The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called on Nigerian Government to adopt and enforce tobacco-control policies aimed at reducing the demand for tobacco.
The Regional Director, WHO, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, made the appeal at the commemoration of World No Tabacco Day on Thursday in Abuja.
This year’s theme is “Tobacco and Lung Health”.
Represented by Dr Peter Clement, the acting Officer In Charge (OIC) in Nigeria, Moeti said that “our lungs are fundamental to our health and well-being”.
He warned that tobacco smoking is dangerous as it contains more than 7,000 chemicals, 69 of which were known to cause cancer, adding that it affects the lungs in multiple ways.
He explained that smoking is the primary cause for lung cancer and responsible for more than two thirds of lung cancer deaths.
Moeti added that in 2018, a total of 39,353 new cases of lung cancer were diagnosed in Africa and 37,748 deaths occurred.
He, however, said that the good news is that the people who quit smoking reduce their risk of lung cancer by 50 per cent after only 10 years.
According to him, tobacco smoking is also the leading cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which results in a painful cough and agonising breathing difficulties.
Moeti said that the risk of developing the disease was high among individuals who start smoking at a young age because tobacco smoke significantly slow lung development.
“Children are at great risk, exposure to tobacco smoke toxins in-utero reduces lung growth and function.
“Young children exposed to second hand tobacco smoke can develop pneumonia, bronchitis and lower respiratory infections.
“Around 165,000 children worldwide die before the age of 5 years because of lower respiratory infections caused by second-hand tobacco smoke.
“Our lungs are fundamental to our health and well-being. We shouldn’t let tobacco take our breath away. Let us choose good health, not tobacco,” he said.
Moeti said that tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world had ever faced. Tobacco kills up to half of its users.
He noted that the most effective way to improve lung health is to reduce tobacco use and second-hand tobacco smoke exposure.
“We need to embrace the proven health benefits of stopping tobacco use as well as the feasible actions that the public and governments can take to reduce the risks to lung health posed by tobacco.
“Member States should respond to the tobacco epidemic by fully implementing the provisions of the WHO’s frame work convention on tobacco control.
“Treatment of tobacco dependence should be part of a comprehensive tobacco control policy along with the establishment of smoke-free public places, health warnings on tobacco packages and a ban of tobacco advertising,” he added.
Moeti therefore urged the government to promote tobacco cessation and adequately treating tobacco dependence.
He also noted that WHO would continue to promote and strengthen awareness of the benefits of tobacco-free lifestyles and the cessation of tobacco use.
He however advised individuals, parents and their children, as well as other community members to protect their health and avoid the harms caused by tobacco.
Moeti also encouraged promotion of non-smoking as a social norm and by ensuring smoke-free environment.