Health Risk Of Smoking Shisha

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In light of statistics from the World Health Organization indicating that more than eight million individuals perish annually from tobacco usage and a further eight million die prematurely due to tobacco-related causes, healthcare professionals and civil society groups are advocating for the Nigerian Federal Government to fully enforce the use of graphic health warnings on tobacco packaging and labeling.

They argue that this strategy serves as an effective means to raise awareness about the hazards associated with tobacco items, ultimately leading to reduced consumption, especially benefiting those with limited literacy levels.

Despite the presence of graphic warnings on cigarette packaging in Nigeria, other tobacco products such as shisha, snuff, and snus lack similar warnings, as reported by Wakadaily.

Further, the WHO has stipulated that parties to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control should implement policies mandating health warnings on tobacco packaging to emphasize the detrimental effects of tobacco use.

With the commencement of the annual 2024 graphic warnings slated for June, experts and civil society bodies are urging the Federal Government to enforce graphic health warnings covering 60% of the display area on tobacco products, encompassing shisha and related items.

Highlighting this issue, Dr. Francis Fagbule, a public health specialist at the University of Ibadan, stressed that the labeling and graphic health warnings on tobacco products must align with existing legislation.

He underscored research findings demonstrating the positive impact of graphic health warnings in encouraging individuals to quit tobacco consumption.

The physician noted, “The law has stated clearly that we should have not the text but also pictures, and there have been pictures that have been designed to be placed as a form of reminder to people, especially those who consume these products. I noticed this started a few years ago but not all companies are doing that.

“The same is supposed to be for shisha and all other tobacco products. But as you may have also found out, compliance with this has been quite poor, which is why the enforcement agents and stakeholders must spring into action to ensure that the law is enforced, particularly on all the other tobacco products.

“What we have now is some compliance with cigarette packages, but it should be across all tobacco products. It is a form of deterrence. Studies have shown that when we have graphic health warnings, they deter people who don’t use tobacco from starting, it reinforces the willingness to quit for people who are already taking the products.”

Dr. Tunji Akintade, a former Chairman of the Association of Private Medical Practitioners of Nigeria, emphasized that all consumable products should be subject to strict regulation under a robust administrative law, ensuring proper oversight and control.

He emphasized, “All these things are drugs, as far as I’m concerned because it alters your physiology from one state to the other. Snuff, shisha, marijuana, or Colorado must be regulated. Even the adverts on social media for these products should be regularised.

“I advocate that the government’s regulatory body look at the contents of these things and implement the graphic health warnings and labelling on them.”

According to Philip Jakpor, Executive Director of Renevlyn Development Initiative, Nigeria should rigorously follow the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidelines to prevent young people, who are easily influenced, from adopting the harmful habit of tobacco use.

He stated, “Smoking starts by seeing those beautiful packs and then wanting to experiment. So, tobacco packs should have pictures and health warnings to discourage smokers. For instance, we can have aborted babies, diseased lungs, and mouth cancer, among others, even though every country is free to come up with its warnings.

“If you go to the market today, most of the cigarette packs have pictorials and health warnings that cover at least 50 per cent of the front, side, and back. But, it is not meant to be only on cigarettes. Unfortunately, if you go to the Nigerian markets, other tobacco products like shisha and snus don’t have the warnings.

“There is no full compliance to the graphic health warnings yet. The Ministry of Health is supposed to drive it, and I think has been driving it. The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission carries out enforcement exercises but it’s not nationwide, simultaneous.

According to a study conducted by Development Gateway, an international non-profit organization, there is a concerning rise in shisha smoking among high school and tertiary education students.

The study, titled “The factors associated with shisha use in Nigeria,” found that 3.6% of current shisha users also smoke cigarettes, and 0.2% of those who use both reported combining shisha and cigarette smoking.

The organization recommends that measures should be taken to address this issue, such as,“Restrictions on flavours, awareness raising on the harmful health effects of shisha, and providing interventions to help people stop smoking shisha.

“Compliance monitoring and enforcement of the existing tobacco control laws need to be strengthened, particularly in smoke-free environments in indoor and outdoor places, health (both written and graphical) warnings in English on shisha products including the pots, and application of the specific tax, and sale of shisha to minors.”

 

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