Tobacco became one of the biggest global threats and a leading cause of death and disability in the world. The constant rise in tobacco consumption statistics, make India the world’s largest population of smokers.
Smoking has become a social behaviour by young adults and about 56% of minors fall into the group of consuming cigarettes or other forms of tobacco with peer influence and curiosity being the major factors of influencing them to initiate smoking.
It is believed that India sells over 400 brands with over 150 flavors targeting the youth aggressively, leading to subsequent habit formation in them. Tobacco now being abundantly available at a cheaper cost in the market along with other forms of products like Cigars, Pipes, E-Cigarettes, Hookahs, etc.
The smoke released from these products has a complex chemical blend of tobacco and its additives. Nicotine is primarily responsible for a person’s dependence or addiction to tobacco products. It is a poison that can kill a person by paralyzing the breathing muscles if taken in large doses. Likewise, there are more than 7,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke and over 70 are known to cause cancer. Some of these components also cause heart and lung diseases that can be fatal.
The chemicals weaken the immune system of the body, making it difficult to fight against cancer and damage or change a cell’s DNA leading to uncontrolled cell growth causing different types of cancer like nasopharynx, larynx, paranasal sinuses, pharynx, nasal cavity, lip, mouth, esophagus, and bladder. It has also been shown to develop cancers of the pancreas, ovary, cervix, colorectum, stomach, kidney, and some types of leukemia.
With tobacco being one of the major health concerns, government has enacted various tobacco control measures for youth smokers; like no tobacco sales to individuals under the age of 18, no minors handling or selling tobacco products and ban of tobacco sale within 100 yards of educational institutions. In-spite of such strict laws there are youngsters smoking or being involved in the sales of it. It is important to revisit the tobacco control laws and address the existing barriers. This will ensure that youth cessation occurs early, preventing the disease or death caused by tobacco use.
Creating awareness through media campaigns and environmental changes, such as increasing the price of tobacco products, making all work and public places smoke-free and counselling regarding smoking cessation into medical consultations can help us fight this menace of the society.
In the end, I would like to sum up with an age old adage - “Where there is a will, there is a way,”and will is generated through awareness.
World No Tobacco Day focuses on spreading awareness about the dangers of using tobacco and how a number of health problems can be averted when one quits smoking, or better tackled by doctors. It gives a fresh opportunity to the tobacco users to determine to quit and lead a healthier life.
By Dr Sheh Rawat is a Senior Consultant - Radiation Oncology at American Oncology Institute, Hisar