According to the World Health Organisation, WHO, no fewer than 6million people die from tobacco consumption annually. While 5 million die from direct consumption, another 600,000 non-smokers die from being open to second-hand smoke. It warned that global death rate from tobacco consumption might be up to 8 million in 2030 if urgent steps are not taken.
Shocking also is that 80 percent 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. At least one person dies every 6 seconds, meaning one in 10 adults die due to tobacco related diseases. Another statistics show that about 100 million deaths were recorded in the 20th century alone, and if the trend continues, 100 million more deaths might be recorded in the 21st century. The epidemic will kill more, unless we act now.
But the campaigns aside, most people are still ignorant of the harmful effects of tobacco consumption. One of the effects is 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. 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.
It is therefore against this backdrop that this year’s theme: ‘stop illicit trade of tobacco products’, is not only apt, but has become a major global concern. Studies reveal that illicit tobacco market account for at least one in every 10 cigarettes consumed worldwide. Already, the European Commission puts the costs of illicit trade in cigarettes among member states at over €10 billion annually in lost tax and customs revenue, and about 65 percent of cigarettes seized in the EU are counterfeit.
More worrisome also is that the illicit trade not only worsen the global tobacco epidemic, but its security implications manifest heavily in the areas of financing organised crime, drugs, human and arms trafficking, as well as terrorism.
We thus call on all countries to work together to end the illicit trade of tobacco products. This 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.
It is gratifying to note that 2-days to handing over to another administration, the immediate past President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan signed into law the anti-Tobacco control bill which is a remarkable step forward. Though, more work needed to be done, it is a welcome relief that Nigeria has now joined the league of nations that have taken proactive steps in protecting its citizenry from the harmful effects of Tobacco consumption.
We therefore urge the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to ignite the process and mechanism that will ensure effective implementation of the new law.