Today is 31st May, observed world wide as ‘No Tobacco Day’. This year’s theme by World Health Organisation (WHO) is Tobacco and Lung health.
We are taking this opportunity to inform our community about the devastating and debilitating effects of tobacco. In our community, tobacco is consumed in the form of cigarettes, bidi, khaini or chewing tobacco, snuffing, etc.
It is our hope that through this message, we will at the best encourage people to quit or at least nudge them towards minimizing tobacco use.
It is said that “Tobacco companies kill their best customers”. WHO states that tobacco kills up to half of its users with more than 8 million deaths each year, 7 million of those as the result of direct tobacco use and 1.2 million as the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.
Second-hand smoke in adults causes serious cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, including coronary heart disease and lung cancer. In infants, it causes sudden death. Children exposed to second-hand smoke are at risk of developing lower-respiratory infections and the onset of asthma. In pregnant women, it causes the low birth weight of a baby.
In tobacco cultivating countries, small children from poor households are employed in plantations and they become vulnerable to ‘green tobacco disease’, caused by the nicotine that is absorbed through the skin from the handling of wet tobacco leaves.
Around 80% of the world’s 1.1 billion smokers live in low and middle-income countries.
In India, tobacco kills more than 1 million people each year which constitutes 9.5% of all deaths in the country. The most common way tobacco kills is from cardiovascular diseases.
Active and passive smoking affects the lungs in multiple ways. Over two-thirds of all lung cancer deaths globally are caused by smoking. Chronic respiratory diseases such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD and asthma is caused by tobacco smoking.
Using tobacco worsens other health conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, kidney damage, eye disease, dental disease, inflammatory bowel diseases and erectile dysfunction.
Furthermore, increasing the price of cigarettes and other tobacco products leads to added expenses, and in case of illness, puts a heavy financial burden on the whole family. Premature deaths also deter economic development as a whole.
Environmentally, the whole process of tobacco growing and curing have an impact on the land and especially agricultural land. Manufacturing and distribution of tobacco products have its own environmental costs. Tobacco smoke creates third-hand smoke pollution and the end product also create environmentally hazardous waste.
Additionally, new studies show that a parent’s dependence on nicotine and the act of smoking cigarettes affects their teen’s smoking behavior. Mailman School of Public health at Columbia University’s study concluded that ‘Parents addicted to tobacco risk their children becoming dependent on nicotine as well.’
Addiction is easy to start but hard to get out. Quitting should not be done on occasions, but done immediately. After starting, one should persevere through will power and commit until the end. Change your environment, avoid friends who smoke, change daily routines, trick your brain by engaging in various activities and exercise. Do everything to win this fight against yourself.
If not for yourself, we suggest you say no to tobacco, for the sake of your children. By saying no to tobacco, you are not only saving yourself but your family, your friends and the Earth.
Department of Health
Central Tibetan Administration