World Cancer Day

by Savitha C Muppala on  February 3, 2008 at 3:27 PM Health In Focus
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February 4, 2008
World Cancer Day
World Cancer Day

A custom loathsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain, dangerous to the lungs, and in the black, stinking fume thereof nearest resembling the horrible Stygian smoke of the pit that is bottomless- (James I of England, A Counterblaste to Tobacco, 1604)

For all those parents desiring the best for their children, the 4th of February 2008, is indeed a decisive day. This day, is dedicated to the cause of cancer worldwide, and is celebrated annually as World Cancer Day. It is the motto-"Burning Vision to Enable a Smoke-Free Childhood" that makes the day very special this year.

As we burn both ends of the candle to raise children in a 'perfect' environment, do we pause to think- if the mother of all basics, the breath of life is 'safe' for children? The answer is evident in the statistics, which show that nearly 700 million children are constantly exposed to the deleterious effects of tobacco smoke. And this exposure takes place in the 'safest' place called 'HOME'.

Honing in on the issue, The World Cancer Day preamble is a war cry to parents, booming the truth- "Second-hand smoke is a health hazard for you and your family. There is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke. Give your child a smoke-free childhood.

Do not deny their fundamental right to breathe clean air."

'Smoking is one of the leading causes of statistics'

- Author Unknown
  • Lung cancer, deadliest of all cancers, causes 1.2 million deaths globally
  • An estimated 3 million people suffer from lung cancer; most of the victims are from the developed nations.
  • Smoking accounts for 90% of lung cancer cases
  • Smoking is also linked to risks of heart disease and stroke
  • Second-hand smoke, leading cause of respiratory infections in children
Blow Hot on Second Hand Smoke

Nearly 85% of the adults are blissfully unaware about a prominent cause of childhood illnesses- exposure to second hand smoke. Second hand smoke, known by other names such as 'Passive smoke' or 'Environmental Tobacco Smoke' (ETS), is the inhalation of tobacco smoke from the atmosphere, released by the puff of a first hand smoker. It is extremely harmful to child health and is akin to the child lighting up.

Most parents are unaware that tobacco is made of the most noxious of substances, of which more than 40 of them are undoubtedly carcinogenic. Second hand smoke is worse, where carcinogens are believed to be in a highly virulent form as compared to the smoke inhaled by a smoker.

What makes children prone to risks of ETS?
  • They take in more air; therefore will inhale more toxins in the air
  • Nascent immune system
  • Unable to effectively verbalize their problems
  • Incapacitated to insulate themselves from ETS independently.
Second hand smoke not only enhances the risk of cancer, it can also ignite a host of chronic health problems, like respiratory tract infections, asthma, inadequate lung function, and insufficient supply of oxygen to the lungs. Second hand smoke is inextricably linked to the incidences of sudden infant death syndrome, leukemia in childhood, neurobehavioral abnormalities, meningococcal infections and a host of upper respiratory tract infections.

Tobacco on Fire

An incisive survey conducted by scientists from the University of Waterloo put the smokers' mind- set in a bad light. The survey showed that nearly 77% to 93% of smokers refused to believe that second hand smoke could actually stoke up a host of diseases among non-smokers, even cancer. They dismissed all the facts and figures as misrepresentation and instead shifted the blame to other forms of pollution. Nothing could be further from the truth.

More than 4000 substances go into the making of tobacco, of which 40 or more substances are irrefutable carcinogens. To give an idea of its lethal ingredients, some of the toxic ones are lead, arsenic, polonium, benzanthracene, nickel, chromium acetaldehyde, benzene and many more which is the root of the growing connection between tobacco and cancer. When these carcinogens are released into the air, it knows no bounds, entering the respiratory tract of those around.

Population based insights have revealed a 12 fold enhanced risk of cancer by smoking a cigarette. Flavored tobacco, used in hookahs is being promoted under the pretense of being mild and not harmful. This is gaining popularity in the Asian countries. Tobacco in any form is injurious.

If these details are not enough to demonstrate the mammoth pitfalls of smoking or the effects of second hand smoke on children, read these statistics:

  • A study in United Kingdom found that nearly two-thirds of SIDS deaths could be saved if the parents just gave up smoking.
  • An American based study probing the root of childhood illnesses blamed the effects of second hand smoke which caused - 13% of ear infections, 24% of tonsillectomies, 13% of asthma complications, 16% of medical visits for cough and 20% of all lung infections.
Expectant Mothers - Beware of the 'Butt'

Maternal smoking can lend a severe blow to the developing fetus by choking the flow of oxygen and essential nutrients. The outcome of this habit may translate into lifelong disabilities in the child. In a nutshell the risks include:

  • Behavioral abnormalities
  • Inadequate lung capacity
  • Deficient intellectual development
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Risks of still birth
Second hand smoke is equally deleterious to the growing fetus. Research is gaining momentum in this area and soon the facts and figures will be out. Yet, it is distinctly clear that tobacco in any form is harmful to the growing baby.

The Scene in India

According to the World Health Organization, nearly 24 lakh people are battling cancer in India attributed to the effect of tobacco. Research has shown that the bulk of tobacco users actually begin the habit in their teenage years. As a result, an estimated 5500 youths join the bandwagon of smokers every single day.

What does this translate to the health of 'Incredible India'?

Smokers increase their risk as well as enhance risk of others in the environment. Putting a figure to the enhanced risk, it is estimated that by 2025, tobacco-related cancer deaths would be up 220 percent.

'Pain'ting Ill-effects of Smoking

Teens take the lead in the southern cities of Chennai and Coimbatore where painting competitions will be held with the theme - 'Prevention is the only cure, changing lifestyle and its effects in causing cancer.' Positive strokes and a kaleidoscope of colors will attract the attention of smokers, "TO NOT 'BRUSH' ASIDE THE ILL-EFFECTS OF SMOKING.

No Ifs and 'Butts' - Lead by Example

Children learn by imitation and smoking is no exception. Children whose parents smoke are twice inclined to pick up the habit. As role models, it is worthwhile to kick the habit or avoid smoking in front of children.

The positive aspect of abstaining from tobacco is manifold. The health risks for the smokers' mitigate with each year of abstaining from tobacco. This is because the body replaces the abnormal cells with normal ones.

The biggest blessing of giving up tobacco is in the creation of a safe and healthy environment for children. This might be the most vital gift any parent can give their children so that they proudly acclaim, "I love my smoke-free childhood."

Parents, the health of your child is in your hands.

Take an oath today!

Source: Medindia

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