As Nigerians join the rest of the world to mark the 2020 World No Tobacco Day, usually commemorated on 31 May of every year, the Association of Hospital and Administrative Pharmacists of Nigeria (AHAPN) and some Nigerian researchers have decried the prevalence of smoking among out of school adolescents, especially in the northern part of the country.
AHAPN National Chairman, Dr Kingsley Amibor, asserted that tobacco smokers (cigarettes, water pipes, cigars, heated tobacco products) may be more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19, as the act of smoking involves contact of fingers (and possibly contaminated cigarettes) with the lips, which increase the possibility of transmission of viruses from hand to mouth.
The researchers in a study published in the PanAfrican Medical Journal titled: “Prevalence and perception of cigarette smoking among out of school adolescents in Birnin Kebbi, North-western Nigeria”, associated cigarette smoking with different diseases and shortage of life span.
They found that young persons are being introduced to cigarette smoking at an earlier age and because of its addictive nature become hooked on it.
The World Health Organisation, WHO also affirmed this development, saying many young people are expose to tobacco smoking and this makes them vulnerable to infectious diseases, COVID-19 inclusive.
On the commemoration of 2020 World No Tobacco Day, the WHO, through its verified Twitter handle said: “Many young people are #TobaccoExposed & at risk of developing illnesses. This WNTD2020, we advocate for 100% smoke-free public places & banning all forms of tobacco advertising.
“Smoking makes you more vulnerable to getting a more severe case of #COVID19”, the agency submitted.
It further stated that: “This #WNTD2020, it’s time to get #TobaccoExposed for the industry’s manipulative ways to prey on health, even during a pandemic”.
Amibor, who spoke through a press statement sent by the association maintained that :”Smoking water pipes, also known as shisha or hookah often involves the sharing of mouthpieces and hoses, which could facilitate the transmission of the COVID-19 virus in communal and social settings”.
Speaking on the theme of this year’s World No Tobacco Day, “Protecting youth from industry manipulation and preventing them from tobacco and Nicotine Use “, he said it serves as a global counter-marketing campaign with goals to unmask myths and expose manipulation tactics of the tobacco and nicotine industries, especially those that deceive the youth.
“Tobacco is a known risk factor for many respiratory infections and increases the severity of respiratory diseases. Cigarette smoking is the primary known cause of preventable death. In Nigeria, tobacco use accounts for an estimated 16,100 deaths every year with more than 3.5 million Nigerians (15 years and older) and more than 25,000 children (10-14 years) using tobacco daily.
“Half of all long-term smokers die prematurely; for every one person who dies because of tobacco use, another 20 suffer from at least one tobacco- attributable disease. There are around 1.1 billion smokers worldwide and about 80 per cent of these live in low and middle-income countries, where more than two-thirds of smoking-related deaths occur. (WHO, 2019)
“COVID-19 is an infectious disease that primarily attacks the lungs. Smoking impairs lung function making it harder for the body to ﬁght off coronaviruses and other diseases”, he stressed.
According to the scientists, variable rates of increasing smoking prevalence have been reported in Nigeria which was found to be dependent on the settings-either rural or urban.
They observed previous studies in the country have reported tobacco smoking prevalence of between 3.4 per cent and 17.1 per cent.
The study reads in part: “The prevalence among secondary school students is approximately 9 per cent with a mean lifetime smoking prevalence of 7.2 per cent to 42.9 per cent”
They however attributed the increasing rate of cigarette smoking to various apparently successful marketing strategies of tobacco companies and the poor awareness about the dangers associated with smoking.
The researchers found that on the average, cigarette smokers lose about 15 years of their life and an estimated 4 million cigarette smokers die worldwide annually.