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More Africans smoke, die of tobacco-induced sicknesses, says WHO

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Groups canvass establishment of control fund

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that unlike in developed countries where the number of people smoking and dying of tobacco products is on the decline, the figure is on the rise in developing countries and continents like Nigeria and Africa.The latest figures released yesterday on the occasion of the World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) by the WHO indicate that tobacco use is falling, but not fast enough.

According to the WHO report, tobacco use has declined markedly since 2000, but the reduction is insufficient to meet globally agreed targets aimed at protecting people from death and suffering from cardiovascular and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs).According to it, tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure are major causes of cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks and stroke, contributing to approximately three million deaths per year.

Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, told journalists yesterday in Abuja that tobacco use is key factor in developing ‘heart and related diseases’ that claims 146,000 deaths yearly.

Also, WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: “Most people know that using tobacco causes cancer and lung disease, but many people aren’t aware that tobacco also causes heart disease and stroke – the world’s leading killers.

On how second hand smokers are killed, Moeti said: “Tobacco and exposure to second hand smokers contribute to about 12 per cent of all heart disease deaths.“There is no safe level for people, particularly children, women and workers, who have to be in the same room as smokers.”She, therefore, urged strong leadership, political commitment and an informed civil society to work together for: “heart-healthy policies and the right to health.

Also, she called on member-states to implement measures, which could strengthen tobacco control, as found in the WHO framework convention on tobacco control.The effective measures, according to her, include increasing tobacco taxes and prices, which will save lives as well as generate revenues for governments.

Meanwhile, an Associate Professor, Faculty of Medicine, University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH), Ahmed Gabdo, has cautioned parents against smoking cigarettes close to their children to safeguard their health and future development.Gabdo, who spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Maiduguri on yesterday, said the warning would safeguard the health of children.

In a similar vein, members of the Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance (NTCA) have canvassed the establishment of the Tobacco Control Fund. The group, comprising the Environmental Rights Action and Friends of the Earth (ERA/FoEN), Cedars Foundation, Gatefield, Smoke-free Club UniAbuja and other youth groups, called on government to enforce the ban on smoking in public places.

Akinbode Oluwafemi of the ERA/FoEN who spoke at the Garki Ultra-modern market yesterday where the activists addressed the public in the three major languages, said the establishment of tobacco control fund would become useful to government agencies to enforce the nine provisions of the NTC Act.such as smoke-free public places, restriction on under-age access and ban of sale in single sticks. 


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