As harmless and pleasurable as it seems tobacco smoking according to World Health Organization (WHO) kills more than 8 million people each year while more than 7 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use, around 1.2 million are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.
This also means that if nothing is done to discourage its consumption, tobacco will kill ONE billion (1,000,000,000) people this century, as People who smoke die at a early age.
Smoking has been found to harm nearly every organ in the body and reduces a person's overall health. Every cigarette smoked, reduces the lifetime of the smoker by 11 minutes. (WHO)
Knowingfully well that any amount of exposure to tobacco smoke is harmful and all forms of tobacco are dangerously poisonous, the Federal Ministry of Health has continually warned that “smokers are liable to die young”, and also that '' smoking is dangerous to health'. Tobacco can come in form of cigarette, shisha, cigar, smokeless tobacco, e-cigarette etc, no form of tobacco is safer than the other.
In a paper presented by Peter Unekwu-Ojo of Cedars Refuge Foundation during a one day training of anti-Tobacco advocates organized by the Civil Society Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), he disclosed that every time a person smokes, dangerous toxic gases are passed through the lungs, then to the blood Stream.
He hinted that tobacco product is made using tobacco leaf which contains nicotine and other dangerous compounds and that smoking tobacco causes exposure to a lethal mixture of more than 7000 toxic chemicals, including at least 70 known carcinogens that can damage nearly every organ system in the human body.
“The risk of death and disease from tobacco rises with the number of cigarettes smoked, but damage begins with use of a very small number of cigarettes”, he said.
Still speaking he said all tobacco products contain substantial amounts of nicotine, which is absorbed readily from tobacco smoke in the lungs and from smokeless tobacco in the mouth or nose expressing worry that nicotine has been clearly recognized as a drug of addiction, and tobacco dependence classified as a mental and behavioral disorder by WHO International Classification of Diseases.
On why consumption of tobacco is very addictive Mr Unekwu-Ojo noted that inhaling tobacco smoke causes nicotine substance to flow into the bloodstream and down to the brain which induces pleasurable feeling that smokers must have to maintain to feel 'normal'.
He informed that as the brain is repeatedly exposed to nicotine, it becomes desensitized, and will crave nicotine more and more to avoid the discomfort experienced while not smoking.
This addictive nature of tobacco may not be unconnected with the reason why experts in the field of substance abuse consider tobacco dependence to be as strong or stronger than dependence on such substances as heroin or cocaine.
Smoking which typically begins in adolescence is an evil wind that blows no good to the young ones especially with nicotine's ability to harm brain development in teens.
It is therefore very vital to help young ones stay smoke – free because if a person remains smoke-free throughout adolescence, it is highly unlikely that he or she will ever smoke.
Children are not spared from the dangerous effects of tobacco use because according to WHO (2013 reports), an estimated 40% of children worldwide have at least one parent who smokes while 50% of children regularly breathe air polluted by tobacco smoke in public places which makes them second hand smokers ( SHS).
Tobacco is so dangerous that mee touching tobacco leaves with bare hands causes a serious sickness known as Green leaf Disease and limiting its use is one of the most effective ways to save lives and improve overall well-being in Nigeria and the world at large.
Cigarette smoking no doubt is the chief single, avoidable cause of death in our society and the most important public health issue of our time.
Against this backdrop, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) is of the view that 139 million premature deaths can be averted in Africa including Nigeria if the relevant agencies act now and adopt a stronger regulation with a view to implementing proven methods to reduce tobacco use.
During a one day training on tobacco tax advocacy in Port – Harcourt, the Executive Director of CISLAC, Auwal Ibrahim Musa had in his opening remarks expressed worry that tobacco smoking costs Nigeria more than the equivalent of its budget each year noting that the growth in Nigeria's population has resulted in no significant reduction in smoking prevalence over the years.
Represented by Mr Temidayo Salaudeen he said CISLAC has cultivated interest in taxation as a tobacco control measure among members of the Tax Justice Governance Platform in the region adding that the training was held in Port –Harcourt to galvanize support for implementation of the price and tax measure for effective tobacco control.
He said that in recognition of the efficiency of garnering local support for tobacco control measures as a strategy , CISLAC has been working to sustain the tobacco tax advocacy in the different regions of the country where notable outcomes have been recorded stressing that the training was with the objective of deepening knowledge on tobacco taxation as a Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) tool for reducing tobacco consumption.
In addition to some legislations aimed at controlling tobacco consumption among its
Citizens Nigeria increased the excise tax on cigarettes Although a step in the right direction, the tax change fell short of bringing meaningful change: it fell way below the excise tax burden of 75% recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
It has therefore become very important for Civil Society Organisations, Faith Based Organisations, and the Media to compliment the efforts of the Government in fighting the menace posed against Nigerians health and sustainable development in Nigeria by tobacco consumption.
World Tobacco Day is celebrated annually on 31st may, such a day can specially be used to campaign against tobacco use through enhanced advocacy for effective tobacco taxation in Nigeria.