A University of Ilorin professor of anatomy, Gabriel Olaiya Omotoso, has identified tobacco smoking as a leading cause of preventable death and disease worldwide, saying that it “causes more than 8 million deaths a year.”

Professor Omotoso, who made the declaration while delivering the 259th inaugural lecture of the university, said that the latest global estimate of tobacco users is 1.25 billion people, 80 per cent of whom are in low- and middle-income countries.

In the inaugural lecture, titled “White Matter Matters in the Search for Phytochemical Candidates for Demyelinating Disorders,” the author posited that out of the 8 million yearly deaths from tobacco usage, “1.3 million are non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke.”

Professor Omotoso, who lectures in the Department of Anatomy, Faculty of Basic Clinical Sciences, College of Health Sciences, University of Ilorin, however, lamented that “despite a great deal of health education and awareness on the grave implications of cigarette smoking, many people are still caught in the web of the habit, pointing out that in Nigeria, for instance, 10 per cent of the population smokes tobacco daily”.

The researchers identified some adverse consequences of cigarette smoke on different organs of the body, including its adverse effects on male gonads and reproduction/fertility, adding that passive cigarette smoke also detrimentally affects adult brains.

To curb the menace of cigarette smoke, Professor Omotoso stressed “the need for all of us to arise and protect our children from tobacco industry interference.”

The inaugural lecturer also called on the government to enforce tobacco production laws in the country, stressing the need for the government to “take a cue from other countries, such as New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Australia, to effect this.”

Noting the urgent need for public enlightenment to educate society about the harmful effects of cigarette smoke, Professor Omotoso underscored the need to improve access to diagnostic tools to mitigate the challenge of disease diagnosis in the country.

Pointing out that “tobacco smoking, whether actively or passively, is deadly,” Professor Omotoso said it should be avoided like a plague.

He specifically advised pregnant women, or women planning to have a pregnancy, to avoid tobacco exposure.

@ Nigerian Tribune

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