Undergraduates consuming tobacco on campuses is not new. For years, the leadership of tertiary institutions have been running various campaigns on the effect of tobacco. However, how much have the campaigns attained among the target audience? OLABISI SALAU, ODEKUNLE AISHAT OLOLADE, and OGE NWANKWO both ND2 Mass Communication students of YABATECH, report.
Smoking in Nigeria is on the increase, especially among youths and in tertiary institutions. It is indeed a huge public health threat. However, this is despite the many sensitisation campaigns undertaken by managements of tertiary institutions, the Red Cross, NGOs and other health-oriented organisations to educate undergraduates nationwide on the dangers of tobacco consumption.
Nevertheless, the burning question is: To what extent have the campaigns worked?
Findings revealed that developing countries form a huge market for tobacco companies; and it is projected that by 2030, tobacco intake would account for more than 80 per cent of tobacco-related deaths.
Most African countries, including Nigeria, failed to respond appropriately to the growing epidemic because of the revenue generated from tobacco and are now paying the price for the enormous burden of cigarette-related diseases on health budgets.
Both direct tobacco users and second-hand smokers are lethal as it has been established that they cause serious cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, including coronary heart disease and lung cancer. It causes low birth weight and sudden death in pregnant women and infants.
Nigeria Tobacco Control Research Group (NTCRG), which embarked on a research across Lagos State University (LASU), University of Lagos (UNILAG), and Yaba College of Technology (YABATECH) last year, stated that the three institutions ‘actually have policies on ensuring that their campuses are tobacco-free and which the students can attest to.’
According to findings by NTCRG, cigarette tops the list of tobacco products used by students, oftentimes in hiding, followed by shisha.
The body, which claimed it interacted with students and top managements of the institutions in the course of research, added that its findings revealed that the decision to consume tobacco or not is left to the individual.
“This is a wrong narrative! We should begin to change because non-smokers are harmed when smoking takes place around them,” the report stated.
It continued: “There is a need for institutions to make students unduly aware that any form of tobacco use in the institution is against the laws of the country. The Nigerian Tobacco Control Act stipulates that tobacco use should not happen anywhere in any primary, secondary or tertiary institution.”
“We want to commend the institutions for the awareness that is ongoing and the efforts that they are putting in place. But we want them to focus on the areas where not much has been done, so that we can upscale the implementation of tobacco control and ultimately protect the students and the university community from harms of tobacco.”
CAMPUSLIFE sought reactions of students at LASU and YABATECH. While some confessed their addiction to tobacco, others narrated the battle they fought before quitting; yet many craved improved awareness campaign from school managements.
“I was once a smoker. It was peer pressure that influenced me,” said Oladejo Ramon HND 2 Civil Engineering of YABATECH.
“All my friends are smoking so I have to join to feel among. I stopped because I don’t have time to smoke again. Also being a smoker added nothing to me. I feel it’s a waste of my time. I don’t know about campaign against tobacco on campus and I don’t think there is anything the school or the government can do about tobacco violation because they themselves use it.”
Ayoola Daniel, an ND2 Computer Science undergraduate of YABATECH, said he refuses to smoke due to allergy.
“I’m allergic to smoking,” he told CAMPUSLIFE.
“Most of my friends actually smoke and I think they have their reasons; maybe to get high or just wish to feel good provided it’s not affecting them.
“I don’t think the government can help but the school can by laying down rules and regulations on tobacco’s precaution and creating more awareness on tobacco violations,” Ayoola added.
Praise Oluwasegun Balogun says aside mere pleasure, smoking calms him emotionally and allows him think through situations. Rather than outright ban, Balogun believes the authorities can curtail its intake among youths through increased awareness and campaign.
“Yes. I smoke for the fun of it. Smoking keeps me calm and gives me serenity such that I can reason well about a particular situation or thing.
He continued: “I do not believe smokers are liable to die young but the misuse or over use of any drug kills. If you smoke and it is once in a while, you are good to go. I believe the school and government can help by organising public lectures on ethical smoking habits.
Balogun has an ally in Aselem Promise, a 300-Level Economics undergraduate of LASU.
