World No Tobacco Day 2024: A Clarion Call to Protect Children from Tobacco Abuse

Today on World No Tobacco Day, we are reminded of the devastating impact of tobacco use on public health. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), tobacco is responsible for the deaths of over 8 million people worldwide each year. This staggering number includes not only smokers but also non-smokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke.

The history of tobacco use dates back centuries, with its harmful effects becoming increasingly evident over time. From the introduction of cigarettes in the late 19th century to the rise of mass marketing by the tobacco industry in the 20th century, tobacco use has become a global epidemic. Despite efforts to curb tobacco consumption through public health campaigns and regulations, the industry continues to target vulnerable populations, including children and adolescents.

Tobacco use has devastating health consequences, affecting nearly every bodily system. It increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and narrowed blood vessels, as well as lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and other respiratory illnesses. Smoking also impairs the immune system, damages the airways, and reduces fertility, leading to complications in pregnancy. Additionally, it causes gum disease and tooth loss, and increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, mental health disorders, and cognitive decline.

The Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) in 2018 revealed that at least 3.2 million Nigerians between the ages of 15 and 49 used tobacco, representing 3.4% of the population in that age group. While cigarette smoking remains the most common form of tobacco use in Nigeria, there are also emerging tobacco products that are not adequately reported.

The theme of this year’s World No Tobacco Day, “Protecting Children from Tobacco Industry Interference,” underscores the urgent need to address the tactics used by the tobacco industry to lure young people into a lifetime of addiction. From flavored products to sleek packaging and aggressive marketing campaigns, the industry spares no effort in targeting the next generation of smokers.

To combat tobacco use, it is essential to educate and empower future generations to lead tobacco-free lives. The WHO emphasizes the need for robust policies to shield children from tobacco industry marketing and to prevent addiction. Governments and tobacco control advocates are urged to adopt policies that protect young people from the manipulative practices of the tobacco industry.

Quitting tobacco is challenging, but it is crucial for a healthier future. The WHO encourages young people to seek support and resources to overcome addiction. On average, it takes someone 30 attempts to stop smoking, but with the right help and motivation, it is possible to quit.

World No Tobacco Day 2024 serves as a reminder of the significant health risks associated with tobacco use and the need for effective policies to reduce consumption. By learning about the risks and supporting strong policies to protect children and decrease tobacco use, we can strive for a healthier future for everyone.

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