The Federal Government has restated its commitment to tackling use and abuse of tobacco products and other illicit drugs among Nigerian youth, as well as smoking in public places across the country.
Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Dr. Jamila Ibrahim, who received a team of tobacco control and youth advocates alongside the Africa Regional Director at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK), Mrs. Bintou Camara-Bityeki and local partner organisations, made the commitment on September 27, 2023 at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja.
The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids is a public health organisation that supports and provides technical assistance to the government and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Nigeria to enact and implement tobacco control policies.
At the meeting, Ibrahim restated her commitment to confront the issue of tobacco consumption among young people and acknowledged the significant challenges posed by tobacco use among the nation’s youth.
She also stressed the need for collaborations with relevant stakeholders to enlighten Nigerians about the health risks associated with youth tobacco consumption.
“We must be proactive in establishing mechanisms that adopt a preventive stance towards tobacco smoking in children. It’s imperative to adhere to the Act prohibiting tobacco smoking in public areas, especially to prevent exposure to second-hand smoke,” she stated.
Introducing the youth advocates, Camara-Bityeki highlighted their mission to sensitise Nigerians about the hazards of tobacco use. She opined that tobacco use is the gateway to the use of other substances and tobacco companies target the youth to replace aging or ill users to ensure their profitability.
She further stressed the significance of raising awareness, saying: “Tobacco smoking results in the deaths of eight million individuals annually, with 1.2 million connected to second-hand smoke exposure.”
Tobacco’s negative health effects are well documented, and its consumption by the younger generation poses a significant threat to the country’s future.
On his part, in-Country Lead for CTFK, Michael Olaniyan, emphasised the importance of limiting Tobacco Advertising, Promotion and Sponsorship (TAPS), particularly in the entertainment industry, where tobacco imagery is glamorised to encourage the youth to indulge in the deadly habit of smoking and using other tobacco products.
In Nigeria, the National Tobacco Control Act (NTCA) 2015 provides an essential legislative framework limiting tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship. However, its effectiveness hinges on robust implementation, enforcement and collaboration amongst relevant government agencies, advocacy groups, educators and healthcare professionals.
A youth advocate and project lead for the Protecting and Activating Communities Against Tobacco (PACT) Programme with hubs in Abuja, Lagos and Kano, Ahmad stated that NYSC Camps in Nigeria are in violation of the Tobacco Control Law by the sale of tobacco products and tobacco use in public spaces in and around the camps, thereby exposing the youth to the deadly consequences of tobacco use including exposure to second-hand smoke.
She urged the Minister to act urgently on the matter to which Ibrahim made a commitment to work with youth advocates and engage the relevant key government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to ensure that NYSC camps nationwide become smoke-free.
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