Pate, Health Ministry RAN autonomy
Prof. Muhammed Ali Pate

With 8 million Death Globally, FG Plans Review of Tobacco Control Act to Protect Children

The Federal Government plans to review the National Tobacco Control Act to prevent the negative effects of tobacco smoking among underage children.

The government said that tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke is a leading cause of death, illness and impoverishment in the world, adding that tobacco smoke contains over 7,000 chemicals, of which over 250 are known to be toxic and about 70 are known to cause cancer.

Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof Muhammad Ali Pate, who disclosed in Abuja, said that tobacco is one of the biggest public health threats confronting the world, which according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) accounts for more than eight million deaths globally every year.

Pate observed that more than seven million of those deaths come from direct tobacco use, while about 1.2 million as a result of non-smokers who are exposed to second-hand smoke. He said the WHO report shows that over 80 per cent of the world’s 1.3 billion tobacco users live in low- and middle-income countries.

He said: “Tobacco is also the greatest risk factor for non-communicable diseases like hypertension, stroke, cancers, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases. It is important to note that there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke.

“In Nigeria, the 2012 Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS), showed that 5.6 per cent (4.5 million) Nigerians 15 years and older were currently using tobacco products of which 3.9 per cent (3.1 million) were current smokers. The Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) conducted in 2008 across five states in Nigeria showed that the prevalence of tobacco use among adolescents aged 13 – 15 years ranged from 13.1 – 23.3 per cent in Lagos and Cross River States respectively.”

Pate stated that the theme for this year’s campaign which is “Protecting Children from Tobacco Industry Interference” seeks to raise awareness about the need to protect future generations and ensure a decline in tobacco use.”

He highlighted the importance of protecting the younger generation from the tobacco industry’s manipulative tactics, such as aggressive subtle marketing campaigns, product placement in popular media, use of colorful packaging and enticing flavours.

According to the minister, the consequences of tobacco industry interference with children’s health are profound and far-reaching, leading to a host of adverse health outcomes, including respiratory ailments, cognitive impairment, and increased susceptibility to addiction later in life.

He noted that exposure to secondhand smoke poses a significant threat to children’s well-being, exacerbating the risk of respiratory infections, asthma, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

“Exposure to tobacco smoke exposes children in the uterus before they are given birth to and exposure of the mother to tobacco smoke can cause poor birth outcomes, as well as affect lung, cardiovascular, and brain development of the baby. This can also increase the risk of obesity, behavioural problems, and cardiovascular disease later in life,” he added.

WHO Country Representative, Walter Mulombo, called for more action from the government and other stakeholders, emphasising the need for vigilance as tobacco manufacturers relentlessly pursue profits.

He highlighted the alarming uptake of tobacco products among children, particularly e-cigarettes, and the industry’s tactics to appeal to youth. “ A recently released report by WHO termed ‘Hooking the Next Generation’-showed that an estimated 37 million children aged 13-15 years use tobacco, and in many countries, the rate of e-cigarette use among adolescents exceeds that of adults.

“This indicates that the industry targets youth for a lifetime of profits, creating a new wave of addiction. Companies rapidly launch new products that sidestep, or are not included, in current laws, and use every available means to expand their market share before regulations can catch up with them.

“Unfortunately, these tactics are working. Evidence from around the world shows an alarming uptake by children of some products, such as e-cigarettes. The tobacco industry is succeeding in its efforts to create a new generation of young people who smoke, vape, and suck nicotine pouches or use snuff,” he said.

The Executive Director, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), Akinbode Oluwafemi, said it is an understatement to say that adolescents are under siege by the tobacco manufacturers.

He said no effort would be spared by the stakeholders to ensure that more stringent legislation is put in place to protect the children.

The Inspector General of Police (IGP) Kayode Egbetokun, assured of implementing the law to the letter regarding the use of tobacco in the country.

Other stakeholders including the Management Sciences for Health (MHS), Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), and the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB), pledged to discharge their responsibilities in curbing the menace of tobacco use among the younger generation.