The War Against Tobacco
One of the most dangerous diseases we should worry about is cancer.
However, many people do not believe they could suffer from a cancerous disease, hinging their argument on the fact that certainly, one thing or the other would definitely be responsible for a man’s death.
However, the truth is that several diseases, like cancer, are precipitated by men’s behaviour, their attitude to health issues, the type of food they eat and certain things or habit they are addicted to.
For instance, millions of people all over the world are heavy smokers and alcoholics, despite the billions of naira being spent on public advertisement to warn people of the inherent or potential danger of smoking tobacco? Are you also aware that despite the increasing prevalence of skin cancers among men, some still prefer to spend their last kobo on a stick of cigarette even if they lack enough cash to buy food that will nourish their body system. That is the kind of life an addicted smoker is used to.
According to medical submissions, several thousands of people today are heavy or “chain” smokers, not by choice, but because they have found no way of escape. Such people are caught in the grip of a habit developed during their teenage years when so many young people think or believe it is “smart” to smoke. Some others believe that one of the ways to display his “arrival” as a“big boy” as opposed to his other school mates is to be smoking.
According to Drs. Kayode Ajala, Seun Akinyemi, Dupe Ojo, Adebowale Elemide, and other medical experts who spoke with Saturday Tribune, smoking is not only hazardous to health, it can also be hazardous to your job prospects as well, as twice as many smokers are said to be out of work compared to non-smokers. Although a few people will accept this fact, documented report globally shows that cancer of the lung is becoming very widespread today and it is increasing more rapidly than any other type of cancer —thanks to the increasing use of tobacco.
According to the medical doctors, the primary cancer of the lung, also known as bronchogenic carcinoma often begins within the lung or one of the bronchial tubes. Though the global war against the use of tobacco or smoking of cigarette is yielding some positive results, especially in the areas of public education and enlightenment, nonetheless, many tobacco users, including women, are still falling into the trap of lung cancer and other associated diseases.
The major problem is that many of them are not usually aware of the potential dangers of smoking, but by the time they are aware of their deteriorating health or true condition of things, the disease from tobacco may have already progressed far beyond the earlier stages. This is what makes lung cancer dangerous and difficult to treat.
Medical reports also say that at present, one heavy cigarette smoker out of every ten will die of lung cancer. The Federal Government of Nigeria realised and appreciated this fact and initiated many programmes of national interest like “Say No To Tobacco Smoking”,” ban on smoking in public places”, “No smoking in government offices and parastatals” and many other programmes to discourage the use of tobacco, but all these have yielded little result as smoking in public places is still one of the most common things in the country.
Globally, every year, the country joins the rest of the world in marking the ‘World No Tobacco Day’ and it is usually a celebrated day in developing nations like Nigeria, but the big question is: “Why are we still having many tobacco or cigarette producing companies in the country, if actually we want to achieve a positive result in our battle against cigarette smoking?”It is also a thing of concern and high display of irony to see that those at the helms of affairs of this country, collaborating with the rest of the world, attending global meetings and seminars where the issue of war against tobacco smoking are being discussed and signatories to many international treaties on the battle against cigarette smoking, come back to the country, encouraging tobacco companies to flourish. Many of the government officials who are always the arrow heads of the ban on the use of tobacco or cigarette smoking in public places are often seen burning cigarette sticks in their various offices.
Another big question we need to ask is: why should we worry about smoking? For several reasons. For instance, every stick of cigarette smoked takes away 13 minutes from one’s lifespan. If tobacco causes 128,000 lung cancer deaths per year in the United States of America — a country regarded as the father of all nations, even in terms of medical facilities and modern equipment, what would the situation be like in Nigeria, a country regarded as the giant of Africa and the most populous black nation in the world which has been battling with malaria for years, yet without success.
For instance, Nigeria is said to record the highest number of morbidity and mortality of under-age (five) children in the world. The country is also number one in terms of maternal mortality in the world. Therefore, if we have been unable to fight mosquitoes that cause malaria for years without success, one wonders if we would be able to fight lung cancer and other health problems caused by the dangerous chemical in tobacco known as nicotine —one of the most potent substances known to man.
Nicotine which is present in tobacco is also a dangerous poison that triggers cancer and it is second only to cyanides in its destructive effect on the human body. Actually, there are eighteen different poisons in a cigarette. Some of these attack the delicate membranes of the windpipes. Others enter the blood stream and interfere with its normal circulation throughout the body. But the two most deadly poisons in cigarette are the tar, a carcinogenic or cancer-producing substance, and necotine.
Other bad news for cigarette smokers are that they are more susceptible (open) to cancer of the mouth, larynx, oesophagous, pancreas, bladder, kidneys and cervix than non-smokers.
Smokers are also liable to emphysems, which kill(s) by slow suffocation, ulcer of the duodenum and stomach. Smoking pulls calcium out of the skeleton, thus accelerating the bone thinning process known as osteoporosis.
Not only that, “Smoker’s cough” is one of the rewards of cigarette smoking. Inflammation of the throat is too common in all heavy smokers. Nicotine in cigarette/tobacco also constricts small arteries supplying blood to the heart, brain, lungs and other vital organs and important areas depriving them of vital oxygen. Nicotine produces a sense of relaxation and well-being —which is called smoking’s main appeal. This is a deceptive relaxation that allows the cells of the body to continue to enjoy nicotine destruction and that is why nicotine is often referred to as addictive drug.
