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Sunday, June 6, 2010

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.”