“Well for me, I take it when I want to sit and have a deep conversation with my friends at my leisure. If I take it this night, I wake up strong the next day. Hope you know that smoking weed has some medicinal part too? What I do not encourage is addiction. It (addiction) ruins you. One should be able to control everything-food, alcohol, partying, smoking and so on. My advice is that if you know smoking is not good for you, please quit”
Akinsanya Boluwatife who is an ND Mass Communication student of YABATECH attributes a surge of smokers on campus to influences of social media.
“I believe movies, TV, and the social media influence students to smoke. The Nigerian Red Cross in our school is helping to sensitise the students on the Ills of taking tobacco. I think tobacco should be banned except for medical reasons. The school should also implement laws that anyone caught (smoking) will be rusticated.
Another student of YABATECH who simply introduced himself as ‘De Chyrs’ waxes philosophical about smoking.
“It’s their (smokers) choice, but I think everybody will die at some point. So smoking does not necessarily mean you will die. It’s elite that smoke tobacco and it is not illegal.
“I feel the government can help by organising campaigns and initiating projects that can dissuade youths from too much of tobacco consumption. I think the school already has the policies in place, the only problem is implementation.”
The source added: “Every school you enter, you will see signboards and bill boards discouraging students from smoking and engaging in other misconduct. I think the school needs to go beyond placing postals. They should take a physical approach into discouraging students from smoking. The school has outfit designed to control students, so if this outfit are made more responsive to their official functions, it will go a long way.”
An athlete and a final year student of African Language and Linguistics LASU, Okonkwo Favour, says as a rule, he steers away from dangerous substances.
He says: “As an athlete, I go for medical tests every month and once a banned substance is seen in your system, your career is over. I can’t smoke cigarettes or weed because my career will be at stake,” he adds.
Ezeh John, a repentant smoker, who is a second year Chemistry student of LASU, says but for addiction, many students are willing to give up smoking.
“The fact is that most smokers really want to give up but cannot because they are hooked and enslaved to the dreaded monster,” Ezeh begins.
“I was once a chain-smoker for nine years and by the grace of God, I finally quit on September 15, 2018. However, before September, I made countless failed attempts to stop.
“Every smoker should make up his mind to stop at once.”
Adeshina Fola, whose ex-boyfriend died of drug abuse, vows never to have anything to do with smokers again.
“I have never smoked a day in my life. My ex-boyfriend died of over dose of drugs, and I wouldn’t want that to happen to anyone else,” says the 200-Level Political Sciences student of LASU.
“I don’t understand how people can think smoking is cool or fun. Many people have died of smoking.
“I would want to think that if you knew what happens to people who smoke you wouldn’t do it but apparently you people don’t care,” she adds.
Another student of LASU who identified himself simply as Seun, bemoans schools that expel smokers and drug addict.
“Peer pressure from friends in school could lead to smoking in some cases. I believe with the right exposure to the consequences of smoking, many would possibly look for help through rehabilitation and not the usual rustication most schools undertake. Rather than outright expulsion, a campaign will be ideal to open their eyes into creating a world of change and rehabilitation would help victims through difficult times,” Seun insists.
Supporting Seun’s call for improved sensitisation in schools, a third year Mass Communication undergraduate of LASU Damola Adenuga, recounts how his elder brother stopped smoking due to the campaign held in school.
Damola said his brother who attended a sensitisation campaign against smoking, became scared having heard unpleasant stories of smokers and drug abusers dying at much younger age.
Ayomide Balogun, another LASU student in the Department of Educational Management, shares his rather ongoing battle with cigarettes.
“I have not finally stopped though; it has reduced from when I started,” Balogun says.
“Before, I smoked six times a day and during those times I could take four sticks per hour. I won’t say I was not addicted to it. I was, and it made it hard for me to stop. I decided to reduce because a friend of mine killed himself with drugs. I then became scared because I realised I have parents who desire that I turn out a role model to my siblings.”
He continued: “I later realised that the money I spent on drugs was very much, so I started saving to start a business. I can definitely tell you now that I smoke only once in a week and I believe i will stop very soon.”