Tobacco- The Silent Killer
By: M Ahmad
The tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced, killing more than 8 million people a year, including around 1.2 million deaths from exposure to second-hand smoke. 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. In 2021, 22.5% of the global population used tobacco, 36.9% of all men and 8.1% of the world’s women. All forms of tobacco are harmful, and there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco. Cigarette smoking is the most common form of tobacco use worldwide.
Other tobacco products include waterpipe tobacco, various smokeless tobacco products, cigars, cigarillos, roll-your-own tobacco, pipe tobacco, bidis and kreteks. Over 80% of the 1.3 billion tobacco users worldwide live in low- and middle-income countries, where the burden of tobacco-related illness and death is heaviest. Tobacco use contributes to poverty by diverting household spending from basic needs such as food and shelter to tobacco.
There are almost 267 million tobacco users in India.Among adults (age 15+), 28.6% of the population currently uses tobacco products (men 42.4%; women 14.2%).21.4% of adults use smokeless tobacco (men 29.6%; women 12.8%) 10.7% of adults smoke (men 19.0%; women 2.0%) The majority of adult smokers smoke bidis (7.7% of adults overall) Among youth (ages 13–15): 8.5% currently use some form of tobacco (boys 9.6%; girls 7.4%); and 4.1% smoke tobacco and 4.1% use smokeless tobacco.
30.2% of adults are exposed to secondhand smoke in indoor workplaces, 7.4% are exposed in restaurants, and 13.3% are exposed in public transportation. 21% of youth (ages 13–15) are exposed to secondhand smoke in enclosed public places, and 11% are exposed at home. Smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke kill about 1.2 million Indians each year. India accounts for 70% of the global burden of smokeless tobacco. Smokeless tobacco use kills over 230,000 Indians each year. Nearly 90% of oral cancers in India are attributable to smokeless tobacco use.Bidi and cigarette smokers die 6 to 10 years earlier than their non-smoking counterparts.27% of all cancers in India are attributable to tobacco use.
National Family Health Survey conducted in 2019–20 The prevalence of tobacco use among men has declined in most states, except Sikkim, Goa, Bihar, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, and Mizoram, where an upward trend can be seen. In the case of women, the prevalence has declined in almost all states except Mizoram and Sikkim. Tobacco use in north eastern states remains a challenge5, where prevalence is still quite high. The prevalence of tobacco use in rural areas is higher than in urban areas. Mizoram 72% followed by Andaman and Nicobar Islands 58.7% lowest in Kerala 16.1%, in J&K it is 38.3%
Tobacco use in youths is a major public health challenge globally, and approaches to the challenge have not been sufficiently addressed. As per the official data shared by Union Health Ministry, a total of 21,016 persons have died due to cancer during the period of 2018 to 2020 in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. China is the largest producer and consumer of tobacco in the world. There are more than 300 million smokers in China, nearly one-third of the world’s total. More than half of adult men are current tobacco smokers. About one in every three cigarettes smoked in the world is smoked in China.
According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), tobacco contributes to 30% of all cancers amongst men and women of our country. Mouth cancer followed by lung cancer is the commonest cancer in men. 42% of male and 18% of female deaths are attributed to tobacco-related cancers in India. Within 10 seconds of its first puff, the toxic chemicals in tobacco smoke reach our brain, heart and other organs. Smoking harms almost every part of our body and increases our risk of many diseases. Smoking also affects our look and feel, our finances and the people close to us.
To deal with this “Silent Killer” almost all countries have taken measures to control the consumption of tobacco with usage and sales restrictions as well as warning messages printed on packaging. Additionally, smoke-free laws that ban smoking in public places such as workplaces, theaters, and bars and restaurants have been enacted to reduce exposure to secondhand smoke. Tobacco taxes that increase the price of tobacco products have also been enacted.
The best way to avoid getting sick from smoking is to never start. Without smoking, we can: Live longer, reduce our risk of cardiovascular, pulmonary & other diseases, feel healthier and have more energy, look and feel better, improve our sense of taste and smell and save money. Choosing to quit smoking is a huge step toward living a healthy life. Though it may feel insurmountable, it’s not. Quitting is the right thing to do for your health as well as wealth. Replacing the smoke on your face with a smile today will replace illness in your life with happiness tomorrow. Quit now
Quitting smoking is rather a marathon than a sprint. It is not a one-time attempt, but a longer effort-Aristotle
The writer, Former IncahrgeAbhedananada Home-Higher Secondary Institution for Inclusive Education, Srinagar, J&K and can be reached at [email protected])