By Princess-Ekwi Ajide, Abuja
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says about 30,000 Nigerians die Annually owing to tobacco.related diseases.
WHO Country Representative, Dr. Walter Kazuli Molumbo, made the disclosure at the federal government’s launch of an initiative that would ensure the availability of accurate data on tobacco control activities as the disease prevalence are posted on a dashboard to help intervention efforts.
The WHO Country Representative, while speaking at this year’s World No Tobacco Day in Abuja, expressed worry that non-communicable diseases are increasingly overtaking communicable diseases according to the number of deaths they cause in Nigeria.
According to him, close to 30,000 lives are lost yearly due to tobacco-related illnesses which is far more than the 3,000 lives claimed by the COVID-19 in the three years of the pandemic.”
Molumbo, described tobacco as a silent killer which manifests through cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and other ailmentes adding that this year’s theme: “Tobacco: A threat to our environment,” presents an opportunity for Nigeria to right the wrongs of the past where it failed to put necessary measures in place to check tobacco consumption.
The WHO Country Representative, however commended the federal government for its current efforts at curbing the negative impact of tobacco on the citizen especially the setting up of an emergency inter-ministerial committee to Fastrack action on advocacy and sensitisation programme.
Molumbo said the next meeting of the United Nations in September may be an opportunity for Nigeria to add her voice to the global efforts to end tobacco consumption.
For the Minister of State for Health, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora the prevalence of tobacco use is on the increase worldwide saying that according to WHO, tobacco epidemic remains one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced, killing up to half of its users with more than eight million deaths recorded annually around the world.
According to the Minister, more than seven million of those deaths were the result of direct tobacco use while around 1.2 million are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke or passive smoking.
Speaking on the importance of the tobacco monitoring dashboard, the Country Lead, Development Gateway, Seember Ali, said the essence of the initiative, funded by WHO and Bill Gates Foundation is to fill the gaps in data as it relates to damages caused by tobacco consumption in Nigeria.
She said the focus is to device a one-stop data shop for gathering of data that would help in anti-tobacco consumption advocacy.
The Executive Director, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), Akinbode Oluwafemi said one of the importance of the tobacco control dashboard is that it would enable advocates effectively engage policy makers and other stakeholders in achieving drastic reduction in the health hazards caused by tobacco in Nigeria.
He said, in compliance with the National Tobacco Act (2015) and Regulations (2019), the government has commenced screening and issuance of operational licences to qualified tobacco businesses in the country with a view to profiling and monitoring the industry activities nationwide.
The Federal Government has however, started the implementation of a new tax regime for tobacco products so as to discourage consumption of the product in the country.
The new licencing guideline is expected to stick to strict adherence to a regulation that requires a package of tobacco product has the approved texts and graphic warning messages that will make users aware of the harmful effects of tobacco use. The tax rate is an increase from 10 per cent to 30 per cent.