Abuja May 31, 2021 – “It is really high time I stopped smoking tobacco. I have been smoking for over fifteen years, since my early teen age, I do not feel good about it. I have been struggling to quit but end up going back to my habit. This year, I have promised myself and my family that I will do all my best to quit to be heathier” says31-year-old Michael Chukwuka who resides in FCT, Abuja and is committed to quit smoking tobacco.
In his words: “I will try to inspire my friends to do the same by setting an example. We are all tired of smoking, it takes a single step to stop but addiction is holding us back. This year is ours and we will make sure we set an example.”
The World No Tobacco Day Awardee for 2021, the Eye Opener Women and Youth Foundation works with people in communities to quit tobacco use. All we need is to share love, some smokers just need that to quit. I have done that to strangers and it has helped them immensely.”
Each year, the World Health Organization (WHO) commemorates World No Tobacco Day on May 31. The goal is to spread awareness about the risks of tobacco use and how we can make the world tobacco free. Roughly six million people die from tobacco-related ailments every year. And that number is projected to rise to over eight million by 2030. The Sustainable Development Goals aims to reduce deaths from noninfectious diseases by a third.
This year the theme of World No Tobacco day is “commit to quit”. ‘Over 70 per cent of the 1.3 billion tobacco users worldwide lack access to the tools they need to quit successfully. This gap in access to cessation services is only further exacerbated in the last year as the health workforce has been mobilized to handle the COVID-19 pandemic, the WHO said.
“Tobacco use or exposure to second-hand smoke is the leading preventable risk factor for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like hypertension, stroke, cancers, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases” mentioned Dr Osagie Ehanire, Nigeria’s Minister of Health, while addressing the journalists in commemoration of 2021 World no tobacco day.
He reiterated Nigeria’s commitment to making it a tobacco free zone “beyond cessation services, Nigeria will, as from 23rd June 2021, commence implementation of graphic pictorial health warning messages on tobacco product packaging, to replace the age-long health warning texts, which reads: “The Federal Ministry of Health Warns that Smokers Are Liable to Die Young”. The graphic health warning is important and more effective because the picture on the product package drives the warning message home to those who cannot, or do not care to read about the damaging effects of tobacco use.”
Tobacco harms the health, the treasury, and the spirit of Nigeria. Every year, more than 16 100 Nigerians are killed by tobacco-caused disease. Still, more than 25 000 children (10-14 years old) and 7 488 000 adults (15+ years old) continue to use tobacco each day. Another research finding published in 2021 by the Centre for the Study of the Economies of Africa showed that 29,472 deaths in Nigeria were attributable to smoking.
While commemorating the day, Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo WHO Nigeria Country Representative (WR) assured Nigerians of WHO’s full support in fighting tobacco usage “Nigeria was selected as one of the 22 countries for support by WHO (HQ/AFRO) to scale-up programmes to help people quit tobacco, especially at the primary health care and community levels. This will include the setting up of a toll-free quit line and the pilot of a WHO supported mobile cessation (mCessation) programme for a period of 9 to 12 months through the use of pre-designed WhatsAPP toolkit and Facebook Messenger in different languages.”
He further stated that “it is also important to note that for the last 3 years, Nigeria has received a World No Tobacco Day Award which recognizes individuals or organizations for their accomplishments in the area of tobacco control. This year, we have one awardee from Nigeria amongst the six awardees from the African Region.”
WHO Nigeria will continue supporting the country to meet its obligations under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. However, there’s a need for all of us to be alert to industry tactics as they attract new users and keep people using tobacco, even when they are trying to quit. Products such as electronic cigarettes and nicotine pouches are highly addictive and not recommended as strategies to reduce tobacco use.
Dr Kelias Msyambozak; Email: msyambozak [at] who.int; Tel: +234 906 278 4292
Dr Mary Dewan, Email: dewanm [at] who.int; Tel: +234 903 590 0750