Dr. Jamila Ibrahim, the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, received a team of tobacco control and youth advocates alongside Mrs. Bintou Camara-Bityeki, the Africa Regional Director at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK), and local partner organizations in Abuja.
The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids is a public health organization that supports and provides technical assistance to the government and CSOs in Nigeria to enact and implement tobacco control policies.
At the meeting, Dr. Jamila Ibrahim, the Minister of Youth Development, emphasized her commitment to confront the issue of tobacco consumption among young people. She acknowledged the significant challenges posed by tobacco use among the nation’s youth. She also emphasized the need for collaborations with relevant stakeholders to enlighten Nigerians about the health risks associated with youth tobacco consumption.
“We must be proactive in establishing mechanisms that adopt a preventive stance towards tobacco smoking in children. It’s imperative to adhere to the Act prohibiting tobacco smoking in public areas, especially to prevent exposure to secondhand smoke,” she stated.
Mrs Camara-Bityeki, in introducing the youth advocates, highlighted their mission to sensitize Nigerians about the hazards of tobacco use. She opined that tobacco use is the gateway to the use of other substances, and tobacco companies target the youth to replace aging or ill users to ensure their profitability. Mrs Camara-Bityeki emphasized the significance of raising awareness, stating that:
“Tobacco smoking results in the deaths of eight million individuals annually, with 1.2 million connected to secondhand smoke exposure.”
Tobacco’s negative health effects are well documented, and its consumption by the younger generation poses a significant threat to the country’s future.
Michael Olaniyan, the CTFK In-Country lead, emphasized the importance of limiting tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship, particularly in the entertainment industry, where tobacco imagery is glamorized to encourage the youth to take up the deadly habit.
In Nigeria, the National Tobacco Control Act, 2015 provides an essential legislative framework limiting tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship. However, its effectiveness hinges on robust implementation, enforcement, and collaboration amongst relevant government agencies, advocacy groups, educators, and healthcare professionals.
Maryam Ahmad, a youth advocate and project lead for the Protecting and Activating Communities Against Tobacco (PACT) Program with hubs in Abuja, Lagos, and Kano, stated that NYSC Camps in Nigeria are in violation of the Tobacco Control Law by the sale of tobacco products and tobacco use in public spaces in and around the camps, thereby exposing the youth to the deadly consequences of tobacco use including exposure to secondhand smoke. She called on the Minister to act.
The Honourable Minister went on to commit to work with youth advocates and engage the relevant key government MDAs to ensure that NYSC camps nationwide become smoke-free.