The Federal Government through the Ministry of Health has lamented the high consumption rate of tobacco in the country, saying that about 4.5 million Nigerians consumed 20 billion cigarettes yearly.
The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, said this on Monday at a sensitisation workshop for law enforcement agencies and mass media on the implementation of the National Tobacco Control Act 2015 in Abuja.
The minister said preventive measures to be taken by the government through the Tobacco Control Act would include prohibition of smoking for persons under 18 years of age as well as the ban on smoking in parks, markets, restaurants and other public places.
Adewole, whose speech was read by the Head of Department, Public Health, Dr. Evelyn Ngige, said, “According to Nigeria’s adult tobacco survey, over 20 billion sticks of cigarettes are consumed in the country by 4.5 million adults. This is 5.6 per cent of our population annually. The survey shows that 4.1 million men and 500,000 women smoke in Nigeria, while 6.4 million adults are exposed to smokers. We have to fight this looming epidemic now.
“In May 2017, the World Health Organisation reported that tobacco presently kills more than seven million people each year. Six million deaths are from direct use while others are due to exposure to tobacco smoking.
“Low and middle-income countries such as Nigeria account for 80 per cent tobacco-related morbidity and mortality. This is an increased strain on our already weak and fragile health system.”
The minister called on security agencies including the Nigeria Customs Service to bring stringent conditions on tobacco companies and sellers so as to discourage the culture of smoking.
“Tobacco is the only drug that has been linked to many cancers. It also contributes to many other health conditions. The government will begin the prohibition of the sale of tobacco to anyone below the age of 18 years. Secondly, the buying and sale of cigarettes will be sold in only a pack of 20 sticks. We will also ban the sale of tobacco through mails and other online devices. Smoking anywhere in the premises of a childcare, educational and healthcare facility shall also be prohibited.”