Carbon monoxide which smoking generates interferes directly with the ability of red blood cells to carry oxygen. This causes shortness of breath, lack of endurance, and acceleration of a therosderosis (narrowing and hardening of arteries) which may later trigger cardiovascular disease and later stroke.
Moreover, many smokers cannot actually state the reasons (why) they smoke; some give different excuses or reasons but the strange thing is that most of these people never wanted to smoke in the first place. They were only doing what they felt/thought everyone else was doing at that time. But the truth is that smoking is not a normal habit, a person has to learn to smoke, just like any vocational job.
Furthermore, there are pay offs to quitting cigarette smoking. The advantages/benefits are numerous. For example, there is a sense of victory, increased self-esteem, pleasant breath, better fasting food, increased endurance, improved health and energy, a feeling of well-being and freedom from an inconvenient, unpopular, costly habit.
If every second, a smoker will die from some diseases directly connected to cigarette smoking, and smokers will always lose an average of 8.3 years from their normal life expectancy, so why won’t smokers run away from the stick of death?
In the world today, the campaign against tobacco smoking has risen to a global height. The campaign which became intense about two decades ago has assumed a vigorous dimension in the West.
Over the years, this situation has made business sour for manufacturers of tobacco products, particularly cigarettes, which are most largely consumed in this part of the world.
Severe litigations in the West have made their operations there expensive and unpopular, thereby provoking a shift in production and marketing of the product to the developing countries, notably Africa. One Dr. Yach in a journal, Africa Recovery, United Nations, observed, “Whereas taxes amount to two-thirds or more of the retail price of a pack of cigarettes in high-income countries, by contrast they amount to no more of the retail price in poorer countries.” Of greater concern, he says, “is that between 1990 and 2000, cigarette prices in many African countries declined in real terms. In Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, Kenya and Nigeria, a pack of 20 cigarettes is no more than 25% cheaper than it was in 1990.”
While the West is known to have very stringent legislation against the production and consumption of tobacco products, the situation then was different in many third world countries, especially Africa where they firmly pitched their tent doing business with little or no constraint from government and regulatory bodies.
In the case of Nigeria, the body saddled with the responsibility of regulating the production, trade and consumption of the product, the Federal Ministry of Health, had until recent years only been toying with restrictions. Efforts at curbing the consumption of this product started some 15 years ago with the placement of warning for consumers, inscribed on the packages of the product and promoted on the radio and television stations nationwide.
Nevertheless, many Nigerians were quick to dismiss these warning notices which over time stiffened, notably from “The Federal Ministry of Health Warns that Tobacco Smoking is Dangerous to Health” to “The Federal Ministry of Health Warns that Tobacco Smokers Are Liable to Die Young,” as a child’s play due to the seemingly little impact on the consumers. Besides, the warnings, when graphically relayed on the product packages and billboards, were very thinly scripted that the words were usually missed out. This, many believed, was a calculated attempt by the manufacturers to sink the message or warning into obscurity.
This, however, at that time, did not dissuade the manufacturers from continuing to ply their trade and making a fortune from it. They even went ahead to devise various means of strengthening their foothold in the Nigerian market through aggressive and glamorous advertisements and by doling out huge sums of money for sponsorship of musical shows and fiestas and other entertainments in the country. The days of the tobacco brand, Benson and Hedges-sponsored annual musical shows with the glitterati, pomp and pageantry that characterized it and the thrills that diffused from the melodious advert jingles of Rothmans cigarettes adapted from Seal’s hit track are still very much impressed on the minds of many Nigerians.
Interestingly today, they are now a thing of the past. Therefore what dimension has this campaign taken in the country today?
Obviously, the story today in Nigeria is different. With sterner or more severe restrictions mounted against the advertisement of cigarettes and the sponsorship of programmes, events, and festivities, the product is fast getting out of public view, becoming unpopular and sinking into oblivion.
Sometime in January, 2008, the Nigerian government announced its intention to ban smoking in public places in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, on the heels of a massive law suit filed against tobacco companies such as British American Tobacco and Philip Morris.
Government ministries in Abuja have also mapped out plan to issue new health regulations controlling tobacco products and prevent tobacco companies from entering the market in the future.
In a statement made at the launch of a new NGO-government collaboration, the Coalition Against Tobacco (COA), the minister for the FCT, Dr. Aliyu Moddibo Umar, said:
“By June, we are going to outlaw smoking in public buildings in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).” Hopefully, this will be the first step towards placing in the next couple of years, a total ban on smoking in the FCT.”
Coupled with this, former Health Minister, Professor Adenike Grange, and the Head of the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Prof Dora Akuniyili, promised stricter regulations and an eventual end to the sale of all tobacco products across the country.
COA is just one of several NGOs hoping to reduce the production and sales of cigarettes The definition of public places includes public offices, parks, lounges in the lift, an arena and many other places that bring people together. Abuja is being used as a launch pad for this campaign as Nigerians wait impatiently for the ban to take effect.
However, this decision has generated mixed reactions from residents of the city and other concerned Nigerians. While some greeted it as a step in the right direction, others have condemned it as a gross violation of the individual’s right or freedom, amounting to killing a fly with a sledge hammer.
Source: Seye Adeniyi and Lawrence Amaku, Nigerian Tribune
bronchogenic carcinoma, chain smoking, dangers of smoking, life expectancy of smokers, mens habits, Smoking and Cancer, smoking and carbon monoxide, smoking bans, smoking legislation, therosderosis, war against tobacco
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