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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Smoking may contribute to pelvic pain in pregnancy

A LOWER risk of pelvic pain could be yet one more reason for women to quit smoking before becoming pregnant, a new study suggests.
Danish researchers found that among 5,000 women interviewed during and soon after pregnancy, those who smoked during pregnancy were 20 per cent more likely to have pregnancy-related pelvic pain than non-smokers.
A similar risk was seen among women who had given up smoking during the first trimester, according to findings published in the obstetrics journal BJOG.
Pelvic pain is believed to be a common problem in pregnancy, with recent studies finding that anywhere from 14 per cent to 33 per cent of women develop it, most often in the second half of pregnancy.The pain can make routine activities, like walking, getting up from a chair or even turning over in bed, difficult.
So it is important to reduce the risk of developing the pain, if possible.The current findings show an association between smoking and pelvic pain, but do not prove cause-and-effect. Still, there are many reasons for women to quit smoking, particularly if they are planning a pregnancy.So a reduction in the risk of pelvic pain can be viewed as a potential added benefit, according to lead researcher Karin Biering, of Herning Regional Hospital in Denmark.
Smoking during pregnancy is linked to increased risks of miscarriage, low birth weight and other pregnancy complications. So the most important reason for women to quit before pregnancy is for the health of their child, Biering told Reuters Health in an email.“The finding of our study just adds another possible consequence of smoking,” she said.The results are based on data from a subgroup of women included in a national study of more than 100,000 pregnancies between 1996 and 2002.
Women in that study were interviewed during pregnancy and six months after giving birth.Biering’s team compared 2,300 women who reported having pelvic pain during or shortly after pregnancy with nearly 2,700 who did not report the problem. Pelvic pain was defined as pain that was at least significant enough to affect a woman’s ability to walk.
Overall, the study found, smokers, including those who quit in early pregnancy, had an elevated risk of pelvic pain, even taking into account a number of other factors, such as age, obesity, the women’s self-rated general health and whether they had a physically strenuous job.It is not clear why smoking might contribute to pelvic pain during pregnancy. In theory, it may be related to reduced blood flow to the pelvic tissue, according to Biering.
Even if smoking is a risk factor for pregnancy-related pelvic pain, being a non-smoker is no guarantee that a woman will not develop the problem. Among women with mild pelvic pain in the current study, 73 per cent were non-smokers; of those with severe pain, pain bad enough to interfere with several daily activities – 69 per cent were non- smokers.Pelvic pain is a “complex” condition, Biering noted, and there are probably numerous factors involved in pregnant women’s risk.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Secondhand smoke linked with illness

-Editor Natural Health

EXPOSURE to secondhand smoke appears to be associated with psychological distress and the risk of future psychiatric hospitalisation among healthy adults, according to a report posted online in the August print issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.

The authors in background information stated: "A growing body of literature has demonstrated the harmful physical health effects of secondhand smoke exposure. Given the highly prevalent exposure to secondhand smoke…even a low level of risk may have a major public health impact."

Dr. Mark Hamer of University College London, and colleagues studied 5,560 non-smoking adults (average age 49.8) and 2,595 smokers (average age 44.8) who did not have a history of mental illness and participated in the Scottish Health Survey in 1998 or 2003.

Participants were assessed with a questionnaire about psychological distress, and admissions to psychiatric hospitals were tracked over six years of follow-up. Exposure to secondhand smoke among non-smokers was assessed using saliva levels of cotinine – the main product formed when nicotine is broken down by the body – "a reliable and valid circulating biochemical marker of nicotine exposure," the authors write.

A total of 14.5 per cent of the participants reported psychological distress. Non-smokers with a high exposure to secondhand smoke (cotinine levels between 0.70 and 15 micrograms per litre) had higher odds of psychological distress when compared with those who had no detectable cotinine.Over the six-year follow-up, 41 individuals were newly admitted to psychiatric hospitals. Smokers and non-smokers with high exposure to secondhand smoke were both more likely than non-smokers with low levels of secondhand smoke exposure to be hospitalised for depression, schizophrenia, delirium or other psychiatric conditions.

Animal data have suggested that tobacco may induce a negative mood, and some human studies have also identified a potential association between smoking and depression. "Taken together, therefore, our data are consistent with other emerging evidence to suggest a causal role of nicotine exposure in mental health," the authors write."To our knowledge, this is the first study to demonstrate a prospective association between objectively assessed secondhand smoke exposure and mental health in a representative sample of a general population," they conclude.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

