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Nigerian school children are getting hooked on cigarettes - Mercy Abang

Abang Mercy, a freelance journalist, has
undertaken a profound study of several
individuals who became hooked on cigarettes
even from primary school
Teachers and hawkers also disclosed how these
youngsters patronize cigarette sellers in a bid to
feel older and get high

From cigarettes, some individuals have now
graduated to inhaling substances like gasoline,
correction fluid, rubber solution, aerosol, nail
polish removers and kerosene

Tobacco smoking is responsible for 7 million
deaths each year, and over 1.1billion people
smoke tobacco worldwide

A special report by freelance journalist Abang
Mercy, has detailed how primary and
secondary school children in Nigeria are
getting taught how to smoke.
She narrated various stories about
individuals whose smoking journey began as

Abang tells the story of 14-year-old Musa,
who began smoking at 9. According to Musa,
tobacco products were conspicuously within
reach- just at his school’s entrance.
He said: “I have today become a chain smoker,
I can’t do without cigarette’s and same applies
to most of us you see here
“As many times as I try to stop smoking, it
becomes more difficult.”

School children at LEA Primary School Kubwa, Abuja,
buy things from a kiosk
(Photo credit: Mercy Abang)

Cigarette retailers selling their products around a school
in Abuja
(Photo credit: Mercy Abang)

Another individual identified as 25-year-old
Ahmed Isa who has now graduated to using
drugs, disclosed that just like Musa, his
journey with cigarettes also began in
elementary school.

As he reached for an empty bottle of cough
syrup, Ahmed stated:
_ “To keep my spirit high,
there’s simply nothing else to do; and here’s
my fifth codeine bottle.”_

Further describing how his disastrous journey
began, he stated:
_“It all started with the
“mallams” shop next to the school premises
where we (students) turned to for our tobacco
Now, Ahmed revealed that he and his friends
take anything they find to feel ‘high’;
including gasoline, correction fluid, rubber
solution, aerosol, nail polish removers and

According to a hawker who sells in front of
the L.E.A Kubwa II primary school in Bwari
Area Council Abuja, the students come to buy
biscuits during the day and at night, they
come to buy cigarettes.

Umar Ado stated:
_“I don’t sell to them, but a
lot of people do. At night these children want
to behave more maturely and they feel
smoking makes them look tough.
“The people selling the cigarettes are a
problem, but if you enter the school, like at the
football field, you will see a lot of young boys
“People have taken these primary schools as
places to smoke, especially the government
ones that have a lot of space.”_
A female teacher at the same school who
spoke on the condition of anonymity stated:

_“Well, we cannot stop them from going to buy
the things they need.
“We have subjects like civil education that we
use to teach the children about bad social
behavior, but our efforts stop at the school.
We can’t control them when they leave.
“We have been trying to dissuade all these bad
boys from coming to smoke in the schools and
spoiling the children, we even raised the fence
and have been working to put a barbed wire,
but these things take time.”_

According to 2015 estimates from the World
Health Organization (WHO), over 1.1billion
people smoked tobacco.
The report notes that it is almost impossible
to find tuck-shops around schools in the
nation’s capital, which do not sell cigarettes.
Over 7 million people die each year from
using tobacco.

NAIJ NEWS previously reported that in Nigeria,
about 10,000 cancer deaths are recorded
annually while 250,000 new cases are
recorded yearly.
According to Dr. Andreas Ullrich of WHO’s
Department of Chronic Diseases, the situation
might get worse in metropolitan areas of the
developing world as populations age and
increasingly feel the impact of exposure to
major risk factors such as tobacco, certain
chemicals and infections.

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