Although the federal ministry of health has made remarkable success in its anti-smoking campaign through the enforcement of all tobacco and cigarette companies willing to explore the business opportunities in Nigeria to always make use of the phrase “smokers are liable to die young” in all its advertisements and on its products.
The harmful effects of public smoking and the risks of secondhand smoke to the health of Nigerians have not received any serious attention from the government or the relevant agencies of the ministry of health. Secondhand smoke is the combination of smoke from the burning end of a cigarette and the smoke breathed out by smokers. Health experts have asserted that the harmful health risk of smoking is even more on a non-smoker who inhales a secondhand smoke than on the smokers.
According to the American Cancer Society, secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals. Hundreds of which are toxic and about 70 can cause cancer. Due to the poor statistical and record keeping culture of Nigeria, I will make more reference to statistical records of the United States of America. About 2.5 million adults who were non-smokers had died because they breathed secondhand smoke since 1964. Secondhand smoke causes numerous health problems in children, including more frequent and severe asthma attacks, respiratory infections, ear infections and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Inhaling secondhand smoke during pregnancy results in more than 1000 infant deaths annually.
Constant exposure to secondhand smoke has immediate adverse effects on the cardiovascular system and causes coronary heart disease and stroke. Secondhand smoke causes nearly 34,000 premature deaths from heart disease each year in the United States among non-smokers. Innocent people who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home and at work increases their risk for stroke by 20 to 30 percent and secondhand smoke exposure causes more than 8,000 deaths from stroke annually.
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Breathing secondhand smoke can have immediate adverse effect on the blood and blood vessels, thereby increasing the risk of heart attack, secondhand smoke interfere with the normal functioning of the heart, blood and the rest of the vascular system. Even a brief exposure to it can damage the lining of the blood vessels and cause the platelets to become stickier which could result into a heart attack. People who already have heart disease are at especially high risk of suffering adverse effect from breathing secondhand smoke and therefore should take special precautions.
Diseases like lungs cancer have been linked to exposure to secondhand smoke by non-smoker because they are inhaling many of the same cancer causing substances and poisons as smokers. Studies show that older children whose parent smoke gets sick more often, their lungs grow less than children who do not breath secondhand smoke, and they get more bronchitis and pneumonia. Wheezing and coughing, pediatric asthma, and ear infections are prominent with kids whose parent smokes, due to their exposure to secondhand smoke.
The popular Nigerian saying “chop alone and die alone” should be allowed to apply as far as smoking is concerned. It is morally wrong and socially unfair for some persons to continue to “enjoy” smoking while others die as a result of the health risk they get from secondhand smoke. Hence, the need for the federal ministry of health and all other relevant agencies of government to brace up to the challenge of safe guiding the health of Nigerians by protecting our right to free and fresh air. As a matter of urgent public importance, the federal government should liaise with the national assembly for the aim of putting a law in place to prohibit public smoking like its already been done in Netherland and by most of the states in the USA. The step taken by Lagos state government is a bold one and same should be replicated by the federal government.
All categories of schools, hospitals, market places, shopping malls and eateries, airport and motor parks, all religious, political and social gatherings should be no-smoking-ground. The law enforcement agents should be adequately trained and empowered by law to apprehend and prosecute offenders accordingly. Public smoking remains one of the greatest crime of (an ignorant) man’s inhumanity to his fellow man. Smokers should only be allowed to do their thing within the boundaries of their rooms. Since they have decided to send an open invitation to death, they should therefore be allowed to die alone without jeopardizing the health of Nigerians. The next time someone smokes close to you, run! For your dear life.
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