Tobacco Facts: Creating Awareness

What is Tobacco ?

Tobacco is a plant grown for its leaves, which are dried and fermented before being put in tobacco products. Tobacco contains nicotine, an ingredient that can lead to addiction, which is why so many people who use tobacco find it difficult to quit.

Tobacco is available in many forms, including cigarettes, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco, and snuff or snus (a powder that is sniffed or put between the lower lip or cheek and gums). Nicotine also is available in non-tobacco products, including gum, patches and other smoking cessation aids. 

The tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced, killing more than 8 million people a year around the world. More than 7 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while around 1.2 million are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.

Second-hand smoking is more dangerous.

Second-hand smoke is the smoke that fills restaurants, offices or other enclosed spaces when people burn tobacco products such as cigarettes, bidis and water-pipes. There is no safe level of exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke. In adults, second-hand smoke causes serious cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, including coronary heart disease and lung cancer. In infants, it raises the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. In pregnant women, it causes pregnancy complications and low birth weight.

Almost half of children regularly breathe air polluted by tobacco smoke in public places. Second-hand smoke causes more than 1.2 million premature deaths per year. 65 000 children die each year from illnesses attributable to second-hand smoke.

Why is tobacco used ?

Humans have been using tobacco for many years for a variety of reasons. It has been used to increase alertness or to relax and connect with friends and acquaintances at social gatherings. Whereas someone may smoke a cigarette to relax after work, using tobacco as a tool to relieve stress may lead to reaching for a cigarette whenever they feel irritated or tense. If we use tobacco to help us concentrate, in time it may get difficult for us to study and work without smoking.

Effects of tobacco use

There are many long and short-term adverse health consequences associated with tobacco use. Tobacco smoke contains more than 4,000 different chemical compounds, at least 60 of these have been identified as carcinogens (cancer-causing agents) and 30 identified metals, some of which are radioactive.

Tobacco smoking can lead to lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema. It increases the risk of heart disease, which can lead to stroke or heart attack. Smoking has also been linked to other cancers, leukemia, cataracts, Type 2 Diabetes, and pneumonia.

WHO policy to prohibit the use of tobacco

Six preventive and prohibitive methods recommended by the WHO to empower tobacco users in battling the habit:

  • Monitor tobacco use and prevention policies
  • Protect people from tobacco use 
  • Offer help to quit tobacco use
  •  Warn about the dangers of tobacco
  •  Enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship
  • Raise taxes on tobacco

Getting addicted may be easy. However, de-addiction and convincing people to give up tobacco is a combination of time, perseverance, persistence, and understanding. While laws, legislations, and prohibitory warnings can help, the idea should not be to instill a sense of fear in people or provoke them. If anything, these should motivate them towards making healthier life choices and quit this deadly habit for good

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