The Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) has urged federal and state governments to address tobacco use, as well as excessive consumption of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages (SSBs) and salt, insisting they are high-risk factors behind the country’s alarming cancer burden.
It gave the charge on the sidelines of the World Cancer Day 2024, noting that there has been an upsurge in cancer cases recorded in Nigeria in recent times alongside other Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs).
According to the National Institute for Cancer Research and Treatment, Nigeria records over 120,000 new cases of cancer annually, while the National Cancer Prevention and Control Plan (2018-2022) estimates that Nigerians spend N12 billion yearly on treatment of cancer.
In a statement issued by Media and Communication Officer, Robert Egbe, the group lamented that tobacco use is a leading cause of cancer and cancer-related deaths and that SSBs are associated with a high risk of obesity-related cancers, including kidney and colon cancers, while excessive intake of salt is linked to increased risk of stomach cancer, among other health issues.
Executive Director of CAPPA, Akinbode Oluwafemi advised the government to tackle the problem from its roots, adding that better monitoring and regulation of tobacco, SSBs and salt consumption, among other measures, was a great place to start.
“The government cannot tackle the rising cases of cancer without addressing the risk factors holistically. These include taking concrete actions against tobacco use, the unhealthy consumption of salts, sugar-sweetened beverages, and other unhealthy dietary trends,” he said.
The statement encouraged the government to improve public health by enforcing tobacco control measures as provided in the National Tobacco Control Act 2015 and the Nigeria Tobacco Control Regulations 2019.
This includes prohibiting the unnecessary depiction of smoking in movies, as well as the effective implementation of graphic health warnings alongside the penalization of violators of tobacco control regulations.
For SSBs, the group advocated an increment of the SSBs tax from N10 to N50 in the 2024 Finance Act and for the government to work with public health stakeholders to develop a comprehensive legislative framework.
It also urged the government to expedite the development of policy guidelines for salt reduction targets. These, Oluwafemi added, must include “mandatory limits of salt content in processed and packaged foods.”
On his part, Food and Policy Manager of CAPPA, Abayomi Sarumi added: “In a country with more than 80 percent paying out-of-pocket for health expenditure, the government must prioritise legislations that shrink unhealthy food environments and promote a healthy consumption culture in society.”
The World Cancer Day is celebrated globally every February 4 and this year’s event has the theme: Close the Care Gap: Everyone Deserves Access to Cancer Care.