ERA hails Osun on smoking ban

By Solaade Ayo-Aderele

The Environmental Rights Action/ Friends of the Earth Nigeria has commended the Osun State Government for signing the Osun State Prohibition of Smoking in Public Places Bill 2009 into law, saying the decision is one of the most far-reaching efforts taken by any state in the federation to safeguard public health.
The bill prohibits smoking in cinemas, theatres or the stadium, medical establish-ments, hotels, offices, schools and public transportation, nursery institutions and lifts.
Another major highlight of the bill is the prohibition of smoking in both private and public vehicles that have non smoking occupants below the age of 18 on board.
In a statement issued in Lagos and made available to our correspondent, ERA/FoEN said that the Osun State Government had demonstrated its responsiveness to the well-being of its people and public health and should be emulated by other states.
“The Nigerian tobacco control community lauds this enviable step by the Osun State Government, as it will go a long way in checkmating the growing number of tobacco-induced deaths that have been on steady increase,” said ERA/FoEN Programme Manager, Mr. Akinbode Oluwafemi.
Oluwafemi however noted that, “Paradoxically, while Osun State has taken practical steps in safe-guarding public health, the National Assembly is still foot-dragging on translating the all-encompassing National Tobacco Control Bill into law, even with the overwhelming support that the bill received at the public hearing on July 20-21 last year.”
Reiterating ERA/FoEN’s call for the National Assembly to expedite action on the NTCB, Oluwafemi said “Nigerians are dying by the seconds due to tobacco addiction, while tobacco manufacturers laugh all the way to the bank.
“Every single day that we delay the implementation of strict laws, there will be more deaths, more ill-health and the economy will suffer,” he said.
“The trend globally shows that only far-reaching laws can stop the gale of deaths spurred by tobacco smoke,” he argued.
According to the World Health Organisation, tobacco currently kills 5.4 million people worldwide, and if current trend continues, it will kill about eight million by 2015.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Preventing Tobacco Addiction Among Our Women

The recently released statistics by the World Health Organisation (WHO) of an increasing global trend of women and girls who have taken to the deadly habit of tobacco smoking is scary. Of the 5.4 million victims that die every year, 1.5 million are girls and women. In half of the 151 countries recently surveyed, approximately as many girls use tobacco as boys. WHO even claims that Nigeria is not only amongst these countries but now has more female smokers than males. Contestable as this may seem, it is no doubt a warning signal that urgent intervention from all concerned organs of government is necessary.
According to WHO’s Director General, Dr. Margaret Chan, the trend in some countries is “extremely worrisome”. She also asserts that that tobacco use “is neither liberating nor glamorous”, contrary to the advert campaign of the marketers. It is probable that this misconception is helping to lure more girls into the widening web of the addictive consumption.
The theme of the 2010 anti-tobacco campaign is focused on ‘tobacco and women’, with an emphasis on marketing to women and the concomitant harmful effects. Similarly, the need for governments to ban the advertising, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco is being highlighted, with the aim of eliminating tobacco smoke from all public places. The goal is in tandem with WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
A new strategy being used by manufacturers and marketers is to link smoking with attractiveness, which easily fascinates young girls, ultimately making them helpless victims. Nigeria’s inclusion in countries with worsening tobacco use, it has been revealed, is also traceable to the harmful effects of passive or second-hand smoking. Also, growing social frustration caused by poor governance has led to mass youth unemployment and the erroneous belief that smoking offers some relief, even if temporarily. Up North, seasonal harsh weather sometimes induces more people into smoking. Unfortunately, they end up harming their pulmonary system more than they care to know.
Smoking refers basically to the habit of inhaling smoke from cigarettes. Not a few teenagers imbibe it from their parents, relations and friends, who are smokers. The health consequences are grave, however, for the users as well as those around them. According to the WHO, tobacco smoke contains some 4,000 deadly chemicals, chief of which are vaporized nicotine, carbon monoxide and tar, concentrated at the end of the cigarette stick. The first signs of ill health arising from tobacco use is a slight cough, which graduates to bronchial cough, that later degenerates into lung cough. Research specialists explain that the toxic chemicals settle at the junction of the bronchus and bronchioles, where most cases of lung cancer begin. In addition, the membranes lining the respiratory system become thickened with the irritating chemicals. This causes the removal of the protective cilia which normally absorb dust and pathogenic microbes that could cause life-threatening diseases.
Once the smoke is continually inhaled it contracts the air passage and constricts the voice box or larynx, leading to swollen vocal cords and smokers’ cough. In severe cases, it causes chronic bronchitis and laryngeal cancer. In addition, the presence of the aldehydes in smoke worsens stomach ulcer. Smoke reduces the oxygen-carrying capacity of blood, thereby weakening the power of the cells to function optimally. Its deposits narrow the arteries, causing gangrene, leading to amputation for some victims.
Researches since 1939 have indicated the bad effects of smoking in advanced countries. But the WHO says that today over 80 percent of the world’s one billion smokers live in low- and middle-income countries. This reflects the fact that several major cigarette manufacturers have relocated from the advanced economies with their more stringent anti-tobacco laws, and are now consciously exporting death to the developing countries. According to the Programme Manager of Environmental Rights in Nigeria, an affiliate of Friends Of The Earth, Akin Oluwafemi, two persons die each day in Lagos hospitals as a consequence of tobacco–related ailments.
This is a dangerous trend, and we are alarmed, in this connection, that the Senator Olorunimbe Mamora-sponsored Anti-tobacco Bill is suffering from what he terms deliberate moves to scuttle it by some of his colleagues. The fact that the Senate Committee on Health is headed by a female lawmaker, Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, and the focus of this year’s anti-tobacco theme is on discouraging women from smoking, should help to speed up the bill’s passage into law.
Expansion in economic production, leading to mass creation of jobs especially for the idle youth, will reduce the helplessness of the government in accepting the short-term economic benefits of tobacco manufacturing in the country. What use is it, in the long run, to offer jobs to some citizens in tobacco factories and farms, and pay taxes into the public coffers, only for the people’s health to be destroyed some years later at a prohibitive cost to public health care and citizens’ purses? The government cannot fold its arms and allow this preventable scourge to ravage the public, already battling with a legion other woes. No effort should be spared in discouraging Nigerian smokers, especially the future mothers of our children, from preventable death.

