Smoking: A Menace to Health [Archives:1999/25/Health]

June 21 1999

The World Health Organization has taken a firm stand against smoking, as many of its posters have illustrated. The emphasis seems to be on preventing youth from getting trapped into the smoking habit.
The world celebrated the International Day for Abstaining from Smoking on May 31, with the Slogan “The Season for Repentance against Smoking.” The focus is on the hazards smoking presents to health, and showing its economic and social hazards, with the aim of reducing the number of smokers.
There are laws and legislation prohibiting the sale of cigarettes and various tobacco products to teenagers in many countries. These have arisen in view of the widespread smoking of cigarettes by these people. The fight against smoking has taken different forms in different countries. Some are banning the sale of cigarettes to the young, others inflict penalties on smokers in public places, while others hike up taxes on cigarette sales, based on the motto, ” killing two birds with one stone.”
Yemen has, relatively speaking, not carried out any severe actions against smoking. In fact, the government engages in the manufacture and sale of cigarettes. Although there has been some legislation that bans smoking in public places (Council of Minister Decree – 1995), the efforts have not been seriously noticed in the public media. There has also been a tax levy imposed on the import of cigarettes.
The International Health Organization has given astounding figures: there are 1,100,000,000 smokers. This number is projected to reach 1.6 billion by the year 2025. The cost burden of smoking is estimated at US $ 200 billion per year. The number of deaths attributed to smoking has reached 500 million, and the major part of these deaths will be teenagers. 70% of the deaths will occur in developing nations. Researches have found that in year 2030 deaths from tobacco producers only will be around 15 million every year.
The International Statistics show that smoking has increased by 22% in Asia and by 42% in Africa. These increases divert the government’s concerns from stopping tobacco to making a profit from it. Unfortunately, they ignore the high prices incurred in treating the diseases caused by smoking.
In the developed countries, the government has imposed strict laws, and have imposed compensation payments on the tobacco companies that were around $US 1 billion.
This combat against smoking in the developed countries has made the tobacco producers shift their focus towards the developing countries, which still represent a huge and largely untapped market.
The Health research shows that the tobacco production companies advertise to attract the youth. This fact requires the national committees against smoking and various youth ministries to adopt responsibility for the youth, who represent the future. This could be done by familiarizing people with the hazards of smoking, and adding these fact to the curricula of schools.
Developing nations will be the main victims of smoking, or so says the statistical reports. They say that the third world nations are consuming a large number of tobacco products, and it has reached the point where 48% of men and 7% of women smoke. Some of the developing countries were able to get rid of diseases such as variola and other simple diseases, but it seems that they are going to exchange them with diseases caused by smoking such as cancer and heart diseases. Hence, it becomes very important to face this hazard and to take strict steps against smoking to save the coming generation from early death, and prevent the necessity of paying high prices for medical treatment.
The chemical composition of tobacco is as follows:
Tobacco contains around 4000 chemical substances, some of which are poisonous and others that cause cancer, such as the Poly Cyclic Hydrocarbons, and Nitrosamine.
The substances that are poisonous are as follows:
1- (Nicotine):- Is around 1-2% of a single cigarette. Nicotine is an anesthetic substance, it’s the one that increases the heart beat and the sweat. It is also responsible with carbon monoxide for dangerous effects on the heart and veins which lead to a reduction in the blood flow as well as increasing the percentage of Cholesterol.
2- (Tar):- This substance settles inside the lungs. One cigarette contains 15 gm of Tar, and around 50-70% of it settles inside the lungs. It may cause lung cancer, because it contains Poly Cyclic Hydrocarbons and Nitrosamine, and is also responsible for lung blockage.
3- (Carbon-monoxide):- Is one of the poisonous gases which can lead to death in fires and accidents. Its percentage in the cigarette smoke is around 1-14%, whereas it does not exceed 0.01% in Air. By smoking, the amount of haemoglobin in the blood is reduced because of the carbon monoxide.
4- Cyanide:- Is used in the execution by gas. Along with cyanide, tobacco contains other dangerous substances such as the Formaldehyde, Ammonia, Nitric Oxide and Amphenol.
The smoking combat program should be as follows:
1- Persuading the youth to abstain from smoking.The International Health studies shows that a hike in cigarette prices is one of the best ways to reduce the demand. A 10% hike in price reduces the demand by 8%.
2- Reduce the number of smokers in the society.
3- Establish an environment against smoking.
4- More media consolidation against smoking.
Advice that should be given to the smokers are as follows:
1- Explaining the benefits that the smoker will gain after he stops smoking.
2- Have a program where a former smoker could spend the time he used to spend smoking.
3- The abstaining person must inform his family and friends that he has stopped smoking.
4- Put the Non-smoking mark on his car, at home and at work.
5- Explaining to the smoker that he will benefit from the money spent on cigarette purchases.
6- Make him understand that he will feel the pride of himself and that he is a person with strong will.
Finally I would like to thank the committee to combat smoking for its efforts in discouraging people from smoking.
By: Yasser Mohamed Ahmed
Yemen Times