Photograph — U.S. Airforce/Senior Airman Josh Moshier

Today, the Federal Ministry of Health will commence the Tobacco-Free Nigeria campaign in Abuja, and it is giving off the right kind of health signs on and off the web. The six-month campaign will focus on the implementation of the 2015 National Tobaccos Control Act which seeks to enlighten Nigerians about the risks involved in tobacco-smoking.

While the scope of the campaign is all-encompassing, the federal government is also keen on generating awareness amongst Nigerian youth. Yesterday, Mrs. Boade Akinola, the Head of Public Relatons for the Ministry of Health stated that, “The campaign will leverage on social media and offline interactions to reach young Nigerians, especially second-hand smokers who need to be aware of the ban on smoking in public places and protect themselves.”

#ClearTheAir, #TobaccoFreeNigeria, and #ComeJoinTheMovement are presently trending on social media, joining other existing global campaigns to help raise awareness and rid the environment of the hazards of tobacco-smoking. The hashtags place emphasis on issues around tobacco-smoking, such as reviewing consent to public smoking, enforcing strict laws against it in public places, and understanding overall implications on people’s health.

The Tobacco-Free Nigeria Campaign is a much needed, more determined approach to the dangers and ills of smoking tobacco in the country, and the most recent in the line of other local and federal attempts – including taxation, fines, and imprisonment – to exterminate it. On a federal level, the provisions of the National Tobacco Control Act have been upgraded twice since 1990, when it was the National Tobacco Control Bill.

Much like its predecessors, the 2015 Act aims to ensure that Nigerians are aware of and protected “from the devastating health, social, economic, and environmental consequences of exposure to tobacco or tobacco products, and exposure to tobacco or tobacco product smoke,” amongst other objectives.

In January, 2014, the Lagos State House of Assembly passed a bill that disallowed smoking in specified places and vehicles, making public smoking punishable by a fine of N10,000 or three months in prison. However, such efforts as the aforementioned are yet to yield the desired national results.

Based on Nigeria’s population and the country’s frail legislations around tobacco, tobacco industries continue to thrive here. A Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) conducted in 2013 showed that Nigeria spends N89 billion on tobacco purchase every year, and 27 million non-smokers are exposed to second-hand inhalation of the harmful substance.

The negative consequences of tobacco-smoking on lives and the environment cannot be overemphasised. According to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) 2017 fact sheet on tobacco, it remains a huge threat to public health, killing up to seven million people per annum.

Mrs. Akinola reminded Nigerians of this fact yesterday while giving a statement in preparation for the commencement of the Tobacco-Free Nigeria campaign. The campaign kicks off at 18:00 hours at the Nicon Luxury Hotel in Abuja.

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