Tobacco or health? It's decision time!


The Senate's failure to act on the National Tobacco Control Bill (NTCB) immediately after the public hearing of July 2009, has now made the bill a toy in the hand of a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Senator Kamarudeen Adedibu representing Oyo South Constituency, no doubt, did a hatchet man's job and got a pat on the back when he said the National Tobacco Control Bill which has passed through its second stage at the Senate is dead. This statement credited to Adedibu in national dailies is a slap on the face of his colleagues. After all, no one can deny the dangerous effects of tobacco use.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), tobacco currently kills 5.4 million people globally, and if left unchecked, this number will increase to 8 million - with devastating results for developing countries which will contribute about 70 percent of that figure. In the 20th century, the tobacco epidemic killed 100 million people, but the WHO says in this century, it could kill one billion people.
Meanwhile, statistics from Nigeria are staggering. A survey from the 2006 census, for instance, reveals that more than 13 million Nigerians smoke cigarettes, even as another one conducted in 11 Lagos State government-owned hospitals that same year revealed that at least two persons die every day from a tobacco-related disease, while over 9,000 cases of tobacco infections were recorded.
Also, every year, smoking among young people increases by at least 20 percent, a situation which makes Nigeria and indeed Africa the fastest-growing market for tobacco manufacturers The Federal Government, on September 24, 2001, at what it called the first official Investment Summit, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with BAT. Under the terms of agreement, the tobacco giant was to invest a whopping $150 million in the country. It was part of government's search for "foreign investors," and BAT pretended to be the saviour of the former President, President Olusegun Obasanjo, after his tireless search for foreign investment. If the Obasanjo regime did it ignorantly, the present administration cannot claim to be ignorant about the fact that tobacco kills.
There are several ways to view the Senate's stalling action on the bill. The tobacco industry has been given time to hook more young Nigerians on smoking, as every lost day sees another replacement smoker recruited - and we may not see the implication of this action until about 20 years' time. That said, delay on the important health bill will create avoidable problems for the future generation.
Indeed, in developed countries, tobacco companies and their owners are being isolated and choked with harsh laws. Now they invade our continent in the name of foreign investment. Already, tobacco use is responsible for one in 10 adult deaths, and by 2030, the figure is expected to be one in six, or 10 million deaths each year - more than any other cause including the projected death tolls from pneumonia, diarrheal diseases, tuberculosis, and the complications of childbirth for that year combined. If current trends persist, about 500 million people alive today will eventually be killed by tobacco, half of them in productive middle age, losing 20 to 25 years of life.
Tobacco contains nicotine, a substance that is recognised to be addictive by the WHO. Tobacco dependence is listed in the International Classification of Diseases, and fulfills the key criteria for addiction or dependence, including compulsive use. Cigarettes, unlike chewed tobacco, enable nicotine to reach the brain rapidly, within a few seconds of inhaling smoke.
However, the toll of death and disability from smoking in developing countries is yet to be felt. This is because the diseases caused by smoking can take several decades to develop. Even when smoking is very common in a population, the damage to health may not yet be visible. This point can be most clearly demonstrated by trends in lung cancer in the United States.
The Osun State government has signed a state bill to regulate the activities of tobacco companies and tobacco use in the state. While one expects other states to emulate them, the Senate should rise to protect public health by making a demand on its health committee to produce a report on the public hearing for the passage of the bill.
That way, the Senate will etch its name in gold under the leadership Senator David Mark for passing the National tobacco control bill.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Tobacco: Deceit, Lies and Apologies

Say no to smoking, women urged

By Adenike Ashogbon

The campaign against tobacco received a boost recently when the Environmental Rights Action and Friends of the Earth (ERA/FoEN) organized a symposium to sensitize the public, especially the female folks about tobacco and its many side effects.
Tagged: ‘Gender and Tobacco with an Emphasis on Marketing to Women’, the event was aimed at drawing global attention to the debilitating ailments caused by tobacco in Nigeria and also to call on the National Assembly to fast track the passage of the National Tobacco Control Rights as well as smoke-free laws to protect non-smokers, including women.
Mr. Akinbode Oluwafemi, the Programme Manager for ERA/FoEN who spoke on the negative side effects of smoking, urged Nigerians, especially the female folks to say no to any form of deceitful marketing of cigarette as this could pose dire consequences on their physical and mental well-being.
Speaking in the same vein, Dr. (Mrs.) Kemi Odukoya of the Lagos State Teaching Hospital, observed that: "women may find it more difficult to quit smoking than men and they are at higher risk of illness.

NASS, pass the Tobacco Control Bill

I write, to call on the Senate Committee on health. led by Senator Iyabo Obasanjo Bello, and the leadership of the National Assembly, to move immediately to pass the National Tobacco Control Bill 2009, sponsored by Senator Olorunnibe Mamoora. The bill, which enjoyed the support of many senators is yet to be returned to the Senate Plenary after a public hearing was conducted in July 2009.

