Tobacco: World tobacco day 146,000 Africans die from tobacco related diseases yearly – WHO

By Regina Onyegbula, The Nigerian Voice, Abuja

The World Health Organization (WHO) says the African Region experience about 146,000 deaths of adults aged 30 years and above every year from tobacco -related diseases.

This was contained in a statement issued by WHO regional director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, in a speech to mark the 2018 World No Tobacco Day on Thursday in Abuja.

Moeti said the tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced, killing more than 7 million people each year.

“Tobacco use and exposure to second-hand smoke contribute to about 12% of all heart disease deaths. There is no safe level for people, particularly children, women and workers, who have to be in the same room as smokers”, she said.

She noted that when tobacco users die prematurely in their productive years, families lose loved ones and income, and economic development is negatively affected.

The regional Director observed that although concrete actions and measures exist to stem the tide of tobacco related diseases, more needs to be done to further raise awareness about the harmful effects of tobacco use.

“Many people are unaware that tobacco is one of the leading causes of heart disease and stroke. Policies that regulate tobacco, promote smoke-free environments and encourage people to quit smoking will contribute to improving the health and well-being of all people''.

Moeti said, this requires strong leadership, political commitment and an informed civil society working together to press for heart-healthy policies and the right to health.

According to her, the World No Tobacco Day is a chance for governments and the public to take firm action.

“Today, I call upon Member States to implement measures which we know will strengthen tobacco control as found in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control”, she said.

She also noted that effective measures to reduce tobacco demand which can be accomplished in a short time and at reasonable cost include increasing tobacco taxes and prices, which will save lives as well as generate money for governments.

“Other steps include creating completely smoke-free indoor workplaces and public places, instituting hard-hitting warnings and graphic pictures about the dangers of smoking on cigarette packaging, and banning tobacco advertisement, promotion and sponsorship.

The 2018 World Tobacco Day Theme is “Tobacco and heart disease.” It focuses on tobacco use as a key risk factor for developing heart and heart related diseases, including stroke.

“In addition, every person can play a role in promoting healthy hearts by committing not to use tobacco, helping others to quit, and protecting all people, including family members, workers and children, from tobacco smoke.

“Eliminating tobacco use will help to protect hearts from breaking. Let us choose health, not tobacco,” she added.