I quit smoking to live a healthier life
Ernest Ajayi, a 45 years-old civil servant who resides in Abuja, recalls that he picked up smoking because he thought “smoking made people look successful, classy and respected”.
He said growing up, many movies portrayed the rich and influential people were smokers and that enticed him to start smoking in his early twenties at the university.
“I smoked an average of 10 sticks per day, but in some instance, up to 20 sticks, especially when drinking with friends or when angry. Despite the warning on the cigarette pack which says, “The Federal Ministry of Health warns that tobacco smoking is dangerous to health”, the message did not deter me from smoking as I was not aware of the benefits of quitting until I did,” he said
Mr Ajayi quit smoking in October 2020 after smoking for over 20 years. In 2019 he almost quit when he had bouts of cough every time he smoked cigarettes, he was only able to stop for two months before he relapsed.
However, seven months ago, he became seriously ill and that was the turning point.
“During my illness, I remember comparing pictures of a healthy lung and the smoker’s lungs shared with me by the doctor. I realized it was time to ditch tobacco smoking as it was not adding any significant prestige to my person as I could not smoke in the office, church, or some gatherings. This strengthened my decision to quit smoking, it was a challenging feat, but I have been determined to achieve it,” he said.
Mr Ajayi said since he quit, he feels healthier and “realized I have not had bouts of cough, my blood pressure has improved, I now eat and sleep well and do not get tired as I did when smoking.
He advised anyone wanting to quit smoking to find a substitute for those moments.
“Find a hobby to replace it. When you are triggered to have a cigarette do something else straight away for 20 minutes. I channeled the drive into other activities by registering in the gymnasium and limited my interaction with people who smoke.
Cigarettes were always there, and smokers were always willing to share a stick. You only need to pick it up and light it without thinking about it. I do not think about it much anymore”, he said.
No to tobacco
According to the WHO , tobacco consumption is one of the major public health threats the world is facing and the leading cause of preventable disease, death, and disability. All forms of tobacco are harmful, and there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco. In Africa, every year, 146 000 people die from tobacco-related diseases including cancer, heart diseases, stroke, lung diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD) amongst others.
Unlike Mr Ajayi, many people are hooked on tobacco use but have not been fortunate to quit.
Tobacco control effort
To curb the harmful use of tobacco in Nigeria, Mr Akinbode Oluwafemi, Executive Director of Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH), WHO and other key stakeholders convened a group of Nollywood (Nigeria) actors to sensitize on the need to stop the promotion of smoking in movies as it relates to the 2015 National Tobacco Control Act and its regulation.
“The movement advocated for the ban of tobacco product use in films and across the entertainment industry through the #SmokeFreeNollywood campaign, he said.
According to Dr Kelias Msyamboza, WHO technical officer, WHO in collaboration with the European Respiratory Society supported the Federal Ministry of Health in 2018 to implement a pilot project on brief tobacco interventions in selected health facilities in the Federal Capital Territory.
Additionally, “In 2021, Nigeria was identified for support to set-up a National Tobacco Quit Center which is in process. Also, Nigeria began the implementation of the Graphic Health Warning in 2021 which replaces the warning text “The Federal Ministry of Health warns that smokers are liable to die young”, he said.
The world marks World No Tobacco Day on 31 May every year, to raise awareness of the negative health, social, economic, and environmental impacts of tobacco production and use.
This year’s theme, “Tobacco: Threat to our environment”, aims to highlight the environmental impact of the entire tobacco cycle, from cultivation, production, and distribution to the toxic waste it generates.
Source: WHO Nigeria