Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What You May Not Know About Secondhand Smoke

If you have been following the posts on Tobacco Control, you would by now be familiar with the term Secondhand smoke. However, for the privilege of those who may not know, secondhand smoke is a mixture of the smoke given off by the burning end of a cigarette and the smoke exhaled by smokers. It is also often referred to as Environmental Tobacco Smoke.

You may have been treating the issue of secondhand smoke with triviality and not have made any attempt to protect yourself and loved ones. If you are yet to ensure people don't smoke around you or you still frequent settings where  people smoke, you should know that you are endangering your life significantly.

Based on diverse researches conducted over the years, it has been scientifically proven that secondhand smoke impacts negatively on the health of non-smokers and in particular, have debilitating effects on children and pregnant women. It is important for us to be informed of these effects so that we will all have a better understanding of why Nigeria is in dire need of instituting and enforcing a smoke-free country.

I have compiled various health effects of inhaling secondhand smoke (SHS) and they are presented below:
SHS immediately affects the heart, blood vessels, and blood circulation in a harmful way.

  • A short time in a smoky room can cause your blood platelets to become stickier, damage the lining of blood vessels, decrease coronary flow velocity reserves, and reduce heart rate variability.
  • SHS causes lung cancer in people who have never smoked. Even brief exposure can damage cells in ways that set the cancer process in motion. (SHS is classified as a “known human carcinogen” (cancer-causing agent) by  the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a branch of the World Health Organization. In the United States, aproximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths are known to occur annually among adult nonsmokers as a result of exposure to SHS)
  • It increases the risk of heart disease and heart attack. A new study at Mayo Clinic (a leading medical practice and research group) suggests that SHS also increases the risk of sudden cardiac death.
  • Persons who already have heart disease are at especially high risk of suffering adverse affects from breathing SHS, and should take special precautions to avoid even brief exposure.
  • Babies who are exposed to SHS after birth are more likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) than babies who are not exposed to cigarette smoke.
  • Exposure to SHS while pregnant increases the chance that a woman will have a spontaneous abortion, stillborn birth and other pregnancy and delivery problems.
  • Mothers who are exposed to SHS while pregnant are more likely to have lower birth weight babies, which makes babies weaker and increases the risk for many health problems.
  • Babies exposed to SHS after birth have weaker lungs than other babies, which increases the risk for many health problems.
  • It causes acute lower respiratory infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia in infants and young children.
  • Exposure to SHS can cause new cases of asthma in children who have not previously shown symptoms.
  • It makes children who already have asthma to experience more frequent and severe attacks.
  • Smoking by parents can cause wheezing, coughing, bronchitis, and pneumonia, and slow lung growth in their children
  • Children exposed to SHS are at increased risk for ear infections and are more likely to need an operation to insert ear tubes for drainage.

Finally you should know that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Inhaling even a little of it can be harmful to your health.

You can join our campaign to ensure a smoke-free Nigeria by signing up as a Tobacco Control Cause Champion. Simply send your 1) Name, 2) Email address, 3) Telephone No and 4) Location to info(at) Signing up will get you a chance to have a specially designed Facebook, Twitter and G+ profile banner graced with Stella Damasus' picture.

You should also actively participate in the discussions presently ongoing on the following social media platforms:

- Twitter: Follow @TobaccoCtrl
- Facebook: Visit and like Tobaccoctrl
- Google Plus: add Tobaccoctrl to your circle
- 2go: add Tobaccoctrl

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Chain of Smokers

When Monica Etoh’s mum learnt that her daughter had gained admission into the University of Port Harcourt, her joy knew no bounds as she let go of her unnatural western disposition to sing out her heart in her native Itsekiri dialect and further topped the songs with duly complementary dance steps.

In the same spirit of joy, she quickly reached for a notepad and pen and began noting all the items her daughter would need in order for her to comfortably study for her undergraduate degree at the university. She did not miss out on cooking utensils, food items, sleeping materials, wears and shoes, toiletries and finally textbooks, notebooks and pens.

As she drew the list, she observed that the same list would be useful for subsequent semesters since she would only need to mark out the variable items. However, little did she know that her daughter would by the end of her first year top the list with another item that to her was more important than food.

On resumption of the first semester, Monica’s mum drove her daughter down to the university and helped her settle down in the five-man room allocated to her by the school authority. She was elated to discover that her daughter would be in the same room with daughters of prominent Nigerians and in particular, with the daughter of the immediate past President of the country. Concluding to herself that her daughter was in excellent company, she returned home with thoughts of prospective business and social opportunities that the divine positioning of her daughter would bring.