It is a fact that dangers are associated with smoking. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that 5.4 million people die every year due to a tobacco-related diseases, with majority of these deaths happening in developing countries. Tobacco is the only consumer product that is guaranteed to kill half its consumers if used according to manufacturers intention. It contains more than 4,000 dangerous chemicals harmful to the body.

It is also a fact that stringent measures aimed at reducing smoking in Europe and America have driven the tobacco industry to developing countries like Nigeria, where the industry continues to flout regulations, marketing to young and impressionable youths, and hooking them on smoking.

Recent surveys suggested that more young people are becoming smokers every day, while a survey conducted in Lagos hospitals reveal that two persons die each day from a tobacco-related disease.

Governments all over the world are putting measures in place to combat the epidemic through enactment of bills, like the one Senator Mamoora is proposing.

It will be to the credit of the National Assembly to expedite action on the bill and pass it before the expiration of this democratic dispensation.

Nigeria played a major part in shaping global health policies, especially in tobacco control. The world is watching and waiting. The National Assembly cannot afford to fail Nigerians.

Seun Akioye,

1, Balogun Street, Off Awolowo way,

Ikeja, Lagos.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Impact of Cigarette Smoking on Women

Despite known risks of cigarette smoking more than 23 percent of women still smoke, increasing their risk of cervical cancer, heart disease, respiratory problems and more. Smoking is a known killer, but hundreds of thousands of women will die each year from lighting up.
Most women who smoke are between the ages of 25 and 44. Teenage women also make up a significant percentage of smokers in the United States. Second hand smoke is just as damaging, resulting in more than 40,000 deaths every year.
Smoking cessation prevents much of the damage associated with cigarette smoking including heart disease and cancer. There are many benefits of quitting smoking, which we will describe below.
Smoking Cessation Benefits
Women who quit smoking will realize immediate health benefits. Women who quit smoking before they reach the age of 50 reduce their risk of dying of smoking by as much as one-half. Smoking cessation also reduces the risk of heart disease in people exposed to second hand smoke.
The most common side effects of smoking cigarettes
Pulmonary and Respiratory Disorders: Smoking increases your risk of developing a condition called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The lung damage that occurs from pulmonary disease is not often reversible. However, if you do quit smoking your lung function will not decline further, and you may notice an improvement in coughing and breathing.
Cardiovascular disease: Cigarette smoking is a leading cause of cardiovascular disease in the United States. Women who smoke more than double their risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Immediately stopping smoking can result in instant improvement in your cardiovascular function and a reduced risk of heat disease. After smoking cessation has continued for at least a year, your risk of developing cardiovascular disease drops by 50 percent. Your risk continues to decline the more years you remain smoke free. Some studies suggest the heart attack risk for smoker's drops to that of nonsmokers after two years of cessation.
Cancer: Cigarette smoking contributes to developing several different kinds of cancer, including cervical cancer, lung cancer, cancer of the esophagus, mouth, bladder and pancreas. Smoking cessation can improve your survival rate and reduce your risk of developing severe cancers resulting from smoking.
Osteoporosis: Smoking contributes to bone loss, thus increases a woman's risk for developing osteoporosis. 10 years after smoking cessation a woman's excess risk for osteoporosis declines significantly.
Breast Cancer: Women who smoke are more at risk for breast cancer. In fact, the risk of developing fatal forms of breast cancer is 75 percent higher for women who smoke than those that do not. The number of cigarettes a woman smokes per day can affect their breast cancer survival rate.
Vulvar Cancer: Women who smoke are also 48 percent more likely to develop a rare form of vulvar cancer.
Smoking may also contribute to many other diseases and problems. It is especially dangerous to pregnant women. Babies exposed to smoking mothers are often born with birth defects and low birth weights. Mothers who smoke are also more at risk for miscarriage, premature rupture of the membranes and placenta previa. Babies born to mothers that smoke often experience withdrawal symptoms during the first week of life. Over time smoking also contribute to skin wrinkling and may even reduce your sexual ability. Quitting smoking improves all of these conditions immediately.
Women and Smoking
Women are more at risk for certain problems related to smoking than men are. Women who use oral contraceptives or other hormonal forms of birth control are especially at risk for developing serious side effects. Women using hormones who smoke increase their risk of developing life threatening blood clots and strokes. This is even more the case for women over the age of 35 who smoke and use birth control pills.
High blood pressure may also result in women who smoke and use oral contraceptives.
Women who smoke typically have reduced fertility. Studies suggest that women who smoke are 3.4 times more likely to experience problems conceiving than those who do not. This may be because of a decreased ovulatory response. In some women the egg had trouble implanting when the mother smokes.
Smoking also affects your partner! Did you know that men are 50 percent more likely to experience problems with impotence when they smoke? How is that for bad news?
Menopause and Menstruation
Smoking also affects women's normal cyclical changes, including those that occur during menopause and menstruation. Women who start smoking during their teen years are more at risk for developing early menopause than women who do not smoke. Smokers may also experience more menstrual problems including abnormal bleeding or amenorrhea than women who don't smoke. This may be because smoking often lowers levels of estrogens in the body.
Smoking Cessation
There is no doubt about it, smoking is positively horrible for you. The good news is there are many methods you can adopt to help you quit smoking. Unfortunately, smoking cessation is difficult. Smoking is an addiction. Nicotine is terribly addictive and causes many people to fail when they try quitting.
You are more likely to succeed however if you know the risks and prepare for them.
When you quit smoking you will have withdrawal symptoms. These are often unpleasant, and may include cigarette cravings, insomnia, fatigue, irritability, anxiety, restlessness and even depression. These withdrawal symptoms are usually hardest to deal with and most intense during the first 3 days after smoking cessation. Fortunately the cravings DO go away if you remain smoke free.
Many patients experience some mild depression, but usually this is not severe enough to warrant any treatment. If you are having difficulty with depression however, your health care provider may recommend treatment for you.
Smoking Cessation and Weight Gain
Perhaps the biggest fear women have about smoking cessation is the associated weight gain. The reason people gain weight when they quit smoking is simply because they eat more. Many women gain between 2 and 5 pounds when they first quit. Over time this may increase to 10 pounds.
However, weight gain and smoking cessation are NOT unavoidable. If you adopt an exercise program and eat healthily you are not likely to gain much weight. And more importantly, the benefits of quitting smoking outweigh any small weight gain by ten times.
If you do gain a couple of pounds, regular exercise two to three times a week should not only help you shed the pounds, but will also help you feel better and help reduce your cravings.
Smoking Cessation Remedies
Quitting smoking cold turkey can be extraordinarily difficult. Fortunately you don't have to. There are many smoking cessation aides available that can improve the chances you will quit smoking successfully. These include over-the-counter cures such as Nicorette gum and patches. You can also use a patch called Nicoderm C Q. Ask your doctor which method may be best for you.
The patch often helps reduce the physical withdrawal symptoms and cravings associated with smoking cessation. It is critical however you not smoke while using these methods, as you may potentially overdose on nicotine.
When you do decide to quit, let your friends, family members and other loved ones know you made the decision to improve your health. They can lend you much needed support in the days and weeks to come. Here are some other tips for improving your smoking cessation strategy:
• Avoid common triggers. Some people for example are more likely to smoke when they drink.
• Avoid social situations where other people are smoking for a short time.
• Chew gum or find other substitutes to keep you from smoking when you have the urge.
• Use a nicotine withdrawal aid.
• Avoid smoking out of habit, such as when you get in your car or after sex. Try exercising instead.
Lastly, one of the best things you can do for you to increase the odds you can successfully stop smoking is join a support group. Like any addiction, nicotine addiction is difficult to overcome. There are many online forums that support individuals trying to quit smoking. You should also adopt a regular exercise regimen to help keep you distracted and help improve your overall health and well-being. Your body will thank you for years to come when you make the healthy decision to stop smoking. Best of luck!

