Three young Nigerian boys have developed an app to help the US government regulate underage smoking.
The trio, Oluwatunmise Ayeni, Rotimi Adegbijiand Egie Akede, are senior school one (SS1) students of Dansol High School, Agidingbi, Lagos state.
They founded a company named ‘RET Innovate,’ and came up with the innovative idea to create an app to reduce smoking called the ‘RET-Vape Selling App’ in order to participate in the 2019 Conrad Foundation’s Spirit of Innovation Challenge.
They ended up qualifying for the annual competition under the ‘smoke-free world’ category. The RET Innovate team will be representing Nigeria at the 2019 Florida’s innovation summit on April 23, 2019.
There, they will be competing against over 35 students’ innovators from different parts of the world for seed funding, partnerships and the challenge’s top honour.
How the app works
The ‘RET-Vape Selling App’ is targeted at dealers and retailers of e-cigarettes also known as Vape Pens. The goal is to help the US government regulate underage smoking by monitoring the purchase of e-cigarettes.
It can be used to recognise the age of prospective buyers and flag underage smokers. Hospitals and other agencies can also use it as a source of smoking history for patients.
The team discussed their roles during a recent interview with The Guardian. Ayeni, who is the Chief Executive Officer of the company said, “My responsibilities include managing communication and assigning roles to every member in line with their skills and passion. I also drive major decisions of the company. I have a special interest in developing technology and I aspire to be a software or robotics engineer.
“I handle the day to day operations of the company. I delegate duties to members of staff and ensure each task is carried out with precision and according to plan. I enjoy being creative and profiling solutions to chemistry questions and I aspire to be an aeronautic engineer,” Adegbiji, the Chief Operating Officer, said.
Akede, the third teammate also said, “as the Chief Marketing Officer I am responsible for advertising and public relations to increase the awareness of our company and products. I have a passion for sales and marketing of innovative products.”
Their team coach, Mr Tochi Nkwocha, further explained how the app works.
“The database provides information of everybody in the US,” he told the newspaper. “So if you register as a dealer, if somebody wants to purchase e-cigarette from your shop, all you need to do is simply collect the Social Security Number (SSN) and verify the name and age of the person. If the person is under 18, he/she will be flagged ineligible to buy the e-cigarette. Immediately, there will be a pop-up display on the screen, displaying information about the person, of course with that the dealer/retailer cannot sell to the young person who is not up to 18.”
He continued, “Also, if we have a user who is above or below 18, and it’s having respiratory issues, which could also be as a result of smoking, by the time the hospital logs into the application, with the SSN of the patient, they will capture his smoking history which will help in seeking easy remedy for the patient.”
Nkwocha added that he believes the app can be used to stop underage smoking in schools.
Underage smoking in Nigeria
Even though the app is currently designed for America, the trio has promised to come up with a Nigerian adaptation. They hope to use it to assist the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) in the fight against underage smoking.
The app comes as a recent World Health Organisation (WHO) report reveals that over 25,000 children (10–14 years) using tobacco products daily.
Both the Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance (NTCA) and the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth (ERA/FoEN) have expressed their concerns against this high rising rate of tobacco among Nigerian children.