Quit Tobacco to Be a Winner
World No Tobacco Day, observed on May 31 every year. It aims at spreading awareness about the dangers of using Tobacco. It all started with the WHO passing a resolution in 1987 proposing April 7, 1988, to be “a world no-smoking day”. In the subsequent year, WHO called for observation of “World No Tobacco Day”. May 31 was chosen to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the WHO. It has called for a worldwide ban on all tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship.
Tobacco is the product of fresh leaves of Nicotiana plants. The origin of Tobacco traced back to the US, from where it was introduced to Europe. It became popular and one of the major commercial crops. Data has shown that tobacco use led to an increase in the risk of chronic lung disease, cancer, and heart attacks. Tobacco smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, accounting for two-thirds of lung cancer deaths globally. Tobacco smoking is also the leading cause of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). The building up of mucous membrane in the lungs causes painful coughing and difficulty breathing. It is true of the use of Tobacco in any form, be it Cigarettes, Beedi, chewing Tobacco, snuff and Gutka.
Tobacco is the second major cause of death in the world. Half the people who smoke regularly (~ 650 million people) will eventually lose their lives due to its use. More alarming is the fact that many people who have never smoked die due to secondary smoking. Children exposed to passive smoking are at increased risk of respiratory infections. Globally, 60,000 children die before five due to respiratory infections due to secondary smoking. Tobacco smoke is a dangerous form of indoor air pollution: it contains many chemicals, many of which cause cancer.
The data is confirming that smokers are more vulnerable to develop severe disease with COVID-19. WHO reports that it has led to millions of smokers wanting to Quit Tobacco? Over 70% of the 1.3 billion tobacco users worldwide lack access to the tools they need to quit successfully. Technologies like AI are being used for making advocacy to quitting smoking. “Meet Florence”, WHO’s digital health worker to help you quit Tobacco [Using AI to quit Tobacco (who.int)]. “Florence” is a digital bot created with technology developed by companies from the US and New Zealand and support from Amazon and Google.
WHO recognises individuals or organisations for their accomplishments in tobacco control. Dr Harsh Vardhan, Hon’ble Minister, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, has been given WHO Director-General Special award. It was in recognition of his efforts leading to national legislation that bans E-cigarettes and heated tobacco products in India. The Madhya Pradesh Voluntary Health Association, State Tobacco Control Cell, Uttar Pradesh, have also been recognised by WHO to eliminate tobacco use.
In the last two decades, there has been an increase in tobacco production, especially in low- and middle-income countries. The top producers of Tobacco are China (39.6%), India (8.3%), Brazil (7.0%) and the United States (4.6%). Despite the evidence that labour-intensive tobacco cultivation is not profitable for smallholder farmers, the tobacco industry lures many of them to continue growing Tobacco. The perceived viability of Tobacco and the financial benefits that would follow are the reasons why farmers are continuing to grow Tobacco. There is a need to assist tobacco farmers and others employed in the tobacco sector to find viable alternative economic livelihoods. Child labour in the tobacco industry in developing countries is another evil the societies must fight to eliminate.
Commercial reasons are driving the continued cultivation of Tobacco. While observations of days like “World No Tobacco Day” are good to bring awareness about the ill effects of its use and provide support systems for people to quit smoking, there is an urgent need to introspect. Is it not the greed of human beings for worldly comforts and become rich, the impact of the health of many? The quantum of money spent on advertising the use of Tobacco can be a good source of money that can be deployed for enhancing wellbeing. The companies come out with novel ways of continuing to promote their tobacco products despite a legal ban. COVID pandemic taught another lesson, and smokers are ~50% higher risk of developing severe disease and death. Quitting is the best thing smokers can do.