By Ogechukwu Agwu and Angela Success
Cardio-vascular diseases and some cancers have been linked to tobacco consumption, in both developed and developing countries. In Nigeria the case is not different, as cigarette and non-smoking tobacco products are sold openly to even under aged youths without any form of restriction or control. Cigarette smoking harms almost every organ of the body and is highly addictive. One of its effects on the lives of our youths is the decreasing their productive years.
Tobacco smoke contains carcinogenic substances, which decreases the quality of the blood circulated in the body, lowers immunity, and leads to preventable deaths in the society. It is also linked to low birth weight, higher risk of blindness and stroke.
Nigeria is party to the Framework Convention on Tobacco control initiated by the World health Organisation (WHO) in order to “reduce the demand for tobacco as well as its production, distribution, availability and supply to the people. The country has gone further to sign into law in 2015, the National Tobacco Control Act. The act will be implemented and enforced by a National Tobacco control committee under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Health.
This Act increased the graphic health warning on packs to 50 per cent, placed a ban on stick sales of cigarettes as well as on misleading labeling. It also banned the sales of tobacco products to minors and has put in place tax measures to discourage its production and consumption in Nigeria. Fines and other deterring measures were not left out in the act. When implemented, this Act will protect the people from health hazards and the negative social economic effects of tobacco production and consumption.
The delay in the implementation of this law is still exposing our youths to the dangers of tobacco use as the manufacturers and importers freely flood the country with their products without restriction or control by the government.
The world celebrated another ‘no tobacco’ day yesterday. The theme this year is “Tobacco-a threat to development.” Countries are encouraged to propose measures that governments and the public should take to promote health and development by confronting the global tobacco crisis. In line with the theme, countries should put in place measures that will protect the health of its citizens in order to reduce poverty. Exposure to cigarette smoking should be reduced so as to increase productivity and thus promote development.
The effects of tobacco smoke are not confined solely to smokers. Non-smokers too suffer from it. Statistics show that every year nearly six million people die from tobacco use or exposure to second-hand smoke, accounting for six per cent of female and 12 per cent of male deaths worldwide. By 2030, tobacco-related deaths are projected to increase to more than eight million deaths a year.
Tobacco smoke contains a stimulant called nicotine, which forms a strong physical and psychological chemical addiction. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believe that nicotine can be as addictive, as heroin or cocaine. Nicotine is vasoconstrictor and a nerve toxin and it has been classified as a class I insecticide.
The addiction is definitely strongest when tobacco smoke is inhaled into the lungs.
Experts say that tobacco contains a poisonous mix of over 7,000 deadly chemicals. Studies have shown that 70 of these chemicals are known to cause cancer.
According to medical experts, none of these chemicals in tobacco has an overall health benefit.
Despite the health dangers involved in tobacco smoking, Nigeria is one of the three largest tobacco markets in Africa, others being Egypt and South Africa. Tobacco sales in Nigeria have continued for long with profits of the Nigerian tobacco companies increasing year on year. Although there are no records of consumers in Nigeria, a 2012 WHO report has estimated that Nigeria has a population of almost 13 million smokers, and 18billion cigarettes are sold each year at a value of about $931million (N185 billion).
A survey conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics and some international organisations in 2013 shows that while the eastern part of the country has high cases of smokeless tobacco usage, the North has high cases of tobacco smokers. The study also revealed that tobacco smoking in Nigeria is relatively low when compared with other parts of the world.
Globally, tobacco is the leading cause of preventable deaths and if not checked, it is estimated that it will kill one billion people in the 21st century.
According to the 2017 WHO factsheets, “tobacco kills more than seven million people each year. More than six million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use, while around 890 000 are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke. It is the leading cause of death, illness and impoverishment. The epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced killing more than seven million people a year. More than 6 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while around 890000 are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second hand smoke.
Nearly 80 per cent of the more than one billion smokers worldwide live in low- and middle-income countries, where the burden of tobacco-related illness and death is heaviest.
The history of tobacco smoking
Tobacco has a long history in the Americans. It was the first crop grown for money in North America. In 1612, the settler of the first American colony in Jamestown, Virginia grew tobacco as a cash crop although they were other crops as well like corn, cotton etc. this crop helped pay for the American Revolution against England. The first president of America grew tobacco.
The 1800s people used it. Some were chewed, and others were smoked in a pipe. In 1881, James Bonsack invented a cigarette-making machine. This led to its widespread usage. He partnered with Washington Duke’s son, James ‘Buck’ Duke, and they started the American Tobacco Company.
In no time, several other companies sprung up, like the Marlboro brand owned by Philips Morris. The tobacco company was good at that time, as the products were shipped to the soldiers at war. Billions of dollars were made, as the cigarettes were sold not only in the USA but also all over the world.
Smoking was a common phenomenon in many native American cultures. It was a part of the culture of the classic-era, Maya civilisation, about 1,500 years ago. These people smoked tobacco and also mixed it with lime and chewed it in a snuff-like substance. It was also used as an all-purpose medicine, and was widely believed to have magical powers, being used in divinations and talismans.
The real cigar, however, became popular in England in the late 1820s and the cigarette appeared in 1828 in Spain.
Health effects of tobacco smoking
Campaigns aside, most people are still ignorant of the harmful effects of tobacco consumption. There are more than 4,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, of which at least 250 are known to be destructive and more than 50 others are identified to cause cancer. While, second-hand smoke is said to be the major cause of cardiovascular, respiratory and coronary heart diseases as well as lung cancer in adults and in infants, it causes sudden death in others. These alone are enough reasons to discourage tobacco consumption globally.
AgumahNnabuife, a medical expert summarises it thus: “The health effects of tobacco smoking are related to the direct tobacco smoking, as well as passive smoking, inhalation of environmental or secondhand tobacco smoke. When the cigarette smoke is inhaled, thousands of chemicals get into your bloodstream and travel throughout your body. These chemicals cause damage to different parts of the body.”
Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body and affects a person’s overall health. It causes cancer in almost anywhere in the body and also increases the risk of dying from cancer in patients and survivors.
Smoking can make it harder for a woman to become pregnant. It can also affect her baby’s health before and after birth. While increasing the risks of the following: Preterm (early) delivery, stillbirth (death of the baby before birth), low birth weight, sudden infant death syndrome (known as SIDS or crib death), ectopic pregnancy, or facial clefts in infants
Smoking can also affect men’s sperm, which can reduce fertility and also increase risks for birth defects and miscarriage.
Smoking can affect bone health. Women past childbearing years who smoke have weaker bones than women who never smoked. They are also at greater risk for broken bones, the health of the teeth and cause tooth decay and loss.
The different chemicals in tobacco can cause damage to the eyes, especially to the macula, which represents the most sensitive part of the retina. The tiny blood vessels can burst through the macula, leading to irreversible damage.
Smoking can increase your risk for cataracts (clouding of the eye’s lens that makes it hard for you to see). It can also cause age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is damage to a small spot near the center of the retina, the part of the eye needed for central vision.
Smoking also causes morphological and functional changes to the lens and retina due to its atherosclerotic and thrombotic effects on the ocular capillaries.
Smoking is a cause of Type 2 diabetes mellitus and can make it harder to control. The risk of developing diabetes is 30–40 per cent higher for active smokers than nonsmokers.
Smoking causes general adverse effects on the body, including inflammation and decreased immune function. It is also a cause of rheumatoid arthritis.
What can be done?
The major health impacts of smoking were established more than 40 years ago but governments were slow to respond to the growing health epidemic. Despite laudable tobacco control strategies in many countries, globally deaths from smoking continue to rise and are forecast to reach 10 million a year by the 2030s.