By Taiwo Ajala, Abuja
The Federal Ministry of Health has called on students in the Federal Capital Territory and neighbouring Nasarawa State to shun the use of tobacco and tobacco product consumption to protect themselves and others in the society.
This call was made during a symposium and capacity-building workshop organized by the Ministry with support from Development Gateway, An IREX Venture as part of activities to commemorate the World No Tobacco Day in Abuja.
The World celebrates No Tobacco Day on May 31st every year to raise awareness of the dangers of tobacco use and tobacco product consumption to the health of individuals and the society at large.
Speaking at the Symposium with the theme: “Tobacco: Threat to our environment”, Dr. Dolapo Sanni, National Coordinator, Non-Communicable Diseases Division, Federal Ministry of Health, noted that Tobacco use and secondhand consumption is a leading cause of death, diseases and impoverishment in the world.
Represented by Dr Malau Toma, Non-Communicable Diseases division, Tobacco Control Unit of the Federal Ministry of Health, Dr Sanni said, “It is also the greatest risk factor for non-communicable diseases like hypertension, heart diseases, cancer, diabetes, chronic airway disease. There is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoking because even a brief exposure can be harmful to one’s health.
“Tobacco smoke contains over 7,000 chemicals of which hundreds are toxic and about 70 are known to cause various cancers. Tobacco is a highly addictive substance because it contains a chemical called nicotine which causes a rush of adrenaline.”
Nicotine has been found to be a chemical in tobacco that keeps smokers coming back to smoking. Nicotine reaches the brain within seconds of taking a puff. In the brain, nicotine increases the release of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, which help regulate mood and behaviour.
Also speaking, Dr Morenikeji Alex-Okoh, Director, Public Health Department, Public Sector Health Authority, Federal Ministry of Health, noted that tobacco is a threat to the world.
Her words, “According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced, killing more than 8million people every year globally with more than 7million of this death resulting from direct tobacco use and about 1.2million resulting from non-smokers being exposed to secondhand smoking.”
She further stressed that 4.5million Nigerians, 15yers and older, currently use tobacco products, of which 3.1million are current smokers while 1.6million adults currently use smokeless tobacco.
In her advice, Dr Sanni said, “Dear Youths, I wish to inform you that cigarette is only one of several tobacco products. Some other products which are equally dangerous include the popular water-pipe tobacco popularly known as shisha, pipe tobacco, cigars, and electronic cigarette.
“These products no matter how nicely packaged they look, are dangerous to your health. This symposium is, therefore, put together to educate you on the ills of using tobacco products and being exposed to tobacco smoke.”
In her goodwill remark, Seember Ali, Country Representative of Development Gateway, An IREX Venture, commended the Federal Ministry of Health for the capacity-building opportunity for the students to educate them on the dangers of tobacco to them and everyone in the society.
Adding her voice, she said, “At the end of this symposium, idea is that you will take valuable lessons from today about the dangers of tobacco for your life and the lives of your friend. Also, if you do not currently have a Tobacco-Free Club in your school, by the time you leave here today, you should start one.
Some of the things that Development Gateway has done to support tobacco control in Nigeria is the development of a dashboard that speaks to some of the statistics about tobacco control in the country. This is important for students and other professionals who may need such information for their works and any other research.