Every year, on May 31, World Health Organization celebrates – World No Tobacco Day – highlighting the health risks associated with tobacco use and advocating effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption. Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death globally and is currently responsible for killing one in 10 adults worldwide. It is estimated that tobacco takes 2500 lives in India every day.
Today, most of the urban as well as the rural youth have taken to smoking in a major way and it is no more limited to the male counterparts. What might surprise you is the fact that the incidence of smoking in the US has fallen from about 45% thirty years ago to around 21% today. This is due to the growing understanding that smoking has no redeeming benefits; it is all pain and no gain. There are various reasons for people picking up this habit, including peer pressure, an attempt to fight stress, trying to emulate a celebrity or sheer casualness in one’s personal decisions.
It is known now, that the old perception of smoking as a tool to help combat stress and relax the body, a benefit cited by many in the past, is scientifically and medically untrue. Smoking contains, among other things, nicotine, which is a highly recognized stimulant. When a person smokes, while it may offer some initial psychological aid to promote relaxation and ‘de-stressfication,’ it actually does the opposite. Smoking very quickly raises one’s pulse, raises blood pressure, and physically stresses the body. Most people understand this today.
Considering the health hazards of smoking, what we fail to understand is that till the damage presents as cancer itself, a smoker has lost hours of efficiency and immunity succumbing to emphysema, COPD, ILDs and many other diseases. Plus, there’s an added financial burden in treating all these ailments. The health hazards caused by smoking are many. Five minutes of smoking causes 4,000 chemical compounds and 400 toxic substances to enter the body. With each puff, the body acts as a sponge that absorbs harmful substances.
Most of these are carcinogenic compounds. Smoking can cause cancer almost anywhere in your body, not just lungs and oral cavity. Smokers are exposed to risk of bladder, cervix, colorectal cancer, blood cancer, kidney, liver, etc. Smokers are at greater risk for diseases that affect the heart and blood vessels like stroke and coronary heart disease.
Females are the worst candidates as smokers, as smoking can make it harder for a woman to become pregnant. It can also affect her baby’s health before and after birth. Smoking increases risks for Preterm (early) delivery, still birth (death of the baby before birth), low birth weight, sudden infant death syndrome (known as SIDS or crib death), and Orofacial clefts in infants. Smoking can also affect men’s sperm, which can reduce fertility and also increase risks for birth defects and miscarriage.
Some facts about smoking:
→ Smoking as an addiction now encompasses many forms, like cigarrete smoking, water-pipe or hukka and vaping or e-cigarrete. There is enough evidence now that hukka smoking and e-Cigarette are equally harmfull as smoking cigarretes.
→ It’s easy to pick up the habit but very difficult to quit. Awareness and education about its ill-effects is the best way to prevent addiction.
→ Cancer, although the most dreadful, is not the only health scare caused by smoking. COPD or emphysema and ILD are major lung diseases which a smoker suffers from, bringing suffering and eventually death to the smoker.
→ From financial point of view, smoking is very ‘expensive,’ and as the tobacco companies know that demand for cigarettes is highly price insensitive, future steep price increases are practically guaranteed.
→ Smoking is a threat to the smoker as well as his family and friends. Second hand smoke (inhaling fumes by people around a smoker) and third hand smoke (inhaling smoke particles deposited on cloth and furniture surface) are both contributors to major health diseases. An estimated 600,000 non-smokers die each year from exposure to second-hand smoke.
→Smoking may still be seen as a somewhat adult/mature thing to do, but there are other better things, one can do to be seen as, and, feel more adult, like exercising self-control, exercising your free choice and being responsible towards ones society and nation.
→ Smoking cessation although an uphill task, is an important tool in improving a smoker’s health and avoiding further complications. It involves an integrated approach from the smoker and the physician in combating the addiction. Consult a chest physician to enroll in a smoking cessation program.