'Smoking is like paying someone to kill you; they are rich, you are dead' goes the anti-smoking slogan. And it is not a metaphor. Smoking, or rather, tobacco use in any form, kills. Death by tobacco can be painful, agonizing, and slow.
'Tobacco use is one of the top threats to human health, killing half the people who use it,' commented the Secretary General of United Nations.
AdvertisementTo highlight the health risks associated with tobacco use and advocate effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption, the World Health Organization and its partners mark 31st of May each year as the World No Tobacco Day.
The theme for World No Tobacco Day 2014 is to raise taxes on tobacco to reduce tobacco consumption and save lives.
Tobacco is the foremost cause of preventable death and disease in the world today. India is the second largest consumer of tobacco products in the world. Recent National Family Health Survey indicates that tobacco consumption in India is on the rise, with 57 percent male and more than 10 percent of women consuming tobacco in some form.
'The global tobacco epidemic kills nearly 6 million people each year, of which more than 600 000 are non-smokers dying from breathing second-hand smoke. Unless we act, the epidemic will kill more than 8 million people every year by 2030. More than 80% of these preventable deaths will be among people living in low-and middle-income countries,' reports WHO.
One of the ways to curb rising tobacco use globally is to raise taxes on tobacco and to implement price policies against tobacco use, WHO observes. This will work in two ways:
Increasing the taxes will effectively reduce tobacco use in the low-income groups and also among younger people who have just started using tobacco. Statistics revealed that a tax increase that increases tobacco prices by 10% decreases tobacco consumption by about 4% in high-income countries and by up to 8% in most low- and middle-income countries.
Increasing taxes is the most effective tobacco use control measure. According to the WHO data, a '50% increase in tobacco excise taxes would generate a little more than US$ 1.4 billion in additional funds in 22 low-income countries'.
Harmful effects of tobacco use
Although all of us know the harmful effects of tobacco use, here's a cheat sheet for quick reference.
1. The nicotine in tobacco stimulates the adrenal glands to release adrenaline, which in turn stimulates the central nervous system and increases blood pressure and heart rate leading to cardiovascular disease.
2. Nicotine increases the levels of neurotransmitter dopamine that leads to addiction with long term exposure resulting in negative socio-economic consequences.
3. Withdrawal symptoms when we try to quit include irritability, sleep disturbances, attention difficulties and craving.
4. Tobacco increases the risk of lung cancer and oral cancer.
5. Pregnant women who smoke run the risk of miscarriage, or delivering stillborn or premature babies, or low birth-weight babies.
6. People exposed to second hand smoke increase their risk of developing heart disease by 25 to 30 percent and lung cancer by 20 to 30 percent.
7. Secondhand smoke also causes reduced lung function, coughing, and respiratory infections such as pneumonia and bronchitis.
8. Children exposed to second hand smoke are at an increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome, ear problems, and severe asthma.
Events organized in India on World No Tobacco Day 2014
Kerala Health Services Department along with Tobacco Control and other organizations in Kerala organized week-long activities to 'spell out the harms of tobacco and to raise societal consciousness against tobacco use' in Kerala. They have planned programs to raise awareness against tobacco use especially among the youth in all 14 district headquarters and 120 blocks. This way the organizers hope to enhance the contribution of the youth towards tobacco control.
According to the WHO, 13-15 years it is best to target the children in the age group of 13 to 15, as this is the age when children are more influenced by their peers and indulge in such malpractices.
In view of this, Roko Cancer Charitable Trust in association with The India Habitat Center organized an Awareness Event against tobacco use with the theme 'Be smart, Don't start'. The event included a Skit and a Collage competition for the underprivileged children of Delhi. Roko aims at stopping the children at this 'very tender age before the habit becomes an addiction'.
Similarly, rallies, mass pledges, and other events are also being organized in various parts of the country by government agencies, non-government organizations, corporate houses and charities to reiterate the harmful consequences of tobacco use.
Let's join the war against tobacco use and save the next generations!