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Monday, July 5, 2010

Smoking Now Kills More Nigerian Women

by Annette Oghenerhaboke

Death from smoking-related ailments is on the increase among Nigerian women

Smoking among women is on the increase globally and this is doing a lot of harm to their cardio vascular system, lung function, reproductive system and bone density. Latest reports indicate that out of the more than one billion smokers worldwide, 250 million are women. About 5.5 percent of them die annually from smoking-related ailments. “The number of women that smoke would triple over the next generation and more than 200 million will die prematurely if nothing is done about it.” Kemi Odukoya, a doctor with the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, said during a recent seminar held in Lagos.
Odukoya, who observed that women are so important that when they die, their death affects the family, society and the nation, said the increase in the number of women smoking in the less developed countries like Nigeria is worrisome. “The current trend shows that men smoke more than women and if we don’t do anything about it, that gap will narrow and that means the female will start smoking just as much as men and in some countries, females are even already smoking more than men,” she said.
According to a recent study by the World Health Organisation, WHO, tobacco accounts for nearly one in three cancer deaths worldwide. The study also revealed that in Nigeria, there are more than 13 million active smokers out of which more than five million die annually. Of this number, approximately 1.5 million are women and unless urgent action is taken, tobacco could kill more than eight million people by 2030, out of which 2.5 million would be women.
Medical experts say smoking affect a woman’s mental, social and economic health. Other major health effects peculiar to women are menstrual problems, pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility and premature menopause. Odukoya said tobacco is a major risk factor for about 44 different kinds of diseases and that more than 4,000 toxic chemicals have been found in tobacco smoke. And because women bear the greatest burden of environmental tobacco smoke, they are at risk of particular health hazards. “Women that smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have ectopic pregnancy. Ectopic pregnancy is when a pregnancy does not form inside the womb and this can kill because the baby has been poisoned by cigarette smoke.”
Apart from the risk of fertility problems, they more are likely to have spontaneous abortion, a condition known as miscarriage. They are also at risk of delivering babies with low birth weight while their baby runs the risk of sudden infant death. Smoking also increases the risks of painful and irregular menstruation.
Unfortunately, most women are not aware of the dangers of smoking. Lanre Oginni, executive director, All Nigeria Consumers Movement Union, ANCOMMU, said while many tobacco users generally know that tobacco use is harmful, studies have revealed that most of them are unaware of the true risks.
It was in a bid to address this problem that the Environment Rights Action / Friends of the Earth Nigeria, ERA/FoEN recently held a seminar to commemorate the 2010 World No Tobacco Day, WNTD. The WNTD tagged: “Tobacco and Women, with emphasis on marketing to women,” condemned the marketing strategies employed by the tobacco industries and their tactics of luring women into smoking. Betty Abah, gender focal person, ERA/FoEN, said the theme was timely because it seeks to highlight the dangers that the world face when women, whom she described as “mothers, home makers, great dreamers and achievers,” fall deeper into the snare that turns them into puffers. “But very prominently, this year’s theme seeks to expose the ongoing subtle, sly, but aggressive marketing strategies that the tobacco industry employs to make tobacco use attractive to women, to hook them as lifelong smokers and therefore, continue in this evil, dehumanising circle,” she said.
In order to curb this problem, Akinbode Oluwafemi, programme manager, ERA/FoEN, urged Nigerians to pressurise the government to implement the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, FCTC, that regulates tobacco marketing to minors, ban smoking in public places, and ultimately reduce the harms caused to women and girls and everyone from the use of this dangerous product.