Although the federal ministry of health has recorded remarkable successes in its anti-smoking campaign by forcing tobacco companies in Nigeria to always inscribe the phrase ‘smokers are liable to die young’ in their products and advertisements, the right to clean air and harmful effect of smoking to the non-smoker has not yet received any serious attention from the government or relevant agencies. The smoke that a non-smoker inhales as a result of sitting close or exposure to a smoking individual is known as secondhand smoke. Health experts have asserted that the health risks and dangers in inhaling secondhand smoke is even more than that of direct smoking.
Due to lack of credible statistical data from Nigeria, I will refer to that of the USA. According to the American Cancer Society, secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals. Hundreds of them are toxic and about 70 can cause cancer. About 2.5million adult non-smokers have died of secondhand smoke-caused diseases since 1964. Inhaling the smoke from a smoker causes numerous health problems to children including more frequent and severe asthma attacks, respiratory infections, ear infections and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Inhalation secondhand smoke during pregnancy results in more than 1000 infant deaths annually. Constant exposure to tobacco smoke has immediate adverse effect on the cardiovascular system and causes coronary heart disease and stroke.
In the United States, secondhand smoke causes nearly 34,000 premature deaths from heart disease among non-smokers each year. Innocent people who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work increase their risk for stroke by 20 to 30 percent as the smoke causes more than 8,000 deaths from stroke annually. Inhalation of secondhand smoke does harm to blood and blood vessels thereby increasing the risk of heart attack. It interferes with the normal functioning of the heart, blood and the rest of the vascular system. Even a brief exposure to secondhand smoke can damage the lining of the blood vessels and cause 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 lung cancer may also be caused by smoke because non-smokers inhale many of the same cancer causing substances and poisons as smokers. Studies show that the children whose parent smoke get sick more often, their lungs are less developed, and they get bronchitis and pneumonia more often than the children whose parents don’t smoke. Wheezing and coughing, pediatric asthma and ear infections are prominent with the kids whose parents 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 “enjoying” tobacco smoking, while others are not adequately protected and allowed to die as a result of breathing secondhand smoke without their consent. Hence, there is the need for the federal ministry of health and the relevant agencies to protect the right of Nigerians to fresh and unpolluted air. As a matter of urgent national importance, the government should liaise with the National Assembly to enact a law prohibiting public smoking like it’s the case in the Netherland and in some states in the USA. The step taken by Lagos state government is a bold one, and the same should be replicated by the other states of the federation and the federal government.
Smoking should be prohibited in all categories of schools, hospitals, market places, shopping malls and eateries, airports and motor parks, all religious, political and social gatherings. 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 crimes of (an ignorant) man’s inhumanity to his fellow man. Smokers should only do their thing within the boundaries of their rooms or enclosed locations. Since they have decided to send an open invitation to death, they should to die alone without jeopardizing the health of other Nigerians. The next time someone smokes close to you, run! Run for your dear life.
Hussain Obaro, firstname.lastname@example.org
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