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CAPPA, ATIM seek integration of smoking cessation into healthcare delivery system

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Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), the Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University’s (SMU) Africa Centre for Tobacco Industry Monitoring and Policy Research (ATIM) in South Africa and researchers at the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, have canvassed integration of smoking cessation into Nigeria’s healthcare delivery system.

The group stated this at a media briefing in Lagos on the sidelines of this year’s World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) commemorated on May 31 every year by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and its country partners to draw attention to the health risks associated with tobacco use and encourage governments to adopt effective policies to reduce smoking and mitigate tobacco-related diseases and deaths in the country.

Executive Director of CAPPA, Akinbode Oluwafemi, who lamented that tobacco kills over seven million people worldwide every year, said the theme of this year’s commemoration: Commit to Quit, remained significant in view of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on smokers and users of tobacco products.

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“Research has shown that COVID-19 impacts are more precarious for smokers, who are already susceptible to lung damage. The studies suggest that there is a higher incidence of severe lung complications for smokers, who contract COVID-19 compared to non-smokers.

“A scientific brief released by the WHO earlier this year also showed that smokers are at higher risk of developing severe disease and death from COVID-19. In view of these findings, it is safe to conclude that smoking cessation has major health benefits for smokers,” he said.

He explained that the benefits, which could be both instantaneous or over time, include reduction in the likelihood of developing cancers, heart attack, stroke, chronic lung disease, hospitalisation and deaths from COVID-19.

He added that by committing to quit, smokers would not only secure health benefits, but also financial gains that come with redirection of money that would have been spent on buying tobacco products to productive uses.

“When You Quit, You Win. According to the WHO, the benefits of quitting are immediate and even long term: Within 20 minutes, heart rate and blood pressure drop. In 12 hours, the carbon monoxide level in blood drops to normal and in two to 12 weeks, circulation improves and lung function increases.

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“Other benefits are that coughing and shortness of breath decrease between one and nine months, risk of coronary heart disease is about half that of a smoker within one year and five years, stroke risk is reduced to that of a non-smoker for five to 15 years after quitting.

“Risk of lung cancer falls to about half that of a smoker and the risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, cervix and pancreas decreases in 10 years, while the risk of coronary heart disease is that of nonsmokers in 15 years,” he stated.

Stressing that the WNTD 2021 was an opportunity for Nigeria to reflect on its peculiar situation with regards to tobacco control, he pointed out that in as much as the country join the global call in encouraging smokers to quit, “we must equally highlight the fact that the environment required to make this happen in Nigeria has not been created.”

He added: “A disturbing reality is the fact that the National Tobacco Control Act 2015 and the National Tobacco Control Regulations 2019 that can make that environment a reality have not yet been enforced.”

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Speaking, Director of ATIM and Deputy Vice Chancellor of SMU, Prof. Lekan Ayo-Yusuf, who was represented by Dr. Francis Fagbule of UTH, supported Akinbode’s submissions, insisting that quitting smoking has major health benefits for women and men of all ages, regardless of their health status.

Fagbule explained that a national cross-gender survey carried out with 9,765 Nigerians and different age groups, revealed that over half of smokers were disposed to quitting, while less than half actually attempted quitting.

He said according to the smokers, the three most common reasons for quitting were health concerns (73.6 per cent), family pressure and disapproval (58.8 per cent), and concern that the smoke from their tobacco can harm others (47.8 per cent).

“Most smokers attempt to quit without any assistance. One major factor that made the smokers commit to quitting was being asked and advised by healthcare professionals to quit. Others are the health concerns of smoking and seeing the warning labels on cigarette packs.

“Brief cessation advice by healthcare professionals in Nigeria works. A lot of healthcare professionals are not currently making use of this opportunity to offer brief cessation advice. These should be incorporated into clinical practice. Healthcare professionals should ask all their patients and clients if they smoke, advise and assist willing smokers to quit,” he added.

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