Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Join the Chorus

Many Nigerians are unaware of the harmful effects of secondhand smoke (shs) which accounts for an alarming one in ten tobacco-related deaths globally. If you don’t smoke, chances are that you know someone who does, or you are exposed to secondhand smoke somehow e.g. visiting public places like hotels, offices amongst others. It is noteworthy that tobacco use kills five million people in the world each year- a statistics greater than that of deaths resulting from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.

The Health Minister’s failure to regulate some products like tobacco can lead consumers to think that the unregulated products are safer than other products because they are manufactured, advertised, marketed, sold and distributed in ways that cigarettes and smokeless tobacco are not.

This problem is exacerbated by the tobacco industry’s efforts to develop new products that exploit regulatory loopholes and to acquire established businesses that manufacture and distribute novel products. As the tobacco industry diversifies its product lines, it continues to design and market its products to create and sustain nicotine addiction.

It is not a coincidence that as the rate of cigarette smoking decreases, the rate of using other tobacco products such as cigars, dissolvables, e-cigarettes, hookah etc increases. This is troubling based on the known damages caused by many of these products and the potential adverse health consequences of other tobacco products, both to individual users and at the population level.

While cigar smoking in the Nigeria was historically a behavior of older men, cigar smoking is now a behavior that skews younger, with young adults (age 18–24) smoking cigars at a significantly higher rate (15.9%) than adults age 25–44 (7.2%), age 45–64 (4.9%), and age 65 or older (1.8%).

Approximately 13.1 percent of high school students are current cigar smokers, while 6.6 percent of adults regularly use cigars. The Health Minister must assert jurisdiction over and regulate all tobacco products to protect the public health. The scientific evidence regarding the prevalence of the use of these products and the data regarding the harm that these products cause makes the case for this regulation.

There is no reasonable justification to continue to allow so many tobacco products to go unregulated at the federal and state level considering the harm that they pose and the specific and broad authority possessed by the Ministry.

The Federal Ministry of Health should fulfill its mandate of protecting the public health by asserting jurisdiction over and regulating all tobacco products.

We hope you will add your voice to the chorus urging the Health Minister to act now. Seize the opportunity to make your voice heard in this good cause as we urge you to sign our petition here  taking a stand to drastically reduce the use of tobacco products across the country.

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