By Daniels Nwokike, The Sight News
Abuja- As Nigeria joins the rest of the world to mark the World No Tobacco Day 2017, the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of The Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has declared Africa as the final battle ground for the control of tobacco in the world.
The group while making the declaration in Abuja on Wednesday on the commemoration of this year’s World No Tobacco Day (WNTD), noted that Nigeria, being the giant of Africa and by this virtue a leader in the continent, needs to be at the fore front in the implementation of the tobacco control act as other African countries.
They however expressed dismay that countries like Uganda and Ghana which had their own tobacco control Acts after Nigeria had hers, have already started making great progress in implementing the recommendations of the act in their respective countries while Nigeria lags behind.
In his address, the Deputy Executive Director of ERA/FoEN, Akinbode Oluwafemi, emphasized that Tobacco Companies are relocating from developed countries to Africa as these countries have tightened their grip on the implementation of their tobacco control acts by increasing taxes and levies on the companies that produce them while most African countries do not have the control Acts or are too weak in implementing them.
According to him, “Tobacco use costs national economies enormously through increased healthcare costs and decreased productivity. Some 80 per cent of premature deaths from tobacco occur in low or middle-income countries,which face increased challenges to achieve their developmental goal”.
He therefore called on the government to put in place effective national laws and also fast track the implementation processes of the National Tobacco Control (NTC) Act in order to curb the rising consumption of tobacco use in the country.
In response to some questions, the Sub-Regional Coordinator-West Africa, Hilda Ochefu stated that tobacco is a legal product and hence cannot be banned, adding that the group is pushing for the implementation of the NTC act to prevent further degeneration in the trend of tobacco smokers in the society.
Also responding, the Coordinator, National Tobacco Control Research Group (NTCRG), Dr Olupelumi Adebiyi said that tobacco is a threat to public health and according to a WHO statistics, 3.9% of the entire population use tobacco at the moment in Nigeria and if the trend is not checked, it will degenerate to 10.6% by the year 2020 while the number will be as high as 20.2% in men.
“Cigarettes are the only product that I know of, that when you use it according to the manufacturers’ specifications, it is guaranteed to cause maximum harm” the doctor said.
31st May of every year has been earmarked by the World Health Organisation and her partners across the globe to highlight the health risks associated with tobacco use and advocate for effective policies to reduce its consumption and the theme for World No Tobacco Day 2017 is “Tobacco – A Threat to development”.