THE Federal Government yesterday said there was proof that tobacco users and those with underlying non-communicable diseases were at higher risks of severe COVID-19 outcomes.
Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, stated this in Abuja at a programme organised to mark World Zero Tobacco Day, 2021 with the theme: Commit to Quit.
Ehanire said with the evidence available on the contribution of tobacco to the severity of COVID-19, assisting smokers to quit would improve the way the pandemic was handled.
He said the Federal Government was planning to expand the frontiers in the war against tobacco usage in the country.
Parts of the strategy, he added, were to make tobacco products unaffordable, promote increased awareness on risks and increase access to tobacco cessation services.
“The tobacco industry prefers more smokers and encourages long term smoking and has even introduced electronic smoking devices, falsely claimed to be less harmful than the conventional cigarettes,” the minister said.
Meanwhile, a human rights organisation, under the aegis of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), yesterday, said tobacco killed 16,100 smokers in Nigerians annually.
The Executive Director of CISLAC, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, said this in Abuja at a media briefing in commemoration of the 2021 World No Tobacco Day.
According to him, surveys have shown that although 80 per cent of smokers will like to quit smoking, “less than five per cent are able to quit on their own due to the highly addictive properties of nicotine.”
“This calls for clearly defined efforts to help smokers break addiction to nicotine and quit smoking ultimately rather than relying on the ineffective approach of leaving smokers to quit on their own. Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and has one of the leading tobacco markets with over 18 billion cigarettes annually. The WHO data accounts for an estimated 16,100 deaths arising from tobacco use annually in Nigeria. As we celebrate the WNTD today, CISLAC is calling on government at all levels in Nigeria to invest in promoting cessation by developing evidence-based and cost effective strategies,” Rafsanjani said.