By Seun Akioye
On the occasion of World Cancer Day 2024, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) has urged both federal and state governments in Nigeria to address tobacco use, as well as the excessive consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) and salt, which are high-risk factors behind the country’s alarming cancer burden.
CAPPA noted that there has been an upsurge in cancer cases recorded in Nigeria in recent times alongside other non-communicable diseases (NCDs). According to the National Institute for Cancer Research and Treatment, Nigeria records over 120,000 new cases of cancer annually, while the National Cancer Prevention and Control Plan (2018-2022) estimates that Nigerians spend N12 billion annually on cancer treatment.
CAPPA emphasised that tobacco use is a leading cause of cancer and cancer-related deaths. SSBs are associated with a heightened risk of obesity-related cancers, including kidney and colon cancers, while the excessive intake of salt is linked to an increased risk of stomach cancer, among other health issues.
CAPPA’s Executive Director Akinbode Oluwafemi advised the government to tackle the problem from its roots, adding that better monitoring and regulation of tobacco, SSBs and salt consumption, among other measures, was a great place to start.
“The government cannot tackle the rising cases of cancer without addressing the risk factors holistically. These include taking concrete actions against tobacco use, the unhealthy consumption of salts, sugar-sweetened beverages, and other unhealthy dietary trends,” Oluwafemi said.
The CAPPA statement encouraged the government to improve public health by enforcing tobacco control measures as provided in the National Tobacco Control Act, 2015 and the Nigeria Tobacco Control Regulations, 2019. This includes prohibiting the unnecessary depiction of smoking in movies, as well as the effective implementation of graphic health warnings alongside the penalization of violators of tobacco control regulations.
For SSBs, the non-governmental organisation (NGO) advocated an “increment of the SSB tax from N10 to N50 in the 2024 Finance Act, and for the government to work with public health stakeholders to develop a comprehensive legislative framework.
CAPPA also urged the government to expedite the development of policy guidelines for salt reduction targets. These, Oluwafemi added, must include “mandatory limits of salt content in processed and packaged foods.”
CAPPA’s food and policy Manager, Abayomi Sarumi added: “In a country with more than 80% paying out-of-pocket for health expenditure, the government must prioritise legislations that shrink unhealthy food environments and promote a healthy consumption culture in society.”
The World Cancer Day is globally celebrated every February 4. This year’s event is themed “Close the Care Gap: Everyone Deserves Access to Cancer Care.”