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Friday, April 9, 2010

Will ban on cigarette logo stop smoking?

By Imaobong Udo

GOVERNMENTS across the globe have continued to take concrete steps to reduce deaths associated with cigarette smoking.

For instance, the United Kingdom (UK) is planning to ensure that cigarettes are sold in plain packets under new plans to halve the number of people who smoke.
The UK Health Secretary, Mr Andy Burnham, said the government would reduce the number of nicotine addicts by eight to four million in the next 10 years.
He said: “Now that we have banned advertising and will soon see an end to attractive displays in shops, the only remaining method of advertising tobacco is the packaging. So, we will carefully consider whether there is evidence for making tobacco companies use plain packets.”
He added that the packets would only show the brand name in text.
The UK Government also wants to target the estimated 200,000 young people who take up smoking every year.
Burnham said: “Government should and will do everything in its power to protect young people.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that tobacco caused 5.4 million deaths in 2004 and 100 million deaths over the course of the 20th century.
Similarly, the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention described tobacco use as the single most important preventable risk to human health in developed countries which also include about 600,000 premature deaths per year, numerous crippling illnesses and economic losses.
According to WHO, smoke contains several carcinogenic pyrolytic products that bind to DNA and cause many genetic mutations. There are over 19 known chemical carcinogens in cigarette smoke. Tobacco also contains nicotine, which is a highly addictive psychoactive chemical. When tobacco is smoked, nicotine causes physical and psychological dependency. Tobacco use is a significant factor in miscarriages among pregnant smokers, it contributes to a number of other threats to the health of the foetus such as premature births and low birth weight and increases by 1.4 to 3 times the chance for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
The effects of smoking on human health are serious and in many cases, deadly. There are approximately 4,000 chemicals in cigarettes, hundreds of which are toxic. The ingredients in cigarettes affect everything from the internal functioning of organs to the efficiency of the body's immune system.
When people think of cancers caused by smoking, the first one that comes to mind is always lung cancer. Most cases of lung cancer death, close to 90 per cent in men, and 80 cent per in women are caused by cigarette smoking. There are several other forms of cancer attributed to smoking as well, and they include cancer of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, bladder, stomach, cervix, kidney and pancreas, and acute leukaemia.
The list of additives allowed in the manufacture of cigarettes consists of 599 possible ingredients. When burned, cigarette smoke contains over 4000 chemicals, with over 40 of them being known carcinogens.
Speaking on the issue, the Project Officer, Environmental Rights Action (ERA), Mr Philip Jakpor, said the issue was not about the change in logo.
He said: “The real issue is ensuring that there are appropriate labels that are legible. Health warnings and pictorials that are legible enough and cover at least half of the cigarettes pack. So it is not really the issue of logo. As we know, most of the cigarettes pack that we see bears in the body, 'the Ministry of Health says smoking is injurious to your health.'
“We believe that is not appropriate enough because the tobacco companies have not taken the responsibility seriously. They are not telling you that smoking is dangerous, but they are telling you that the Ministry of Health says so.
“What they should do is to tell us that the product can kill, it can cause cancer, it can cause impotency in men, and that tobacco use leads to diseases affecting the heart and lungs, with smoking being a major risk factor for heart attacks, strokes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, and cancer (particularly lung cancer, cancers of the larynx and mouth, and pancreatic cancer). It also causes peripheral vascular disease and hypertension, all developed due to the exposure time and the level of dosage of tobacco. The higher level of tar content in the tobacco filled cigarettes causes the greater risk of these diseases. Due to higher levels of tar content in Third World countries, people who smoke in the developing countries are more vulnerable to diseases. Poorer nations also lack the inclusion of filters that richer nations have. However, the mortality rate does not show a significant decrease due to filters as many people, filter or no filter, die due to the main reason being their addiction and intake of tobacco.”
Jakpor added that Nigeria was signatory and ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). The law on the tobacco health warnings is in Article 11 which requires each party to the FCTC. It requires effective measures to ensure that tobacco products packaging and labelling carry large, rotating health warnings and do not promote tobacco products by false, misleading or deceptive means.
According to him, studies have shown that when people are informed and have the right of choice, they will decide to smoke or not and that when people know the dangers of smoking, they are likely not to smoke, but those who cannot read and write, when they see the bold pictures that are shown on the cigarettes packs, which shows what smoking is likely to result in, they are likely to refrain from smoking.
“But we are operating in the system where those things are not put in place and as such people do not have choice. People will just see beautiful cigarette packs and without reading the content, they start smoking it. “Tobacco companies glamorise smoking. Even in movies, we are made to believe that those who are hyper are actually the ones smoking, but in reality, these things are not so and unfortunately smoking has cut short so many lives, like top musicians, actors, journalists, doctors, commissioners, and top politicians.
“Even in countries like Canada, they make sure they put small pamphlet inside their cigarette packs which read: 'You can quit smoking,' and adds that; 'Tobacco products are highly addictive.' The implication now is your choice on whether to smoke or not. But with the kind of tobacco companies we have in Nigeria and their products, these things are not there, people are not informed rather what they do is to organise smoking parties and encourage people to smoke and called it Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
“Social responsibility is all about giving back to the society. But you can ask yourself what are the tobacco companies giving to the society other than death. What they are giving to the society is death, so if they give death to the society and they go to one community in Oyo State and give the farmers fertiliser, what they are doing is for the farmers to continue to grow their products and they called that CSR.
“So, our position is that Nigeria signed the FCTC and they should be able to domesticate it so that we will be able to reduce the tobacco-related deaths.
“I had an opportunity of talking with a man in Mbodiene in Senegal when I saw his teeth being completely rotten and damaged because of smoking. Merely looking at his teeth, it was all gone, I now asked him, 'Do you know that what you are doing is bad? The man said he knew, but he could not stop smoking.
“I asked him again; “Will you like your children to smoke? He said he would do everything to stop them from smoking.
“In every cigarette stick, you have contents like nicotine which is what get people so addicted to smoking and other deadly chemicals like formaldehyde which is the chemical that is used to preserve dead bodies in the mortuary. We also have carbon monoxide, methane and other dangerous chemicals. Naturally, anybody you tell that a stick of cigarette contains all these dangerous chemicals should be able to withdraw from smoking. But some of them find it very difficult to stop because of the nicotine which is the addictive substance which tobacco companies deliberately infuse in it to get people hooked to it,” Jakpor added.
According to him, WHO says if health warnings and pictorials are on cigarette packs, it will reduce the number of people who smoke because they will now see the contents of what they want to inhale.
The ERA project officer also called for the domestication of the FCTC and its provision which Nigeria signed in 2004 and ratified in 2005.
He said: “Once we domesticate it and start to implement, enforce and monitor it, this will actually help to reduce the number of smokers.
“We succeeded in getting Abuja to go smoke-free last year, now you cannot smoke publicly in Abuja. All over the world, we have what we call smoke-free public places. For instance, people do not smoke in schools, buses, restaurants, parks, even at airports and every other open place. If you travel out of the country, you find out that this is exactly what is happening. It is not that people don't smoke, they do, but they smoke in certain hidden places. But unfortunately, because of the weak laws we have in this country, you see people smoking anywhere they like. But if there is a strong law and the law is enforced like what we did in Abuja which was very successful, Nigeria will a be better place for all to live.”