As the global community marked the World No-Tobacco Day on Wednesday, 31 May 2017, the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) in Nigeria, the Nigerian Heart Foundation (NHF) and the United Nations Association of Nigeria (UNAN) have organised a symposium, students arts competition and exhibition, to highlight the health and additional risks associated with tobacco use and advocate for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption.
In his message, the Regional Director for the World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Office for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, has called upon Member States to include tobacco control in their national policies, plans and SDG implementation frameworks. “Countries should fully implement the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco (WHO FCTC), including raising tobacco taxes to reduce demand for tobacco.” He continued, “The revenue generated for governments can be used to finance universal health coverage, health promotion as well as other development programmes.”
Dr Moeti’s message which was read by read by Dr Meimuna Esan of WHO Lagos Office, also urged individuals to help make a sustainable, tobacco-free world, either by never using tobacco products, or by quitting the habit. Protect your health and that of people exposed to second-hand smoke, including children, other family members and friends.
Welcoming the participants, the President of the Nigerian Heart Foundation, Mrs Francesca Emmanuel (CON), acknowledged that “We are overwhelmed by the threats that tobacco industry poses to the sustainable development of all countries, including the health and economic well-being of our citizens, especially our young population.”
She added that everyone should work towards a sustainable tobacco-free Nigeria through the collaboration of government, private sector, international organisations and the civil society.
Discussing the 2017 theme, “Tobacco: A threat to development”, the representative of UNAN, Ambassador Ayo Olukanni, explained that tobacco control could break the cycle of poverty, contribute to ending hunger, promote sustainable agriculture and economic growth, and combat climate change.
According to him, “Tobacco control has been enshrined in the Sustainable Development Agenda. It is seen as one of the most effective means to help achieve SDG target 3.4 of a one-third reduction globally, by 2030, of premature deaths from noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), including cardiovascular disease, cancers and chronic obstructed pulmonary disease.”
Ambassador Olukanni called for increased taxes on tobacco products, which he said could be used to finance universal health coverage and other development programs of the government.
In his goodwill message, representative of Youth Action on Tobacco Control and Health (YATCH), Mr Seye Omiyefa noted that every year, Nigeria loses all cadres of manpower and all categories of statesmen and leaders as a direct result of preventable tobacco-related deaths. He warned that “Nigeria is at the risk of losing its workforce if urgent steps are not taken by the government.”
The event, which was attended by students from seven Junior and Senior Secondary Schools in Lagos featured exhibition of artworks submitted by the students for the No-Tobacco Arts competition. The best artwork attracted a bicycle as the prize and it was won by Lawal Ayobami, a Junior Secondary School (JSS) students of Debiruss college, Ajah Lagos.