Each year the last day of May is celebrated as the 'World No Tobacco Day'
. It is sponsored annually by the World Health Organization to 'wag a warning finger' at the 'excesses', in terms of health, that results from tobacco use. This year the focus is on '100% smoke -free environment'
with special emphasis on the effects of second-hand exposure to tobacco. There is also an effort to highlight the progress that has been achieved around the world in making work and public spaces smoke-free.
• According to the WHO, in every eight second a person is dying of a smoking-related disease such as cancer, heart attack or lung diseases.
• Complications of pregnancy caused by tobacco are set to double.
• Tobacco currently kills five million a year and the death toll will rise to 10 million by the 2020s, unless urgent action is taken now.
• The average age at which young people take up smoking is 15-18 years
Tobacco, has the distinction of being the second major harbinger of death in the world. It is accurately predicted that among the smokers, who number about 650 million, half will eventually die due to the effects of tobacco. It is further disalarming that several thousands of people who are non-smokers die each year from diseases resulting from 'passive' smoking.
Dried and cured forms of tobacco are commercially available in several forms but the popular ones are the ubiquitous cigarettes and cigars. Tobacco can also be smoked in pipes or hookahs. They can be chewed upon or snuffed too. Regional products like the 'bidis', manufactured in India, are also very popular.
With powerful anti-smoking campaign on the rise the tobacco companies have resorted to amazing marketing strategies to keep the popularity of tobacco alive. New products such as fruit-flavored, chocolate-flavored, additive-free and organic cigarettes are flooding the market. There is a conscious effort to make cigarettes look harmless and their attractive names, flavor and 'glow-in -the -dark' packaging are aimed at promoting the product to the young.
In the Middle East 'sheesha' or water-pipe smoking is getting increasingly popular among teenagers. Many believe that it is relatively safe because the smoke passes through water. However, serious forms of lung disease, oral and bladder cancer and addiction are associated with 'sheesha'. Women who use them during pregnancy face an increased risk of having babies with low birth weight.
It does not help to substitute regular cigarettes with seemingly innocuous -looking ones such as filter or low-tar cigarettes. All forms of tobacco are hazardous to health.
Nicotine gets absorbed into the user's blood stream and, with time, the individual becomes tolerant and dependent on tobacco. Nicotine is a highly addictive substance and the user soon gets hooked on to it to maintain a sense of well-being.
There is no known triggers that induces a person to start smoking. On the contrary there are several reasons why it should be avoided. The following are some of the reasons-
• Chemicals like nicotine and cyanide, present in cigarettes, are poisonous with a potential to kill in high- enough doses.
• Long-term effects of smoking leads to health problems like cancer, emphysema (breakdown of lung tissue), heart disease, stroke and organ damage. Every cigarette takes about 5- 20 minutes off the person's life.
• Smoking, like cocaine and morphine, is understood to have the ability to make permanent brain changes
• Smokers have a high risk to lose bone density and develop osteoporosis.
• They also tend to be less active as they may suffer from rapid heartbeat, decreased circulation, and shortness of breath.
• Smoking affects the body's ability to produce collagen, so injuries tend to heal more slowly in smokers.
• An individual who smokes tends to develop wrinkles and yellow teeth.
• Infertility problems and impaired sexual health is common among individuals who smoke.
• Smokers tend to have pale and unhealthy skin due to poor circulation. They tend to have bad breath or halitosis, bad smelling clothes and hair.
• Smokers are more prone to develop illnesses like colds, flu, bronchitis, and pneumonia than nonsmokers.
• People with health conditions, like asthma become more sick if they smoke.
• Tobacco dependence creates a chronic relapsing condition as a result of nicotine addiction and may require medical management.
Besides all these health implications smoking is a very expensive habit!
Secondary tobacco smoking is also a health hazard and is capable of causing grave illnesses like cancer, serious respiratory and cardiovascular diseases in both children and adults, often leading to premature death. There is no safe level at which passive smoking can be done and the only method to protect non-smokers is by eliminating smoking.
Therefore several law-enforcing bodies have pitched in an effort to minimize damage by banning smoking in work places and also in public.
There is a lot of information and support available for individuals who want to quit. Some prefer to stop smoking abruptly while others prefer to go slow. As smoking is addictive, some may realize that they could do with a little help from support groups, plenty of which is available. The Internet is abound with enough messages on how to stop smoking.
Recently researchers have developed a pill to help quit smoking. The drug, Champix (Varenicline) targets the nicotinic receptor in a unique way to reduce the intensity of the smoker's craving and also the severity of the withdrawal symptoms. The drug marketed by Pfizer is expected to do wonders in this area.
There is substantial evidence to demand immediate measures to free the world from the tobacco menace and the sole effective step is by creating 100% smoke-free environments. This can be done, partially, by creating large-scale awareness, especially among the 'yet-to-be-initiated' groups. The other method is to activate the 'long arm' of the law and to universally ban public smoking. This is to save the passive smokers who are but victims of the 'folly' of a few.
The smoke-free path is the way to go for obvious reasons; better health, wealth and looks are enticing incentives! It might be apt to recall the old adage that health, indeed, is true wealth. Resorting to measures that ruin health is akin to bidding farewell to life!