Tomorrow will be May 31. Every year, that day is observed globally as the World No Tobacco Day, WNTD. It is a day both government and nongovernmental groups unite to renew campaigns against cigarette smoking adjudged a “gradual killer”.
It is also a day set aside to encourage 24-hour abstinence, by explaining to people the inherent health and other socioeconomic and cultural cum legal implications of tobacco consumption. According to the World Health Organisation, WHO, no fewer than 6million people die from tobacco consumption annually. While 5 million die from direct consumption, another 600,000 non-smokers die from being open to secondhand smoke otherwise known as passive smoking.
It warned that global death rates from tobacco consumption might be up to 8million in 2030 if urgent steps are not taken. Shocking also is that 80percent of the more than one billion smokers worldwide live in low and middle-income countries, where the burden of tobacco-related illnesses and deaths are heaviest. At least one person dies every
6seconds, meaning one in 10 adults die from tobacco-related diseases. Another statistics show that about 100million deaths were recorded in the 20th Century alone, and if the trend continues, 100million more deaths might be recorded in the 21st century. The epidemic will kill more, unless we act now.
But the campaigns aside, most people are still ignorant of the harmful effects of tobacco consumption. One of the effects is that there are more than 4,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, of which at least 250 are known to be destructive and more than 50 others are identified to cause cancer. While, secondhand smoke is said to be the major cause of cardiovascular, respiratory and coronary heart diseases, as well as lung cancer in adults and infants, it causes sudden death in others. These alone are enough reasons to discourage tobacco consumption globally.
It is therefore against this backdrop that this year’s theme: ‘Stop Illicit Trade of Tobacco Products’, is not only apt, but has become a major global concern. Studies reveal that illicit tobacco markets account for at least one in every 10 cigarettes consumed worldwide. Already, the European Commission puts the costs of illicit trade in cigarettes among member states at over €10billion annually in lost taxes and customs revenue, and about 65percent of cigarettes seized in the EU are counterfeits.
More worrisome also is that the illicit trade not only worsens the global tobacco epidemic, but its security implications manifest heavily in the areas of financing organised crime, drugs, human and arms trafficking, as well as terrorism. We thus call on all countries to work together to end the illicit trade of tobacco products. This can
be done through one or a combination of all of these: heavy taxes on tobacco products and total ban on their advertisements; media campaigns, as well as photographs with graphic warning signs to discourage consumption.
It is gratifying to note that the immediate past President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, signed into law the anti-Tobacco Control Bill which is a remarkable step forward. Though, more work needs to be done, it is a welcomed relief that Nigeria has now joined the league of nations that have taken proactive steps towards protecting its citizenry from the harmful effects of Tobacco consumption.
As we count down to WNTD, we therefore urge the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to ignite the process and mechanism that will ensure effective
implementation of the anti-tobacco control law.