Report of the Symposium by ERA/FoEN to Mark the 2010 World No Tobacco Day

In commemoration of the 2010 World No Tobacco Day (May 31st), the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth office in Lagos held a symposium that attracted about 100 participants drawn from Lagos and Ogun State.
The symposium which held at the Excellence Hotel in Lagos dwelt on this year’s theme: ‘Tobacco and Gender, With Emphasis on Marketing to Women’. It had speakers drawn from the medical, journalism, consumer rights and other backgrounds.
A lively and enlightening event, it witnessed lectures, speeches, a playlet, song and poetry presentations, testimonies from former smokers and question and answer sessions.

WNTD2010 Slideshow

In her opening remark, Betty Abah, ERA/FoEN’s Gender Focal Person said the theme of this year’s WNTD was timely because it would help put the searchlight on the mostly ignored fact that women are major victims of the tobacco epidemic either as second hand smokers or as those at the receiving end of the aggressive and deceptive marketing devices of the killer tobacco industry. ‘Through systematic, steady and penetrating marketing devices estimated to cost $ 13 Billion annually, they have targeted poor, struggling countries... and are now recruiting women, who traditionally, do not smoke as much...’she noted.
According to Abah, the World Health Organisation’s statistics show that there are over a billion smokers in the world today, 250 of which are women and therefore account for the 5.5 million people killed from tobacco-related diseases. She called on women to take up their rights to health and prevent further mortality in the hands of spouses, male colleagues and other smokers, and also to pressurize stakeholders to promulgate laws that would ensure smoke-free atmospheres. She cited the example of India where the tobacco control advocates are now calling for smoke-free homes and cars to safeguard the health of women and children.

In an illustrative presentation tagged ‘Tobacco and Women: Time for Action’, Mr. Akinbode Oluwafemi, ERA/FoEN’s program manager, head of Lagos office and of the Tobacco Control desk presented facts and figures supporting the fact that tobacco use was a looming disaster in Nigeria, and also that more and more women are taking up the deadly habit. Some of the statistics include:

. Adult smoking rate in Nigeria is put at 17 per cent.
. The smoking rate implies that there are over 13 million active smokers in Nigeria.
. Since half of smokers die of tobacco related diseases, it also go to show that over 6.5 million Nigerians are on death row due to tobacco addiction.

Mr. Oluwafemi noted that the tobacco industry is currently utilizing fashion shows, movies and special ‘feminine brands’ to attract women. He called for the implementation of the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) which entails the banning of smoking in public places, raising the taxes on tobacco products, as well as support for the National Tobacco Bill sponsored by ERA/FoEN, and which is currently at the National Assembly. ‘Until that is done, our women will continue to bear the greatest brunt of the tobacco epidemic. Apart from active tobacco use, they will continue to be victims of second-hand smokes considering that they do not have negotiating power such as to stop their men from smoking around them, ‘ he added.

