One pack a day. That is the average rate of cigarette consumption for regular smokers.
Of course one would assume this to be an impossible figure, but most smokers know the moment you light a stick in the morning its all over, you’re not quitting that day anymore.
Although a no-smoking-in-public law has been papered down, cigarette smoking is still perceived to be among the most negligible of social habits. Most people are quicker to offer one stick of cigarettes to a stranger than N1 to a beggar.
A stick of Rothmas, St. Morris or Benson & hedges which are among the most common brands in Nigeria go for around N10 to N15. This still varies and can be gotten higher or lower, in certain parts of Nigeria such as the northern city of Katsina where cigarettes are smoked by whole family units as dessert.
Inside high profile clubs within the capital city of Abuja however, a pack can go for as cheap as N400 to as high as N800 which averages at N30 per stick.
This seemingly negligible figure translates to roughly N12,000 a month and N144,000 a year. An equivalent of a one and a half year house rent in sub-urban areas of Abuja such as Nyanya or outskirt towns like Zuba and Gwagwalada.
Daily costs of cigarette smoking as well as its associated health implications have been often ignored by even regular and low income earners.
But moke from a single stick of cigarette contains around 4,000 chemicals, some of which are highly toxic and at least 43 of them cause cancer (WHO 2009).
But beyond the daily number of lives lost to cancer, cigarette also plays a huge role in the bank account balances of individuals and families. Studies related to tobacco users globally, places Nigerian males who join the existing number of smokers at around 10.49% every year, one in every ten male Nigerians.
Going by the 2012 census over 45million male Nigerians begin their relationship with Nicotine at around 15years of age, this puts the number of young Nigerians who become regular smokers in adulthood at around 4,500,000 every year.
Doubling back on the seemingly harmless average of one pack a day, a simple estimate indicates Nigerians inhale and exhale around N900million a day and well over N300billion a year.
Cigarette smoking is not just a social habit; those who have tried to quit smoking know this all too well. It is an addiction, a habit that has inelastic demand.
But some know this more than others. Local and foreign investors have cashed in on weak existing regulations to make billions of dollars every year. British American Tobacco (BAT) in September 24, 2001 signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Federal Government of Nigeria for an investment of $150 million(N23billion) to build a state-of-the-art- tobacco manufacturing plant Ibadan, the Oyo State capital.
The hazards of cigarette smoking remain clear and glaring via increasing the risks of stroke by 50 percent among men and 60 percent among women, and contributing to over 3,000 lung cancer deaths to non-smokers who inhale the leftovers, thus accounting for over 35,000 deaths from heart diseases.
Yet government policies relating to production sales and licensing in Nigeria remains relatively lax. Every television or radio advert in Nigeria is simply accompanied with the hoarse repetition of the statement “The Federal Government warns that smokers are liable to die young”
But is this enough?