New Study Shows Nigeria Has Opportunity to Keep Smoking Rates Low, Avert Devastating Toll of Tobacco

Action Needed Now as Tobacco Industry is Setting Its Sights on Africa

(11 Jul 2013)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Nigeria’s Ministry of Health today released its first-ever report on adult tobacco use. Nigeria’s Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) - the first of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa — measures tobacco use trends in adults 15 years and older and found that just 5.6 percent of adults use tobacco. The study underscores the urgent need for the Nigerian government to implement proven tobacco control policies to keep smoking rates low and prevent a devastating tobacco epidemic at a time when tobacco companies are targeting Africa as a promising market for growth.

In recent years, the tobacco industry has aggressively targeted African nations, described by the industry as “exciting prospects” for hooking a new generation of smokers. This attention from tobacco companies is alarming in countries where many people do not realize the harms of tobacco use. Nigeria’s GATS report shows that 20 percent of Nigerians do not know that smoking causes serious illness and only half know that smoking causes stroke.

The Nigeria report also indicates a high level of risk to those who do not understand the risks of breathing secondhand smoke. One in four Nigerians does not believe that secondhand smoke is harmful to non-smokers. Secondhand smoke – a deadly mixture of more than 7,000 chemicals, at least 69 of which cause cancer – is a known cause of death and disease in non-smokers. The only way to effectively protect the public from the dangers of secondhand smoke is through the implementation of 100 percent smoke-free laws.

The Global Adult Tobacco Survey is a survey of adult tobacco use and trends conducted in low- and middle-income countries, helping countries track rates of tobacco use and the impact of tobacco control measures. Other findings of the 2012 Nigeria survey also signal the need for action:

  • The median amount spent on one 20-pack of cigarettes is just 187.7 naira (USD 1.20)
  • 17.5 million Nigerians report being exposed to tobacco marketing
  • Only 27 percent of Nigerians thought about quitting tobacco use because of health warning labels.

“Nigeria is at a crossroads and the numbers show the time to enact strong tobacco control laws is now,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Washington, DC-based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “If the tobacco industry is allowed to target Nigeria’s children with its marketing, the result will be a massive increase in the number of Nigerians who die from lung cancer and heart disease. The Nigerian government has a unique opportunity to prevent a tobacco epidemic – a problem Nigeria can ill afford – and to take a stand that will protect the health of its citizens.”

In recent years, the burden of tobacco use has increasingly shifted to low- and middle-income countries, with evidence that tobacco use in Africa is growing by 4.3 percent each year. Currently, 80 percent of the world’s smokers live in these countries – identified by the tobacco industry as growth markets for deadly tobacco products. If current trends continue, tobacco use will kill more than eight million people each year by 2030, with 80 percent of these deaths in low- and middle-income countries. These deaths are entirely preventable if countries like Nigeria remain committed to sound tobacco control policies.

“About half of all smokers who don’t quit die prematurely from smoking-related causes,” said U.S.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “This report provides Nigeria the critical ability to track tobacco use and its impact, and to prioritize and implement interventions that are proven to prevent and reduce tobacco-related death and disease.”

Nigeria ratified the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) in 2005. Under the treaty, Nigeria is obligated to implement methods proven to reduce tobacco use including smoke-free public places, increased tobacco taxes, bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship and effective warning labels on tobacco products. Implementing these policies will not only fulfill Nigeria’s obligations to the treaty, but will protect Nigerians from the devastating social and economic burden of tobacco use – the world’s leading cause of preventable death.

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