4,000 killer chemicals inside tobacco smoke — Dr. Abayomi Ajayi

Many Nigerians still doubt the ultimate price to pay for smoking: Death. The perception about smoking may not be unconnected with the common saying among smokers, “It is a matter of taking a bottle of Soda water to clear the system” This has been a long standing belief among smokers. Unfortunately, Soda is not an escape route as the scary truth is that the drink is just as bad as smoking a cigarette. Worse still, studies have shown that a daily Soda habit can age your immune cells by two years. Soda has also been linked to rising rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other chronic diseases. But why is smoking a killer habit? According to the World Health Organisation, WHO, about six million people die from tobacco consumption annually. Further breaking the deaths down, according to WHO, whereas five million die from direct consumption, 600,000 non-smokers die from exposure to second-hand smoke also known as passive smoking. Second-hand smoke is the smoke that fills restaurants, offices or other enclosed spaces where people burn tobacco products such as cigarettes, bidis and water-pipes.

There are more than 4,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, of which at least 250 are known to be harmful and more than 50 are known to cause cancer. Unfortunately, smoking of cigarette and India hemp is common place among young adults, and even secondary school students across the country. Hospital statistics have shown a rise in cases of smoking-related ailments such as kidney diseases and cancer, among others. It is also an established fact that smoking has been found to harm virtually every organ in the body and diminishes overall health. Smoking is a leading cause. It causes cancer of the lungs, esophagus, larynx, mouth, throat, kidney, bladder, liver, pancreas, stomach, cervix, colon and rectum, as well as acute myeloid leukemia. A renown cardiologist, Dr. Kingsley Akinroye, said tobacco smoking is harmful as it affects almost every organ in the body, hence the need for people to be educated on the dangers of smoking. According to him, tobacco smoking causes heart diseases, stroke, aortic aneurysm chronic obstructive pulmonary disease chronic bronchitis and emphysema, diabetes, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, age related macular degeneration, cataract, and worsens asthma symptoms in adults. Akinroye, who is also the Executive Director, Nigerian Heart Federation, NHF, said: “Also smokers are at higher risk of developing pneumonia, tuberculosis, and other airway infections. “It also causes inflammation and impairs immune function. Smoking makes it harder for a woman to get pregnant. A pregnant woman who smokes is at higher risk of miscarriage, having an ectopic pregnancy, having her baby born too early and with an abnormally low birth weight, and having her baby born with cleft lips and cleft palate. “A woman, who smokes during or after pregnancy, increases her infant’s risk of death from sudden infant death syndrome. Men, who smoke, are at greater risk of erectile dysfunction. Cigarette smoking and exposure to tobacco smoke cause many premature deaths each year in Nigeria. Smoking is the leading cause of premature, preventable deaths in Nigeria and Africa at large. However, the good news is that regardless of their age, smokers can substantially reduce their risk of diseases, including cancer by quitting smoking”. Nigeria became a signatory to WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in June 2004 and took giant strides on March 15, 2011 when the Senate passed a bill to regulate and control production, manufacture, sale, advertising, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco products.

To reduce effects of smoking among Nigerians, Akinroye called for effective enforcement of the Tobacco Control Act passed by the 7th Assembly and signed into law in 2015. Akinroye, who expressed worry on the rise in tobacco smoking among school children and the delay in the implementation of the Tobacco Control Act, urged smokers to quit the habit to avoid becoming a victim. He said only few African countries have honoured their own pledge by ensuring that all tobacco sold has no brand name on the packaging. “Federal government should take a cue from those few countries as giant of Africa. It is all about the President making a pronouncement that we have to honour the treaty that we signed. Number two, we now have a tobacco law in the country. Are we honouring the law former President Goodluck Jonathan signed in 2015? One of the ways we can honour a law is by empowering the agencies for implementation and also funding is very important.” WHO Framework Convention on tobacco recommends that parties consider adoption of plain packaging and through the World No Tobacco Day 2016, WHO aims to highlight the role of plain packaging as part of a comprehensive, multispectral approach to tobacco control and facilities policy development by Member States.

WHO also encourages Member States to work towards plain packaging in a step-wise approach by strengthening packaging and labeling measures and restrictions on advertising, promotion and sponsorship. In recent times, there has a global awakening on the adverse effects of tobacco consumption and different countries have risen up to fight against the growing casualty from its consumption. Unfortunately, Nigeria is way back even after the last administration in 2015 passed into law the billed that banned smoking in public places. Lagos State House of Assembly earlier banned smoking in public places in January 2014. With the World Health Organisation, WHO, explanation that there is no safe level of exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke and about 80 percent of the world’s 1 billion smokers live in low- and middle-income countries like Nigeria, there is need for the country to enforce policies that will discourage smoking, particularly in public places.


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