Dr. Kemi Odukoya, of the Community Health Department at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba in her presentation pointed out that women are at a higher health risk than men. She pointed out a recent study which showed that:

• Women who smoke are more likely to develop lung cancer than male smokers
• Women also seem to need fewer cigarettes to do so
• Women also find it more difficult than men to quit smoking

Besides the general cancer consequences, she said smoking causes grievous harms to a woman’s cardiovascular system, lung function, reproductive health, bone density, affects her during pregnancy, not to mention the harm on her mental health, and multifaceted social and economic effects. Other major health effect peculiar to women are menstrual problems, pelvic inflammatory disease, reduced fertility and premature menopause.

And, on second hand smoke, she added that owing to constant exposures in home and workplaces, researches have it that globally, of the approximately 430 000 adult deaths caused every year by second-hand smoke, about 64% occur in women.

Ugonmah Cokey, former states chairperson of the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), gave a presentation on how journalists can utilize their mediums to stem the smoking tide and shame the merchants of death.

Mr. Lanre Oginni, executive director of All Nigeria Consumer Movement Union (ANCOMU), gave an impassioned speech on the rights of consumers to smoke-free environments.

One of the most emotional and captivating talks came from Mr. Leke Adeneye, a former smoker. Adeneye, a journalist spoke on his 13-year ordeal. He started smoking at about age 14 and when he quit 13 years later, the habit had devastated his health, his social life and ultimately cost him his education as he dabbled into drugs, cultism and had to be rusticated from the University of Lagos. A second attempt at re-entering the university was also bungled as he arrived late into the entrance exams hall at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Osun State, from the kiosk where he had gone to take long drags at cigarettes. He finally quit the deadly habit when he noticed symptoms of oral cancer. He used the opportunity to warn youngsters on the consequences of smoking. ‘Cigarette burnt my pockets, my health and almost cost me my life. Don’t let it happen to you,’ he admonished.

Another former smoker, Mr. Donatus Nwaogu, also spoke about his ugly experience.

About 30 students drawn from three schools attended the event and participated actively. They include students of Ikeja Senior Grammar School, Oshodi, Lagos, Perfect Praise Secondary School, Olowora, Lagos, and Champions International Secondary School, Magboro, Ogun State. They were poetry and songs presentations from the first two, and a playlet titled ‘Oh, Smokers!’ from students of Champions International Secondary School which drew a loud applause from the audience.

ERA’s tobacco control materials (including the haunting ‘Body of a Smoker’ adapted from a WHO publication) were given out to the guests. Being a ladies’ day, the older female participants also received special gifts in the form of purple-coloured purses from ERA female staff attired in purple Ankara materials, and who worked as ushers.

Besides the huge media coverage at the event, Mr. Oluwafemi granted an interview at NN24, a new satellite television station in Ikeja, Lagos, on the theme of the day.

In all, it was a day to remember, a fun time, but also a time to reflect on a global health issue, to warn of the danger of a deadly habit, and to strategize for actions that will save lives.

Betty Abah
Gender Focal Person

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Growing Concerns Over Use Of Tobacco Among Youths


The use of tobacco by youths in Nigeria has continued to elicit concerns from well meaning citizens of this country. One of the arrowheads of the campaign against the use of tobacco by youngsters is Mr. Akinbode Oluwafemi, the programme manager of the Environmental Rights in Nigeria.
In a statement issued on the 2010 World Tobacco day, Oluwafemi said: “It is a fact that dangers are associated with smoking. The World Health Organisation estimated that a millions of people die every day from tobacco-related diseases, with the majority of these deaths happening in developing countries.
“Tobacco is the only consumer product that is guaranteed to kill half of its cunsuomers if used according to manufacturer’s intention. It contains more than 4,000 dangerous chemicals harmful to the body. It is also a fact that stringent measures aimed at reducing smoking in Europe and America have driven the tobacco industry to developing countries like Nigeria, where the industry continues to flout regulations, marketing to young and impressionable people and hooking them on smoking.”
Oluwafemi pointed it out that a survey results showed that two persons die each day in Lagos hospitals as a result of tobacco-related ailments.
Also championing the cause of anti-tobacco campaign is Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora who presented a bill to the upper House of the National Assembly. The bill, which is yet to be passed into law, seeks to ban smoking in public and end all forms of promotion of the product in the country.
Mamora, who was exasperated that some people had been trying to scuttle the bill from being passed into law, said in an interview that “no amount of propaganda; no amount of purported job creation by the British American Tobacco can justify the number of lives being destroyed through the use of tobacco. This is because certain incontrovertible evidence has been established linking tobacco use to various diseases.”
Apart from the concern raised by Oluwafemi and Mamora, the World Health Organisation listed Nigeria among countries where more girls smoke tobacco than boys who do same.
According to WHO, “More girls use tobacco than boys in some of the countries including Bulgaria, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria and Uruguay.”
We are equally worried about the rate at which our youths consume tobacco with reckless abandon. Despite the health risks associated with smoking tobacco, our youths still indulge in the habit formed out of ignorance or sheer recklessness.
But we believe the most effective method for curbing the menace is for government to enact laws that will make it hard for tobacco companies to operate fully. This perhaps will make many of them close shop and it will consequently make tobacco a scarce commodity.
Parents should also train their children well. Religious institutions also have a role to play in counselling youths on how to kick the bad habit. If we can successfully reduce the rate of tobacco use we will also significantly reduce the rate of mortality in the country arising from the use of tobacco.


