Zeeshan Rasool Khan

No Tobacco -Prioritize your Health

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Recently, the Global Adult Tobacco Survey indicated that smoking and tobacco use causes 8-9 lac deaths annually all around the world. The survey further revealed that the state of Jammu and Kashmir is among top states losing lives to tobacco and spends more than other states on tobacco products. This reflects that we, as a society, have been unsuccessful in restraining the menace of tobacco and our endeavors have been ineffective and insufficient.

Tobacco imposes a prodigious burden of disease and death leading to catastrophic health, social, economic and environmental effects. The relationship between the use of tobacco and dreadful diseases is well established and well known today. Tobacco Smoking is hazardous to health and a causative agent of many physiological problems, like; cardiovascular problems, emphysema, tuberculosis, digestive malfunctioning, chromosomal abnormality etc. The Cigarette (tobacco wrapped in a paper) is now commonly described as ‘Cancer-Stick’ due to its link with cancer. According to American Lung Association, there are about 600 ingredients in a cigarette, which on burning produce 7000 chemicals, 69 of which cause various kinds of Cancer; lung cancer, lip cancer, kidney cancer and cancer of the larynx. Moreover, the fact that smoking is the gateway to illicit drug use has escalated the problem.

Even after knowing these facts, why are people still lighting up a cigarette or using tobacco in other ways?. This is a crucial question; we need to ponder over before pressing for curbing and controlling this menace

The reasons, why people smoke, are many, which include social and psychological factors; however, the addictive nature of tobacco is the biggest concern. If we say; the initiating tobacco use itself is a major cause behind the use of tobacco and thus smoking, we will not be wrong. As a matter of fact, Tobacco contains a highly addictive chemical called ‘Nicotine’. Nicotine is considered more addictive as compared to heroin and cocaine. Once a person uses nicotine, after that desire for it intensifies. It is a scientifically proven fact when smoke is inhaled; the nicotine present in it is absorbed into the bloodstream and is transported to all body organs instantly. Within a few seconds, it reaches the brain and causes the release of hormone- adrenaline –the hormone that gives the smoker /user pleasurable feeling. Smokers are not wrong when they say; Smoking helps in releasing tension and settles their nerves. The hormone – adrenaline really causes so. It decreases anxiety and makes the person feel high. But, in fact, this impact is momentary and doesn’t last long, but makes a person dependable throughout the life. After the first experiment with smoking, the user begins to crave more and more smoke. This craving forces the user to keep taking nicotine and finally leads to addiction, which is very difficult to shun later. Youngsters especially teenagers need to understand beforehand the intricacies associated with smoking and use of tobacco products and its influence on their lives. Thus, the best way to quit smoking is never to start it in the first place as is said ‘Be smart; don’t start’. However, this suggestion holds good only for those who have never smoked or tried tobacco before.

Many, who have smoked or are smoking too, are highly motivated to leave smoking but are not able to do so easily. Though quitting smoking is tough, it is not impossible. There exist many myths related to smoking like; Smokers have no sufficient willpower to stop smoking, they have addictive personalities etc. All of these are untrue. There are many examples where chain-smokers succeeded in quitting smoking. At this point, it is important to note that the ways of giving up smoking depend upon ‘why’ a person smokes. And a person can start the ‘stop-smoking strategy’ accordingly. If a person is a smoker because of unpleasant situations/conditions, he is caught in, he needs to devise a plan to handle the situation rather than turning to a cigarette/tobacco. A person must discern that ‘bad times come and go, but the health once deteriorated is hard to recuperate’. Similarly, people smoking for fun, to kill boredom or to change chaos into calm must realize the fact that the calmness brought by smoking is short-lived but restlessness that it brings towards the end can be devastating.

There are people who seem to be unmoved and are less concerned about their habit. Besides ruining themselves, they cause harm to others through second-hand smoke. Some people are so inexorable that they never bother about others sitting around them and infringe the fundamental right of the non-smokers that is to breathe pure air. Here, in reality, lack of education is the underlying problem. And it is the responsibility of every sentient citizen to create the consciousness about the health risks of smoking.

It is outrightly commendable and heartening that government expresses concern and is showing interest towards this matter. ‘Cigarette and other tobacco products act (COTPA) 2003’ represented government’s keenness in tobacco control. This act prohibits smoking in public places, advertisement of tobacco products, and does not permit the selling of tobacco to minors (below the age of 18yrs). Also, it emphasized manufacturers to have pictorial warning of a skull or scorpion, in addition to the warning in text format reading ‘smoking kills’ etc. In addition to this, there are many other provisions directed to contain and put a bridle on the spike of this problem. But, unluckily, we are in a society where most of the people believe ‘laws are meant to be broken’ irrespective of the nature of the law. Like other laws, COTPA has not been much effective. Obviously, there is a need to devise a proper plan of action to implement laws in letter and spirit. Increasing the applicability of the act is also desirable. Furthermore, all other associations and concerned people, including Physicians, activists, teachers, and parents must continue their efforts and work collaboratively with authorities to reinforce each other. When government and common masses would be in sync on this issue, then all our attempts would find realization and tobacco menace will not be difficult to contain.

The writer tweets @ zeeshan_rk and can be mailed at [email protected]

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