Friday, 30 March 2007

Why I hate cigarettes

Tobacco products are deadly in any form, whether it be cigarettes, pipes, bidis, kreteks (clove cigarettes), chewing tobacco, betel nut used with tobacco or cigars. Even though the manufacturing methods are mild, light, low tar, full flavour, fruit-flavoured, chocolate-flavored, natural, additive-free or organic, no matter how you dress up the package, the product still kills. All these products deliver the same amounts of cancer-causing substances to the smoker as regular cigarettes, despite labeling information that suggests otherwise.

First and as far as the health effects of tobacco are concerned, tobacco is the second major cause of death, after infectious diseases, and the leading preventable cause of death in the world. The wide range of serious health effects has been extensively reviewed and includes cancer of the lung (90% of all lung cancers), vesicle, oesophagus, larynx, mouth and throat; chronic pulmonary disease, emphysema and bronchitis; stroke, heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases. It is now also known that tobacco use contributes to cataracts, pneumonia, acute myeloid leukaemia, abdominal aortic aneurysm, stomach cancer, pancreatic cancer, cervical cancer (the leading killer among cancers in women worldwide), kidney cancer, periodontitis, tuberculosis infection and other many diseases.

However, those who consume tobacco are not the only ones exposed to its negative effects. Tobacco seriously damages the reproductive system and consistently babies too, contributing to miscarriage, premature delivery, low birth weight, sudden infant death and paediatric diseases, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorders. It is estimated that over 50% of children worldwide are exposed to tobacco smoke pollution in their homes. And millions of people from all countries are exposed to this tobacco smoke pollution, also known as second-hand smoke (SHS) and environmental tobacco smoke (ETS). There is conclusive evidence linking this passive smoking to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, lung cancer and other cancers, asthma and other respiratory diseases in adults and asthma and other respiratory diseases, ear infection and sudden infant death syndrome in children, to name but a few of passive smoking’s harmful effects. The right to breathe air not contaminated with tobacco smoke should be therefore unquestionable. To increase this awareness that smoking harms not only the person who smokes but also those around him/her, is especially important to protect people, especially children, from exposure to tobacco smoke pollution at home, where no legislation has effect.

Secondly, the economic costs of tobacco use are equally devastating. It is no longer the high public health costs of treating tobacco-caused diseases, since smoking is the single and biggest preventable cause of death and there exist too many unavoidable diseases with no resources to invest in them. Tobacco kills people at the height of their productivity, depriving families of breadwinners and nations of a healthy workforce. It is currently responsible for the death of one in ten adults worldwide (about 5 million deaths each year).

Tobacco plays a role in exacerbating poverty too. Many studies have shown that in the poorest households in some low-income countries as much as 10% of total household expenditure is on tobacco. This means that these families have less money to spend on basic items such as food, education and health care. In addition to its direct health effects, tobacco leads to malnutrition, increased health care costs and premature death. It also contributes to a higher illiteracy rate, since the money that could have been used for education is spent on tobacco instead

Combustible (or smoked) tobacco products are also among the leading causes of residential and forest fires in many countries. These fires destroy natural habitats, homes and other property, and kill smokers and non-smokers alike, including many children.

Finally I would like to point out that scientists have calculated that each cigarette cuts on average 11 minutes off the life of a male smoker, time that the smoker could share with his/her family and people who love him/her. As if that's not bad enough, smokers are likely to die a more painful death and spend longer being ill while they are alive. To be aware of this they just have to take a look at the patients who lie in the pneumology department of a hospital. Moreover, tobacco dependence itself is a disease, described in the International classification of diseases (ICD-10). As a chronic disease, often involving relapses, nicotine addiction has a proper treatment, and if the smokers want to give smoking up, they just have to find a doctor to help them to get over it. Do we need more reasons not to start, or to give it up?


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