FCT tasks N’Assembly on Smoking Bill

From Terhemba Daka, Abuja

THE Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) has called on the National Assembly to expedite action on the passage of the bill on tobacco smoking to aid it in the fight against smoking in public places in the territory.

The FCT Minister, Senator Bala Mohammed, on Tuesday declared that unless the parliament passes the of legislation into law, the administration’s avowed commitment to stopping smoking in public places in the nation’s capital would be a ruse. “The passage of the bill before the National Assembly will give us the necessary impetus and backing for the enforcement”, he said. Mohammed, who decried the prevalence of smokers in spite of the ban on tobacco smoking in Abuja by the administration, spoke at a press conference to commemorate the 2010 World No Tobacco Day, which was held in Abuja yesterday.

Represented by the Federal Capital Territory Secretary for Health and Human Services, Dr. Precious Gbeneol, the minister stressed that without the anti-tobacco law in place, the ban on smoking in the capital territory cannot be effectively enforced.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Women smokers at higher risk than men

By Adeola Adeyemo

Women who smoke or expose themselves to involuntary smoking are at a higher risk of contacting lung cancer, strokes, and heart attacks than men.
This was disclosed on Monday by Kemi Odukoya, a medical practitioner with the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, at a symposium in commemoration of World No Tobacco Day organised by Environmental Rights Action and Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) in Lagos. This year’s theme was ‘Gender and Tobacco with an emphasis on marketing to women.’
According to Dr. Odukoya, women who smoke are two to six times as likely to suffer a heart attack as non-smoking women; and women smokers have a higher relative risk of developing cardiovascular disease than men.
“Cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and strokes, is the overall leading cause of death among women worldwide,” she said. “Smoking accounts for one of every five deaths from cardiovascular disease.”
Target on women
“Tobacco companies are spending heavily on alluring marketing campaigns that target women,” said Dr. Odukoya. “Women are gaining spending power and independence. Therefore, they are more able to afford tobacco and feel freer to use it.”
Akinbode Oluwafemi, programme manager of ERA/FoEN advised women to beware of deceitful adverts, sponsorship, and misleading branding from the tobacco industry.
“There should be a ban of all forms of advertisements that falsely link tobacco use with female beauty, empowerment and health,” he said. “There should also be a ban of misleading identifiers as ‘light’ or ‘low-tar’ and pictorial warnings on cigarette packs to depict risks involved in smoking.”
Media is key
Former chairman of the Lagos chapter of Nigerian Association of Women Journalists, Ugonma Cokey, who spoke at the symposium, urged the media to play a key role to in disseminating information to the people on the harmful effects of tobacco.
“As primary source for information dissemination, the media represents a key source of health information for the general public, tobacco health related issues being one of them,” she said. “News coverage that supports tobacco control has been shown to set the agenda for further change at the community, state, and national levels, an indication that media advocacy is an important but under utilized area of tobacco control.”
Mrs. Cokey added that with the alarming statistics on the harmful effects of tobacco, it was necessary to tackle the issue of smoking as a public health issue.
“More than 5 million people die from tobacco related causes, more than HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB combined,” she said. “Tobacco is the single greatest cause of preventable death in the US and Worldwide.”
Protecting women
The gender focal person for ERA/FoEN, Betty Abah, said that there is a lot of harm when women use tobacco or are exposed to tobacco smoke.
“Thousands of women die every year because their husbands smoke,” she said. “As women, we have a duty to protect ourselves from such harmful practices and should start a national movement for women to insist on their rights.”


