By Franca Ofili
Dr Walter Mulombo, the World Health Organisation (WHO) Representative to Nigeria, says the world body is set to scale-up programmes in 22 countries to help people to quit tobacco use.
He made this known on Monday in Abuja at a news conference to mark the 2021 World No Tobacco Day.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that World No Tobacco Day is annually marked on May 31 to raise awareness on the harmful effects of tobacco smoking and has “Commit to Quit” as theme of the 2021 edition.
The representative said “the World No Tobacco Day is to remind everyone that tobacco kills half of its users.”
He added that Nigeria was selected as one of the 22 countries for the WHO scale-up programmes, especially at the primary health care and community levels.
He explained that “the programme will include the setting up of a toll-free quit line and the pilot of a WHO supported mobile cessation (mCessation) programme for a period of 9 – 12 months.
“This will be through the use of pre-designed WhatsAPP toolkit and Facebook Messenger in different languages.”
Mulombo said millions of people were motivated to quit tobacco during the COVID-19 pandemic following evidence that smoking impaired lung function, making it harder for the body to fight coronaviruses.
He noted that this year was unique as the 2021 campaign would be a year-long, aimed at encouraging 100 million people to pledge to quit tobacco.
He said the organisation had requested for space within the ministry to set up a call centre office where counsellors would respond to callers’ needs.
He added that “Nigeria received a World No Tobacco Day Award in the last three years, which recognises individuals or organisations for their accomplishments in the area of tobacco control.”
He pledged continued support for the country to meet obligations under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
Mr Akinbode Oluwafemi, the Executive Director, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), said the theme of the 2021 World No Tobacco Day was apt as it removed conditions that might affect FCTC implementation.
He noted that “government should remove all conditions by implementing WHO -FCTC compliant laws and policies.
“We call on government to begin comprehensive enforcement of the National Tobacco Control Act 2015 and the National Tobacco Control Regulations 2019.
“Also, government must enforce the ban on tobacco advertisements and promotion, including the ban on smoking in movies and entertainment platforms.
“Enforce graphic health warning on tobacco packs, enforce the ban of the sale of tobacco products to underage and raise taxes on tobacco products, among others,” Oluwafemi said. (NAN)