Tobacco-associated today with smoking of cigarettes, cigars and pipes, as well as snuff and chewing, has been attacked by social observers and medical authorities for the damage it has allegedly done, to the social and physical condition of man.

On the one hand, proponents of the leaf stress its social benefits and its economic and industrial significance. Some enthusiasts even endorse its alleged medical and psychological benefits. Opposed are those who cite the health hazards of smoking and others who are convinced of its immorality.

Tobacco once formed the basis of the economy for the colonies of Virginia and Carolina and it was used to purchase the indentured servants and slaves to cultivate it, to pay local taxes and tithes, and to buy manufactured goods from England. Promissory notes payable in tobacco were even used as currency, with the cost of almost every commodity, from servants to wives, given in pounds of tobacco.

The effect of smoking on health has been the subject of discussion for hundreds of years. Early participants in the tobacco controversy, beginning in the late 16th century, did not associate the use of tobacco with the production of cancers although they credited it with causing or curing nearly every other known disease.  In the 16th century, smoking was considered to have medicinal value. Juan de Cardenas, a Spanish physician who lived in Mexico in the late 1500’s, wrote that “Soldiers subject to privations, kept off cold, hunger, and thirst by smoking and all the inhabitants of the hot countries of the Indies alleviate their discomforts by the smoke of this blessed and medicinal weed“. However, in 1939, the first scientific study linking lung cancer with smoking was published. Between 1950 and 1954, 14 studies associating cigarettes and serious diseases were completed and upon the recommendation of an Advisory Committee established by the Surgeon-General of the United States, the Federal Trade Commission concluded that cigarette advertising was deceptive (misleading) and that advertisers had a responsibility to warn the public of the health hazards of cigarette smoking.

Tobacco control programs aim to reduce disease, disability, and death related to tobacco use. Tobacco control laws and other government policies generally aim to:

  • Prevent people, particularly children and youth, from starting to use tobacco
  • Help people quit using tobacco products
  • Reduce the harmful effects caused by tobacco use

Motivations for regulatory controls of Tobacco have ranged from Public health considerations, quantity and quality control, protecting the market from unfair competition, environmental protection, monopoly creation or disruption, and deceptive advertising. The view has been expressed that a comprehensive approach—one that includes educational, clinical, regulatory, economic, and social strategies— may be  the best way to eliminate the negative health and economic effects of tobacco use. In our next article, we will analyse the Nigerian Tobacco Control Act 2015 in order to determine its effectiveness in the regulation of tobacco within Nigeria.

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