Cigarette smoking unarguably is known to be a “gradual killer”, asides its health and other socio-economic and legal implications to the consumers. However, many don’t understand that smokeless tobacco or chewing tobacco is more hazardous than cigarette smoking itself and is linked to more than a quarter of a million deaths worldwide yearly.
A recent finding by some British researchers from the University of York assesses the international impact of smokeless tobacco on adults from 113 countries, and discovered that the impact was even higher than regular tobacco. It concluded that smokeless tobacco causes more deaths due to cancers of the mouth, pharynx and oesophagus and even more from heart disease.
According to the findings, India remains the hotspot as it account for 74 percent of smokeless tobacco-related diseases worldwide. Other findings of the World Health Organisation, WHO, show that no fewer than 6 million people die from tobacco consumption annually. While 5 million others die from direct consumption, another 600,000 non-smokers die from being open to second-hand smoke. It warned that the global death rate from tobacco consumption might be up to between 8 and 9 million by the year 2030 if urgent steps are not taken. Thus, there is the urgent need for global efforts to not only try to address this menace of smokeless tobacco in the society, but also to control it.
Also appalling is the fact that 80 per cent of the more than one billion smokers worldwide live in low- and middle-income countries, where the burden of tobacco-related illnesses and deaths are heaviest. It says that at least one person dies every six seconds, meaning one in 10 adults die due to tobacco related diseases. Another data show that about 100 million deaths were recorded in the 20th century alone, if the trend continues, one billion more deaths might be recorded in the 21st century, as the epidemic will kill more and more people unless we act now.
But sadly, in spite of the numerous campaigns, most people are still ignorant of the harmful effects of tobacco consumption. They are ignorant of the fact that 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. And that second-hand smoke is said to be the major cause of cardiovascular, respiratory and coronary heart disease as well as lung cancer in adults, and in infants as well as sudden deaths. In spite of all this, is not enough to discourage tobacco consumption globally.
It is therefore against this backdrop that cigarette smoking or smokeless tobacco or what is called chewing tobacco has become a major global concern.
Similarly, illicit tobacco market accounts for at least one in every 10 cigarettes consumed worldwide and the European Commission puts the costs of this illicit trade among member states at over €10 billion annually in lost taxes and customs revenue, with 65 percent of cigarettes seized being counterfeit. More worrisome also is that the illicit trade not only worsens the global tobacco epidemic, but its security implications manifest heavily in the areas of financing organised crimes, drugs, human and arms trafficking, as well as terrorism.
We therefore call on the global community to work in harmony in ending this illicit tobacco trade. This however can be done through one or a combination of all these: heavy taxes on tobacco products, and total ban on their advertisements, media campaigns as well as photographs with graphic warning signs to discourage consumption.
Shockingly, there is no international policy on how to regulate the production, composition, sale, labelling, packaging and marketing of smokeless tobacco products. The international framework to control tobacco doesn’t seem to be working even to control smokeless tobacco as it doesn’t get the same regulation as cigarettes. But past efforts towards curbing cigarette smoking could also inform the creation of policies aimed at reducing the use of smokeless tobacco,
Nonetheless, it is gratifying to note that Nigeria has also join the league of countries that have sign into law the anti-Tobacco control bill, which is a welcome relief, and now rank the country amongst nations that have taken a proactive steps in protecting its citizenry from the harmful effects of tobacco consumption. Therefore, governments at all levels through its ministry of health must ignite the processes and mechanism that will ensure effective implementation of the law.