Ban on Smoking - FCT Minister, Secretary disagree

tobacco will kill more than 10m people annually by 2030

Anti-tobacco campaign not yet success

By Gbenro Adeoye

As the splatter of the morning rain sounded on the roofing of his workshop, Femi Abayomi, an artist, puffed harder on his cigarette, undeterred by the health warning now boldly written on cigarette packs.
Mr Abayomi says he is not yet ready to give up his smoking habit, a routine he has kept to for 18 years, adding that it would take more than “health warning prints” to kill his addiction to cigarette smoking.
“I’ve tried several times to drop the habit but it’s been very difficult to do, you know. Smoking has its own advantages; it prevents cold, relaxes the mind, induces sleep, and aids digestion,” he says.
Killer tobacco
According to the WHO (World Health Organisation), tobacco use is the second cause of death worldwide, after hypertension, killing one in 10 adults with more than five million deaths from related causes.
WHO also estimates that tobacco will be the leading cause of death worldwide by 2030, killing about 10 million people annually, with 70 to 80 per cent of the deaths occurring in low and middle income countries, like Nigeria.
Smokers’ doggedness
In spite of the frightening WHO data and various campaigns against tobacco smoking, many smokers continue to disregard the calls, arguing that available statistics do not substantiate the role of tobacco in the death of cancer patients.
“We don hear of people wey no dey smoke (non-smokers) who die of cancer, and we dey see old people wey don dey smoke since dem dey young, wey live old and don’t die of cancer, so nothing that say the cancer people get am from tobacco,” says Rabiu Jimoh, a road transport worker, who has been smoking for about 10 years.
The World No Tobacco Day was initiated in 1987 by the World Health Assembly to give the tobacco epidemic and its effects global attention, and promote adherence to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which highlights specific tobacco control measures.
Effecting a comprehensive ban
As stated in Article 13 of the Framework about putting a comprehensive ban on Tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, the WHO over the weekend urged “governments to protect the world’s 1.8 billion young people by imposing a ban on all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.”
Nigerian smokers have, however, argued that such an action would be counter-productive, as this would make youth more curious.
“Everyone already knows about cigarettes; it’s already a popular product. Complete banning of adverts will only make the young ones more curious, and want to try it out,” says Mr Abayomi.
Smoking in public places is already prohibited in Nigeria, an offence punishable by fine or imprisonment, but Mr Abayomi suggests that only visual effects of tobacco can deter smoking addicts and protect the youth from picking up the habit.
“If they start showing video footages of the health implications and effects to people, on T.V, at work, and in schools, that’s only when people will come to terms with the practical effects of everything,” Mr Abayomi says.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Smokers within Aso Rock, National Assembly premises face prosecution

Written by Christian Okeke

When the bill on tobacco smoking currently with the National Assembly is passed and signed into law, people who smoke in public places, including the Aso Rock and National Assembly premises will be arrested and prosecuted.
The bill had already passed second reading in the Senate and was sponsored to facilitate the enforcement of the ban on tobacco smoking in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, placed by the regime of Dr. Aliyu Modibbo Umar as FCT Minister.
Answering a specific question during the special press conference to commemorate the 2010 World No Tobacco Day in Abuja, the FCT Minister, Senator Bala Mohammed, disclosed that the Aso Villa and the National Assembly premises were classified as public places, saying, that, “No smoking is no smoking.
Smoking in all public places is prohibited.”
The theme of this year’s event is “Gender and tobacco”, with an emphasis on marketing to women.
The minister, who was represented by the Secretary in charge of Health and Human Services Secretariat in the FCTA, Dr Precious Gbeneol, however, noted that without the law being passed, it would be impossible to enforce the no smoking ban.
He said, “It is difficult at this point to go and pick somebody smoking in the public place without any law to back your action.”
Senator Mohammed urged the federal lawmakers to facilitate the passage of the bill to ensure that enforcement of the ban was fully carried out to its logical conclusion and disclosed that some areas were soon to be marked out as no smoking zones.


FCTA To Ban Smoking In Aso Rock, NASS

FCT to designate Presidential Villa, SGF Office no-smoking zones

-Yekeen Nurudeen

AS the world marked the anti-smoking day yesterday, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Senator Bala Mohammed, has spoken of plans to designate certain places as no-smoking areas.
He stated that the step was in furtherance of his administration’s ban on smoking in public places within the FCT.
Among the places to be designated no-smoking areas are: the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Office of the Secretary to Federal Government, the National Assembly and other top government offices.
Speaking at a press briefing to commemorate the “2010 World No Tobacco Day,” the minister explained that the no-smoking ban bill before the National Assembly, when passed, would give the needed bites to the enforcement of the ban in the FCT.
Mohammed, who spoke through the FCT Secretary for Health and Human Services, Dr. Precious Gbenoi, stated that without the bill, which he noted, will soon scale the second reading in the National Assembly, the FCT administration would not be able to fully enforce the ban on smoking in public places.
“We cannot completely and fully arrest people smoking in public places without the law being passed. It is expected that the bill will pass the second reading at the National Assembly, but we will continue to enlighten the people on the dangers of smoking to the smokers and the passive smokers,” he said.
He appealed to the National Assembly to hasten the passage of the bill into law, noting that the FCT administration would not relent in its campaign against tobacco smoking by all categories of people.

Minister to ban smoking in Aso Rock, NASS, other places

ABUJA—MINISTER of the Federal Capital Territory Administration, FCTA, Senator Bala Mohammed disclosed yesterday that arrangements have been concluded to ban smoking in Aso Rock Presidential Villa, the National Assembly Complex, the Federal Secretariat Complex, his office and other public buildings, as well as parks in the nation’s capital city.
The Minister who noted that no place was above the law, as well as individual persons no matter how highly placed the person might be, warned that he was prepared to bring those who break the law to book, adding, “nobody is above the law, if you commit an offence, you will face the full wrath of the law whether in high places, a law is a law, the citizens must abide by it. Cigarette smoking is a big risk to us, not only to the person, but those around us.”
Addressing newsmen yesterday as part of activities to mark this year’s No Tobacco Smoking Day, Senator Bala Mohammed who appealed to members of the National Assembly to pass the Anti-Smoking Bill to enable authorities enforce the ban on smoking in public places, stressed that all these are designed to intensify the fight against smoking.
The Minister who spoke through the FCT Secretary of Health and Human Services, Precious Kalamba Gbeneol said with the right political will, the anti-smoking laws will be effectively enforced, just as he lamented that the Tobacco Control Act of 1990 which prescribes a fine of N200 for public smoking was already obsolete and inadequate to address the problem.