As Monica’s mum returned to life as usual and quickly adjusted to not seeing her daughter every day, Monica also settled down to attending classes by day and socializing at night. It was not long before she learnt that in addition to spending lavishly, her rich roommates had another fund consuming but inglorious addiction, smoking cigarettes.

Remembering all her home training and words of advice from both parents, she resolved never to put a stick of cigarette to her mouth but convinced herself that she could still remain friends with her affluent roommates. As first semester drew to a close, Monica was glad she had held on to her resolve and when she realized she had never even felt any itch to try to smoke, she surmised that  she could never become a smoker. So, on completion of her examination papers, she went home a proud daughter of her mother and father, unabashed, unashamed.

Second semester rolled in and Monica got more accustomed to campus life. She also became closer to her roommates and found herself befriending their friends who were of course, smokers. One non smoker amidst at least ten smokers would require a strengthened restraint not to join the smoking party and Monica strove hard to attain this might.

However sadly, after strongly resisting the continuous lures, pokes, taunts and jeers from her smoking friends for several days, weeks and months, she finally succumbed to their friendly fire one faithful evening when on one of their group outings, the ex-president’s daughter went to her side, put her cigarette in her mouth and encouraged her to inhale only once. She then took a puff, coughed a little and smiled shyly at the sound of reassuring loud applause from her friends. As the cheering went on, another roommate took out an unfinished cigarette pack and lighter from her handbag and placed it in Monica’s bag. She then proceeded to give Monica crucial lessons that will ensure her parents never suspect the new habit. She was told to discard a stick before it reaches its tail end to prevent darkening of her fingernails and to always chew gum or take an orange or glass of milk after smoking to conceal the scent of smoke in her breath and on her body.

Starting with one puff from a friend’s cigarette, Monica graduated to smoking two sticks a day before the end of her first year at the university and before she could realize what had gotten hold of her, she was smoking two packets a day. At this point, she knew she had been formally joined to the chain of smokers.

Just like Monica, people who find themselves consistently in the company of smoking friends and relatives are not only prone to health challenges as a result of secondhand smoke; they are also prone to picking up the lethal habit. Existing smokers have the capacity to generate a chain of smokers in their community.

According to GATS Nigeria report, only 45.4% of people who smoke have made any attempt to quit. We can infer that they intend to hold on to their practice and the longer they smoke for, the longer they have to induce non-smokers into taking that first puff that eventually graduates into smoking more than one pack of cigarettes a day and the chain goes on.

To protect the health of our young ones and future generations, it is imperative that the chain is stopped as soon as possible and you can join us to achieve this through the Tobacco Control Nigeria project. Sign up as a Tobacco Control Cause Champion today by sending your 1) Name, 2) Email address, 3) Telephone number and 4) Location to: info(at) Signing up will get you a chance to have a specially designed Facebook, Twitter and G+ profile banner graced with Stella Damasus’ picture.

You should also actively participate in the discussions presently ongoing on the following social media platforms:

- Twitter: Follow @TobaccoCtrl
- Facebook: Visit and like Tobaccoctrl
- Google Plus: add Tobaccoctrl to your circle
- 2go: add Tobaccoctrl

*Disclaimer: Monica's story above is a work of fiction though inspired by true life events.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Free Non-Smoking Nigerians from Secondhand Smoke.

On July 11, 2013, the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) Nigeria report was officially presented to the general public at a launch event which held at the Sheraton Hotel, Abuja and chaired by the Honorable Minister of Health, Dr. Onyebuchi Chukwu. In attendance were representatives of relevant agencies including the World Health Organisation, National Assembly, Ministry of Education, National Bureau of Statistics and civil society organisations.

One of the major focus of the GATS report is second hand smoke and according to the statistics released, three specific places represent top locations where more than 50% of adults in Nigeria are exposed to secondhand smoke. The three locations are restaurants (29.3%), workplace (17.3%) and government buildings (16.7%).

These figures when weighed against the percentage of people who are exposed to secondhand smoke in the home (6.6%) show that there is an urgent need to protect the health of people who do not smoke but by virtue of having to go to their place of work, visit a restaurant or honour appointments with government officials find themselves in the position of passive smokers. The figures also show that our level of knowledge on the impact of smoking on non-smokers is low. This is because if majority of Nigerians were aware, tobacco control would today be a front burner issue across major media platforms and at most foras.

Prior to the presentation of scientific evidence on the devastating effects of inhaling environmental tobacco smoke by the World Health Organisation (WHO), smokers guiltlessly carried out their act whenever and wherever and non smokers also did not mind flocking around them innocently. However, with the signing and ratification of the FCTC by 177 countries, several nations have stood up to the occasion to protect the health of non-smokers in their homelands by banning smoking in public places.

