A few weeks ago, I was driving back home in Abuja and came across a sight I have not seen too often in a while. There was a man driving beside me as we came to a roundabout. His passengers were all kids about five in number. I noticed one of driver's hands was outside the car and took a second look to discover he had a lit cigarette in it.
Before we headed in different directions, I did see him take a puff and asked myself many questions ranging from 'Is this man the father of the children? Does he know the harmful effects of smoking on himself and/or children? How long has he smoked for? Could this man not wait to get to his destination before taking a puff privately? Does he do this regularly i.e. have children in the car while he smokes? Is his wife and/or mother of the kids aware he smokes with the kids in the car?'
Indeed, many questions but little opportunity to hear from the horse's mouth. The incident also left me wondering how many adults across Nigeria are taking a ride, smoking with kids in the car with the windows open or closed.
Thus, this brings to sharp focus the level of awareness parents in the country have about smoking, its addictive powers, its harmful effects on children & its influence on their future lifestyle choice of being smokers or not. There is statistical data that proves parents who smoke cause many health problems for their children, some of these include making asthma worse, bringing on more colds and ear infections, and increasing the risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Also, studies show older children whose parents (one or both) smoke get sick more often as second-hand smoke (ShS) can cause serious health problems for children as breathing shs is almost like your child smokes herself. Therefore, exposing your child to shs ensures s/he comes in contact with the dangerous chemicals cigars, pipes & cigarettes are known to contain.
Even parents who smoke but do so outside do not fully protect their children from the harmful effects of tobacco smoke as its residue stays on walls, floors, furniture, toys, and clothes long afterwards.
On their own, parents can help protect their children from secondhand smoke (shs) by taking the following actions:
- Do not allow anyone to smoke near your child.
- Do not smoke or allow others to smoke in your home or car. Opening a window does not protect your children from smoke.
- Use a smoke-free day care center.
- Do not take your child to restaurants or other indoor public places that allow smoking.
- Teach children to stay away from secondhand smoke.
It is commonly said when you train a girl child, we have trained a generation. So, in recognition of the pivotal role mothers play in raising children, we wish to draw attention to their understanding of the smoking prevalence in Nigeria.
The current situation calls for all hands on deck as we seek to nip the bud a growing trend of teenagers and other young people becoming smokers while we increase awareness amongst adults of the negative impact their smoking habit has on children nation-wide.
Mothers, lets support the tobacco control cause in Nigeria so we can have a smoke-free Nigeria NOW.!
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