available options to protect the next generation of Nigerian kids from taking up nicotine addiction and assist current smokers to quit.

"And for this to happen we urge the Nigerian government to integrate smoking cessation, awareness and counseling into the National Healthcare delivery systems, comprehensively enforce the National Tobacco Control Act 2015 and the National Tobacco Control Regulations 2019 without delay."

He also urged the government to "enforce a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorships, enforce graphic health warnings on tobacco packs, enforce the ban of the sale of tobacco products to underage, increase taxes on tobacco products to make them less affordable, and operationalise the Tobacco Control Fund (TCF)."

In a brief remark, ATIM Director, Prof. Lekan Ayo-Yusuf, said, "Smoking cessation has major health benefits for women and men of all ages, regardless of their health status. The benefits are immediate (from minutes after the last cigarette), and long-lasting (accrue over 20 years). They include a reduction in the risk for lung cancer and other cancers, heart attack, stroke, chronic lung disease and, with possibly the most recent benefit, being reduced risk of severe illness, hospitalisation, and death from COVID-19."

He said by committing to quit, smokers will not only reap health benefits, but also financial benefits such as increased savings on money spent on purchase of cigarettes.

"Those of low socio-economic status unfortunately spend significantly more on cigarettes and hence deepening poverty."

He however concluded that the full implementation of the Nigerian tobacco control law would create an enabling environment for smoking cessation, "as smokers trying to quit will not be exposed to any form of advertisement, which may serve as cues to resuming smoking and hence relapse."

Quote

By committing to quit, smokers will not only secure health benefits, but also financial gains that come with the redirection of money that would otherwise have been spent on purchase of tobacco products for productive use. When you quit, you win

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