Ireland was the first to introduce an outright ban on smoking in workplaces and this has been in effect in the country since March 29, 2004. As a result of the ban, smoking in bars, restaurants, clubs, offices, public buildings, company cars, trucks, taxis and vans became a punishable offence and any enclosed workplace found contravening is made to pay a fine of £3,000 (N450,000) per smoker found in the premises.

In the United Kingdom, each constituent administration instituted the ban at different times before end of July 2007.  The ban came into force in Scotland on March 26, 2006, in Wales on April 2, 2007, in Northern Ireland on April 20, 2007 and finally in England on July 1, 2007. Similar to the provisions in Ireland, persons who flout the ban are made to pay an on-the-spot fine of £50 (N12,500) each while businesses that allow smoking are fined £2,500 (N375,000) in England and Northern Ireland.

As for the United States of America, the ban on smoking in public places has been handled on a state by state basis. At present, 28 states have enacted smoking bans in all general workplaces and public places, six states have prohibited smoking in workplaces but exempt all adult venues including bars while different cities and counties in ten states have varying degrees of smoking bans in place.

In June 2013, Russia joined the league of countries with nationwide smoking bans. The Russian ban proscribes smoking on public transportation, at airports and train stations, inside schools and hospitals among other public spots. In addition, cigarette ads are also to vanish from streets and smoking is not allowed to be featured in Russian-made movies and cartoons. 

I remember that in 2008, the Dr. Aliyu Modibbo Umar-led administration in the Federal Capital Territoty, announced a smoking ban which made it illegal to smoke in public places, however due to weak enforcement and inadequate public education, the FCT is yet to be a smoke-free city. Other states in Nigeria such as Osun and Ekiti have also made attempts at introducing smoking bans as it is on record that the Osun State House of Assembly passed a bill to prohibit smoking in public places on 20 October, 2009 and the Ekiti State House of Assembly did likewise on September 26, 2012.

I do not need to remind Lagosians of the Traffic Law passed in July 2012 which outlawed smoking while driving and it is interesting to note that the Lagos House of Assembly has gone a step further by initiating a new comprehensive bill on regulation of smoking in public places. Sadly, despite these bold steps, many still fear the laws might not be strongly enforced.

Countries that have long enforced nationwide bans are today enjoying diverse health benefits including improved air quality and pulmonary function, reduction in cases of heart diseases and stroke, increase in number of people who quit smoking, drop in cigarette sales and prevention of deaths.

I sincerely look forward to the day when non-smoking Nigerians will be free from the puffs of smoking colleagues, neighbours and co-users of public amenities. I know the day will come but I’ll like to ask the authorities concerned, what are we waiting for?

In order not to wait for too long, you can join the Tobacco Control Campaign by signing up as a Cause Champion. Simply send your 1) Name, 2) Email address, 3) Telephone number and 4) Location to: info(at) Signing up will get you a chance to have a specially designed Facebook, Twitter and G+ profile banner graced with Stella Damasus’ picture.

You should also actively participate in the discussions on Tobacco Control presently ongoing on the following social media platforms:
- Twitter: Follow @TobaccoCtrl
- Facebook: Visit and like Tobaccoctrl
- Google Plus: add Tobaccoctrl to your circle
- 2go: add Tobaccoctrl

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


June 2006
I was the Nigerian Project Coordinator for an international HIV/AIDS project, Dance4Life. The project was based on using music and other forms of entertainment to teach young people about sexual and reproductive health. One major aspect of the project was the staging of a musical concert on the Saturday before World HIV/AIDS Day (every December, 1) for all young people across the country that had participated in workshops in the course of the year.

At the time, Dance4Life was present in about seven countries and every country worked hard to stage the best show. This was particularly because of the satellite connection element of the event where for a period of 15minutes during the show, all the countries are linked up and participants at each show are shown a live transmission of what is happening in other countries.

For us in Nigeria, my bosses, colleagues and I worked tirelessly to get together the best in Nigeria’s entertainment industry in order to give the participants a show of a lifetime. We were able to secure 2Shotz and Guitarman to perform, Gideon (Big brother) and Titi Adelakun as anchors and Maureen (Big Brother) as an ambassador. Also Kaffy and her dance crew agreed to work with our Peer Educators to perform the special Dance4Life drill.

After we had put together all these amazing acts, we were still missing something; there was no top notch Nollywood representative. So one of my colleagues picked up the phone and dialed the official number of one of the very popular actresses but the reception she got was appalling. So, she reached for the phone again and called another very popular actress and till date, I still remember my colleague’s words from her end of the phone as she discussed with this actress –“Xxx Yyyy(Name withheld for now), I love you, we love you. This is why people love you. You are so simple and real. Please keep it up.”

