Dying in bits by smoking

Okeoghene Oghenekaro, Nigeria
(First published in News Agency of Nigeria, on 5 June 2013): Dr Kingsley Osagie, a consultant physician/pulmonologist at the National Hospital, Abuja, believes that for every stick of cigarette smoked, between five and seven minutes of the smoker’s life are cut. Alarmist as this may sound, it is quite logical, as health experts also say that whenever a smoker takes a puff on a cigarette; he or she is gradually moving towards the grave. Osagie says that Nigerian men often start smoking earlier in life than women, adding that it is estimated that a smoker could lose up to seven to 14 years of his or her life-span because of the habit.

``Sixty-five per cent of smoking-related diseases affect the lungs and hearts; some young people die suddenly of heart attack because smoking has been linked to heart failure. ``Smoking affects every part of the body, the eyes, the ears, the mouth, the lungs, the kidney, the brain; causing chronic obstructive airway diseases which include lung cancer,’’ he says.

Nevertheless, most tobacco addicts tend to be indifferent to graphic warning signs advertised through massive billboards, posters and on cigarette packets. In spite of warnings such as ``Smokers are liable to die young’’, some of the smokers console themselves with the slogan: ``something must kill a man anyway’’.

But why are several addicts finding it difficult to kick the habit and quit smoking?

Mr Ayoola Smith, a 55-year old businessman, says he has been smoking for over 32 years; adding that even though he is aware that smoking is a dangerous habit, he still finds it extremely difficult to kick the habit. He concedes that he has been in the hospital now and then for the treatment of cough, believed to be caused by smoking; yet, he has never contemplated giving up smoking. All the same, smoking is not a habit that is peculiar to males alone.

Ms Tina George, a 31-year-old insurance broker who claims to have smoked for over 13 years, recalls that she picked up the habit because she then felt that cigarette smoking would make her to look ``cool’’. ``I am now addicted to cigarette smoking and I cannot stop. I have tried chewing-gum and nicotine patch, as part of efforts to quit smoking, but to no avail,’’ she says.

In contrast, Mr Sunday Azubike, a civil servant, recalls that he started smoking at the age of 10 but he has been able to quit. ``I often saw my father’s employees smoking and drinking; they sometimes gave little alcohol to drink but they never gave me cigarette. ``Whenever they left the spot, I would pick up cigarette stubs from the floor and go to a corner to try it out because I wanted to know what smoking was all about.

``Cigarette is very addictive, there is something in it that wants you to keep on smoking; luckily, I have stopped smoking for almost a year now. ``I had to summon all the willpower in me and with prayers; I stopped for the sake of my health.

``You do not need anyone to tell you that smoking is dangerous to your health. When you smoke, there is a stage where it starts affecting you; no matter how tough your lungs are, you would start coughing,’’ he said. In spite of the lackadaisical attitude of most addicts toward the need to quit smoking, the World Health Organisation (WHO) insists that tobacco-induced diseases have been a global health concern.

The global health agency says tobacco-related diseases kill nearly six million people every year, adding that out of this figure, more than five million people are smokers, while not less than 600,000 people are passive smokers. ``Approximately, one person dies every six seconds due to tobacco consumption and this accounts for one in every 10 adult deaths. Up to half of the current users will eventually die of a tobacco-related disease,’’   WHO adds.

Corroborating the claims of the WHO, Dr Abdulrasaq Oyesegun, an oncologist, stresses that tobacco smoking remains the major predisposing factor to lung cancer. He also says that second-hand tobacco smoke causes sudden death of infants and low birth-weight for the babies of women who smoke.

Although Nigeria has yet to have a law on tobacco smoking, Osagie calls for the stricter implementation of extant regulations outlawing smoking in public places so as to save the people’s lives. Similarly, concerned stakeholders have been calling for increased regulation of tobacco products’ advertisements.

For instance, the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) has repeatedly blamed the tobacco industry for deliberately promoting the smoking habit via its advertisements in the media and sponsorship of events. ``These marketing strategies are designed to lure more people into smoking and hide the deadly truth about tobacco use,’’ the union says.

Dr Anne Jones, the Technical Adviser of The Union insists that every country would require specific legal instruments to end the tobacco industry’s interference in national health policies. ``We can save millions of lives if we move beyond monitoring the tobacco industry to implementing laws based on the approved guidelines.

``Progress has been made in developing model laws and policies but we need governments to show leadership by putting health ahead of the commercial interests of the tobacco industry. ``Comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising and promotions are important steps along the way but the biggest challenge is ending the tobacco industry’s exploitation with a ban on their interference, political donations and corporate social responsibility,’’ she says.

All in all, the stakeholders underscore the need to initiate and strictly enforce all-encompassing laws which ban tobacco advertisements, promotions and smoking in public places. Such measures will definitely discourage people from picking up the habit of smoking, while provoking those who are already hooked to kick the habit, they add.

Okeoghene Oghenekaro, Nigeria
Citizen News Service - CNS  
June 2013 
(First published in News Agency of Nigeria, on 5 June 2013)