Smoking has many adverse health effects, including life-threatening complications and death. Experts say enforcing control measures against the product will help address associated problems. OLUSAYO OLASENI and BOLUWATIFE MOSES report
Mr. Olumide Ajayi, a cigarette smoker resident in the outskirts of Ikorodu on Lagos, recently shed some light as to why he finds smoking so enjoyable. The 28-year-old man said he finds joy in smoking (brand name withheld), one of the more popular tobacco products in the country, because he enjoys indulging in it when he’s free or stressed out. This is just an example of some reasons smokers claim drive them to engage in the act. Although many of their claims have not been scientifically or medically proven, many smokers say smoking helps them perform better at work, eat better and even sleep better. Cigarette smoking has also been used as a de-stresser by some. Ajayi stated that smoking helps him to de-stress after a long day at work and it also helps him sleep better. A series of interviews with people who indulge in smoking cigarettes also revealed similar stories. Graphic warnings Despite the glaring warnings on cigarette packets, on social media and even on traditional media, users blatantly disregard the warnings and smoke to ease themselves of their different worries. Speaking to various people who smoke was able to provide us with their perspectives and enable us to gather the opinions of a few people on what led them to smoking and the effects that it has on them when they started taking it. They spoke mainly on why they spent so much money on cigarettes on an almost daily basis. “I spend almost N1000 daily on smoking and that depends on the amount of cash that I have on me. At times I can choose to buy N50 or N100 worth of cigarettes because I also need to eat. “After smoking two to three cigarettes, I become very hungry and so I have to eat,” Femi explained. “I am not bothered about smoking or any of the health implications that they claim that it has. If cigarettes are a danger to the body, why is it then legalised by the government? “I am not afraid of the consequences of cigarettes because I believe that we are all going to die one day. So why should I stop smoking since it has become a great habit for me,” he stated. Similarly, Oluwatofarati, a student of the Lagos State Polytechnic (LASPOTECH) who similarly smokes (name withheld) cigarettes, spoke on how much he spends on cigarettes just to fulfil what has become a daily need. He revealed that he even invests in cigarettes by buying more when he is financially buoyant so that he could keep them for when he is cash-strapped. “At times smoking doesn’t affect my financial status because when I have money, I buy packs of cigarettes that would sustain me for a long period of time. Furthermore, when I’m outof cash, my friendsarealwaystheretohelp pay for cigarettes since we are all smoking buddies. Even if I can’t meet my friends, I go out to my regular locations where I buy cigarettes and after engaging the people around thereinalittledialogueIoftengetcigaretteson loan. I pay at future dates,” he added. Adeoye Raphael, another student, claimed that whenever he smoked, it helped him to understand what he was reading and in the end hewasabletopasshistestsandexaminations. He said: “I started smoking due to peer pressure and since I started I haven’t been able to stop it. One of the reasons is that smoking helps me to assimilate better whenever I read for an examination or test. That is not the only reason though, when I’m smoking with my friends, I enjoy the energy that flows and we discuss how to succeed in life,” he said. Female smoker While narrating her smoking experience, Ogechukwu, a female smoker and final year student of Lagos State University (LASU), Ojo, presented a more feminine reason as to why she takes part in the male dominated pastime. “I enjoy smoking and I can’t keep away from it because I have become adapted to it. Smoking helps me to relax and also helps me eat better,” she said. Getting the sides of those who are actively involved in smoking will help to see what they find so attractive and will also provide
A global killer To buttress this point the World Health Organisation (WHO) data shows that tobacco kills more than eight million people each year. More than seven million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while around 1.2 million are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke. Similarly, over 80 per cent of the world’s 1.3 billion tobacco users live in low- and middleincome countries which include Nigeria. Information sourced from the United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention showed that smoking causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Smoking also increases risk for tuberculosis (TB), certain eye diseases, and problems of the immune system, including rheumatoid arthritis. Tobacco smoke is made up of thousands of chemicals, including at least 70 known to cause cancer. Some of the chemicals found in tobacco smoke include nicotine (the addictive drug that produces the effects in the brain that people are looking for), hydrogen cyanide, formaldehyde, lead, arsenic, ammonia, radioactive elements, such as polonium, benzene and carbon monoxide, among others. To reduce smokers, especially encouraging them to quit, the WHO recently marked 2022 the World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) with the theme ‘Tobacco: Threat to Our Environment.’ The statement was signed by the WHO African Regional Director, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti. The event is usually celebrated annually on May 31. The statement addressed the issue of many adolescents and young adults who find smoking appealing despite the many restrictions that have been put into place to reduce the number of people who like to light up. “Despite 24 African countries instituting bans on smoking in public places, and 35 countries banning tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, our estimates are that one in every 10 African adolescents use tobacco. The emergence of new products such as electronic nicotine and tobacco products are also proving to be attractive to the youths and thereby compounding the entire issue,” Moeti lamented. “With44of WHOAfricanRegion’s47countieshavingratifiedtheWHOFrameworkConvention on Tobacco Control, which commits them to adopting effective and evidence-based measures to curb tobacco consumption, there is the need to address related environmental damage as seen by the WHO which has redoubled its efforts to counter the threat.” According to WHO it wasn’t only those who smoked or inhaled the smoke emitted from cigarettes that stood the chance of facing healthrelatedissuesarising fromcigarettesas the butts also posed a threat to public health. “Cigarette butts are by far the single largest category of litter with research showing that cellulose acetate-based cigarette filters are largely non-biodegradable. Cigarette butts litter pavements, parks and beaches, finding their way into waterways and leaching harmful chemicals that poison animals, aquatic lives and children,” he said. Akinbode Oluwafemi, Executive Director of the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), at a recent press briefing in Abuja to mark the WNTD 2022 strongly stood against using the creative arts to promote and propagate the use of tobacco in all forms. “The screening of 36 Nigerian movies by CAPPA in 2019 out of which 34 had tobacco footage/paraphernalia in the background further reinforces our convictions that the tobacco industry also has a stranglehold on the creative arts industry,” Oluwafemi said. He urged the Nigerian government to do more in the fight against tobacco and to help stop the health menace it was causing to a lot of people. Saving non-smokers Oluwafemi also called for effective methods to stop smoking to be put into place to prevent non-smokers from suffering from the health issues that could arise from inhaling tobacco smoke. The United States Centre for Disease Control (CDC) also raises awareness on the impact of tobacco production and usage in low and medium income countries. It has a devastating impact on both the environment and the health of the people. The harmful impact of the tobacco industry on the environment is vast and growing adding unnecessary pressure to the planet’s already scarce resources and fragile ecosystems. Based on these experts are calling for strict control encouraging more smokers to quit the practice. According to a 2012 survey conducted by a Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) South Easterners in Nigeria are the highest consumers of tobacco, with about nine per cent of its adult population currently smoking. Closely following the South East is the North Central – Middle Belt – where at least 8.5 per cent of its adult population is hooked on tobacco. North West states, including Kano, Kaduna, Sokoto and Katsina, are the least smokers in Nigeria, with only three per cent of its adult population indulging in tobacco.