True to her promise, Xxx Yyy was ‘powerfully’ present at our event and she didn’t come alone, she came with another very popular actress friend of hers and the school children who came from different parts of the country truly had a show of a lifetime.

June 2013
The organisation I work with, Social Responsibility Managers (SRM) is part of a social media-driven Tobacco Control project and we are focused on managing a web blog for the purpose of sensitizing and educating the general public on Tobacco Control issues with the ultimate goal of inspiring them to support the passage and signing of the National Tobacco Control bill into law.

We knew that in order to get buy-in from the general public, we needed trail blazers. So we sought out to decide on Celebrities that we believed their personalities and values would best project the Tobacco Control message. Finally, we came up with four celebrities and Xxx Yyy’s name made this list.

Interestingly, I had completely forgotten about my initial relation with Xxx Yyy when I went online to try to search out her contact details. I stumbled on her blog, read through it and then searched for her on Twitter and Facebook. On June 25, 2013, I sent her a tweet and before the end of the day, she had replied my tweet. When I saw an email from Twitter stating that Xxx Yyy had sent me a reply, my mind went back to the 2006 episode and with a melted heart, I wrote back - “@Xxxx Yyy This is the 2nd time in d course of my career that I'm relating with you n you have consistently proven to be sweet at heart.”

To cut the long story short, we exchanged emails and she agreed to be a Tobacco Control Celebrity Cause Champion. Kindly permit me to present to you a diva who needs no introduction –


You can join Stella and the Tobacco Control campaign by signing up to become a Cause Champion. Simply send your 1) Name, 2) Email address, 3) Telephone number and 4) Location to info (at) You’ll get a chance to have a specially designed Facebook, Twitter and G+ profile banner graced with Stella Damasus’ picture.

As a Cause Champion, you would participate in civic activities specifically Petition Signing, Occupy Day (‘occupying’ official phone numbers, email addresses of public officials through calls, text messages and emails) and sharing blog posts on your social media profiles.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Do You Smoke?

I know you have your answer ready. No need for any difficult math on this one. You are in perfect control of your choices and not in doubt of your smoking status. However, just before you respond to this question in a jiffy, I will advice that you finish reading this post and then try answering the question again.

Do you remember what it looks like when a cigarette smoker is doing his/her thing? The cigarette is often times placed in between the index and middle fingers which serve as a crane for hoisting the cigarette into the wide space that exists between the upper and lower lips. With lips pressed over the slim cylinder shaped object, the bearer draws in air in order to enjoy the feel-good sensation that comes from the stimulating substance embedded in the wrap.

The smoker inhales smoke that cannot be completely absorbed by the body because our organs are not biologically designed to digest a cigarette and as a result, he/she dispenses into the immediate environment some of the dangerous chemicals contained in the stick or cigarette as the inhaled smoke  is exhaled from the lungs through the mouth and/or nostrils. This released smoke permeates the surrounding environment leaving other persons within the vicinity of the smoker to involuntarily inhale the smoke.

In addition to the smoke exhaled from the smoker’s lungs which is also known as Mainstream Smoke (MS), people around a smoker are also exposed to the smoke that comes out from the end of a lit cigarette called Sidestream Smoke (SS). Lit cigarettes release Sidestream smoke because the other unlit end is not hot enough for complete combustion of tobacco. The combination of both SS and MS is referred to as Environmental Tobacco Smoke(ETS) or Second-hand Smoke.

When the original smoker inhales his smoke directly from the cigarette, the smoke travels through his/her nostril into the nasal cavity, then to the pharynx (also known as the throat) and passes on to the larynx (or voice box). The larynx goes directly into the trachea (or windpipe) and branches into two bronchi. The two bronchi leads into one lung each and once inside the lungs the bronchi branch out into smaller tubes called bronchioles which lead to clusters of air sacs called alveoli. The alveoli are surrounded by capillaries which are the tiny blood vessels that allow exchange of substances between the blood and tissues. It is at this point that chemical substances contained in a cigarette are absorbed by the blood and transported to the rest of the body.

Now, moving on to non smokers who willingly or unwilling find themselves in the same environment with a smoker. Their respiratory system is not fashioned differently as the nostril, nasal cavity, pharynx, larynx, trachea, two bronchi, two lungs, bronchioles and alveoli are all positioned exactly as they are in smokers. So, when second hand smoke is inhaled, the substances they contain travel down the same route and find their way into the blood and subsequently to the rest of the body.

This is why people who are exposed to and breathe in Environmental Tobacco Smoke are called Passive or Involuntary Smokers.

Now, you can attempt answering the question again -

Do you Smoke?