by Zareen Afridi | 13 OCT 2017
Tobacco epidemic has become one of the fastest growing concern worldwide. On the occasion of 264th Monthly Health Lecture of the Public Garden Walkers’ Association on ‘Tobacco Leads to Cancer- Stop Cancer Before it Starts’ given by Dr. Arsheed H. Hakeem, Senior Consultant, Head and Neck Oncology Surgeon, Apollo Cancer Hospitals, Jubilee Hills, said that the hazards of tobacco are on the rise the epidemic of tobacco related deaths has crossed 7 million per year mark. Out of these, 6 million are the ones who are consuming tobacco on a direct basis in one form or the other. The rest 1 million are those who are indirectly in the vile grip of tobacco.
Indirect smokers are those who smoke passively (inhaling fumes when someone else is smoking nearby). This toxic smoke makes tobacco the leading cause of death among Indians. Tobacco is laden with more than 4,000 types of chemicals. Out of these, 250 have adverse effect on body and 40 may trigger cancer.
At present 1 billion tobacco smokers exist, out of which 80% are from low socioeconomic countries. India is one of them and the burden of tobacco illness, impoverishment and deaths are soaring high. The affected ones are often the bread earning members of their family who die prematurely and leave their families in state of despair. Moreover, the cost of healing tobacco affected patients comes as an additional burden that is unaffordable by the deprived communities.
Tackling the Root Cause
In India due to poverty, the children are trapped in the cycle of tobacco farming to support their family. They fall prey to ‘green tobacco sickness’ caused by absorbing nicotine indirectly through skin. Its symptoms are nausea, vomiting, headache, muscle weakness and dizziness. The problem runs from generation to generation and only worsens the scenario. Another root cause is passive smoking which is smoking in public areas like restaurants, offices and other enclosed spaces. Person smoking in these areas makes the room uncomfortable for others. Infants are most prone to this kind of smoke. Women who smoke give birth to underweight babies. Second hand smoke is the reason of causing 6,00,000 premature deaths in a year.
Adverse Effects of Tobacco Smoke:
Serious cardiovascular diseases
Lung and food pipe cancer
Cancer of mouth and voice box
Cancer of urinary bladder
A Helping Hand
Only a few realise the health hazards of tobacco use. Only 38% smokers know that tobacco usage causes coronary artery disease. 27% know it may lead to stroke. Most of these want to quit but are unable to do so individually. They need counseling and managed support system. Indian government needs to devise plans, strategies and cessational goals to provide services to help tobacco users come out of its pangs.
Some practical steps that may help in the realisation of the Anti tobacco goals are:
Those campaigns / advertisements that pictorially describe the hazards of tobacco are useful means of creating awareness. This will help people to realise that what they are doing is wrong and must be quit. This will also motivate and encourage them to stop smoking
Warning signs on cigarette / Pan Masala packets stating clearly that it may lead to severe types of cancers may warn and brief the user of its hazards
Warning signs on public places and even residential colonies will prevent passive smoking
Heavily taxing tobacco, tobacco products and byproducts may lead to stopping the cultivation of this crop.
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