*Tobacco smokers at higher Risk to developing severe COVID-19 complications and death
The federal government and World Health Organization (WHO) have renewed their pledge to tackle the menance of tobacco consumption which has claimed millions of lives in Nigeria and across the world.
Dr. Osagie Ehanire, minister of health, noted that tobacco use and exposure to second-hand smoke is a leading cause of illness, impoverishment, death and the greatest risk factor for non-communicable diseases like hypertension, stroke, cancers, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases.
Ehanire added that recent evidence also shows that tobacco users are at a higher risk of developing severe COVID-19 outcomes and death.
The minister stated this during the inauguration of the 2nd National Tobacco Control Committee (NATOCC), in Abuja on Wednesday. According to him, the inauguration reaffirms the commitment of the Federal Government to effectively tackle the tobacco menace.
The minister while inaugurating the committee charged them to: Develop strategies for the counselling and rehabilitation of smokers, particularly those eager to quit smoking and Work with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and other relevant Agencies on alternative cropping for tobacco farmers.
Others are to; Advise and make recommendations to the Minister where necessary, on development and implementation of tobacco control policies, strategies, plans, programmes and projects; Screen or process applications for license to manufacture or import or distribute tobacco or tobacco products and make national tobacco control regulations for the approval of the Minister of Health, among others.
The WHO country representative Dr. Walter Mulombo pointed out that tobacco kills more than 8 million people each year, with more than 7 million of those deaths as a result of direct tobacco use while around1.2 million are the result of being exposed to second-hand smoke.
Mulombo who was represented by Dr. Kelias Msyamboza NCD lead team, regretted that over 80 percent of the world’s 1 .3 billion tobacco users live in low- and middle-income county, while informed that up to half of all tobacco users will die prematurely from tobacco-related causes.
“On average, tobacco users lose 15 years of life, this makes tobacco use one of the leading preventable risk factor for non-communicable diseases.
The WHO representative expressed optimism that the committee will implement the existing frameworks on tackling tobacco such as the 2015 National Tobacco Control Act and the 2019 National Tobacco Regulations.
“We are therefore quite pleased that the minister is inaugurating the 2nd National Tobacco Control . WHO remains committed to continue Supporting the Federal Ministry of Health and the National Tobacco Control Committee in tackling tobacco use in Nigeria”, he said.
The chairperson of the committee Dr Bridget Okoeguale, former Director Public Health at the Federal Ministry of Health, pledged that the committee will deliver on its mandate.