The Youth Action on Tobacco Control and Health (YATCH), an NGO, advocated for massive awareness campaigns to inform Nigerians on the harmful effects of tobacco smoking.
Mr Seye Omiyefa, the Executive Director of YATCH, made this call in an interview in Lagos.
The Federal Ministry of Health had on June 15 launched a six-month national tobacco control communication campaign in the country. The launch followed the announcement by the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, of nine provisions of the National Tobacco Control Act 2015, to be enforced by the Federal Government.
Omiyefa said: “Let me use this opportunity to applaud the Federal Ministry of Health for taking this first step towards making Nigeria a smoke-free society. Over the years, implementations of laws have been a major issue in Nigeria. However, this first step taken by the ministry shows that the government is in the process of implementing the 2003 World Health Organisation(WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control which had Nigeria as one of its signatories. This action is the evidence of a progressive government that has its present and future citizens in mind. If the law is implemented, it comprehensively guarantees Nigeria as one of the few African countries with an enforced national tobacco control policy.’’
The director, however, said that a major challenge that could face awareness creation regarding the effects of tobacco smoking in Nigeria was sustainability of the awareness campaign, as he commented that effective awareness can only be done through long term campaigns. He also emphasized the use of role models who would serve as ambassadors for the campaign. Omiyefa urged the ministry to intensify efforts to recruit young adults to join the campaign.
He said that efforts should be targeted at the teenagers because they were the target of the tobacco industry.
The director also called on professionals including environmental scientists and other tobacco control advocates to create massive awareness campaigns to drive home the message to the public. He said that through such efforts, members of the public would appreciate the urgent need to secure their health and make their environment smoke free. “The Federal Ministry of Health should involve Nigerians and organisations’ that already have platforms for reaching their audience on tobacco control issues. The ministry should encourage all levels of healthcare including state ministry of health, tertiary health care, secondary health care and primary health to join the campaign. It should train health workers who meet patients with tobacco related diseases to be equipped with adequate information materials readily available for smokers who are ready to quit,’’ he said.
Omiyefa said that YATCH had been involved in creating awareness on the dangers of tobacco smoking since 2003 among secondary school students through the Youth Action against Tobacco (YAAT) club. According to him, the organisation constantly involves teenagers and youths role models as tobacco control advocates.
“This has direct or indirect influence on the teenager. YATCH will continue to sensitize the general populace on the harmful effects of tobacco smoking. The organisation recently sensitized Nigerians during the World No Tobacco Day 2017, on the harmful effects of tobacco and the need to implement the Nigeria Tobacco Control Law. Effort is being made to mobilize leaders of educational districts toward creation of Students Action on Tobacco Control Clubs (SATCC) in all secondary schools in Nigeria,’’ he said.