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  • Raghav Sand

Smoking is the Worst Form of Self-Harm and Suffocating for Those Around You.

Cigarette smoking is not just a bad habit; it’s a serious and complicated addiction. Trying to quit it is one of the biggest challenges a smoker will ever face. Yes, it is difficult to quit, but every difficult task is worth a try. Humans have learned to conquer distractions for their own good in the past and with help of proper medicinal supplements and monitoring, tobacco and smoking addiction can be defeated.

Lectures and scolding won’t help your friend or family member quit smoking. It might just put you on their bad side, and they may not come to you for help when they really need it. Supporting someone who is trying to quit smoking can be frustrating and exhausting. Focus on staying upbeat. Don’t give up on them. Your support is important.

Let us Quantify the Problem

The tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced, killing more than 8 million (1 million = 10 lakh) 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. 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.

Over 80% of the 1.3 billion (130 crore) 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. Most people who smoke started it when they were teenagers. Those who have friends and/or parents who smoke are more likely to start smoking than those who don’t. Some teenagers say that they “just wanted to try it,” or they thought it was “cool” to smoke. Almost all the smokers begin smoking before they turn 26 years old.

Instant Ecstasy, Permanent Harm

Nicotine and other chemicals in tobacco smoke are easily absorbed into the blood through the lungs. From there, nicotine quickly spreads throughout the body. When taken in small amounts, nicotine causes pleasant feelings and distracts the user from unpleasant feelings. This makes the tobacco user want to use more. It acts on the chemistry of the brain and central nervous system, affecting mood. Nicotine works very much like other addicting drugs, by flooding the brain’s reward circuits with a chemical called dopamine. Smokeless tobacco delivers a high dose of nicotine. Nicotine enters the bloodstream from the mouth or nose and is carried to every part of the body.

World No Tobacco Day is celebrated around the world every year on May 31. Awareness campaigns about the harmful effects of smoking around this time of the year garner attention but the interest gets deflated quickly. The seriousness of the problem should make quit-smoking campaigns a year-round event.

Too Much, Too Soon

Tobacco farmers should be encouraged to cultivate other crops. On one hand, the Government is trying to reduce the use of tobacco products, and on the other hand it is mindful about increasing farmer income. If farmers are incentivized to grow tobacco, their overall yield will grow at a lower cost. Pricing of a product is a function of demand and supply. When higher quantity of raw tobacco makes its way to the market, the affordability of cigarette and other non-smoking tobacco products will improve. There is a reason why most campaigns about discouraging the use of tobacco products fail miserably. The haste in trying to achieve too much, too soon is self-defeating. Rather, having a multi-pronged approach can deliver desired results.

Tobacco Laws in Letter and Spirit

After over a decade of the implementation of smoke-free rules (on October 2, 2008) that banned smoking in all public places in India, questions remain over the effectiveness of the law. Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce Production, Supply and Distribution) Act COTPA 2003 prohibits smoking in all public places. ‘Public Place’ is defined as any place to which the public has access, whether as of right or not, and includes all places visited by general public. Boards containing the warning, “No Smoking Area- Smoking Here is an Offence”, has to be displayed prominently at the entrance of public places. According to information submitted by the Health Ministry in the Lok Sabha recently, ₹37,33,64,148 had been collected by the government as fines from people for violating COTPA. A total of 26,16,050 people were fined during the period 2007-08 to 2020-21 (up to June 2020).

The Silent Killer

Passive smoking is the unintentional inhalation of smoke in the air or contact with its chemical constituents emerging from the burning end of a cigarette, bidi or any other means, and also the smoke breathed out by smokers. The use of tobacco constitutes the single largest source of preventable deaths worldwide. Tobacco use is also a major cause of non-communicable diseases that account for about 62% of avoidable deaths in India. There is very little or no awareness about passive smoking (second-hand smoking) and it being injurious to health like first-hand tobacco smoking.

Smoking is prevalent inside Indian houses—48.8% in all households and 45.5% in non-smoker households—with higher burden in rural India. A little more than one-third of non-smoking adults are exposed to passive smoking inside their homes. Prevalence of second-hand smoke inside homes is higher amongst females, due to obvious reasons. In addition, one in four of all adults are exposed to second-hand smoke in public places. Pregnant women exposed to second-hand smoke have increased risk of congenital abnormalities, stillbirth, low-birth weight and respiratory illnesses in the baby.

Quit Smoking and Live Better

It is never too late to quit a bad habit. We are all mortal beings and have a finite life. There are unavoidable ways which can bring an end to human life, like serious illness, common health complications associated with ageing or fatal accident. Why should then someone cultivate a self-harm indulgence? Don’t you as a tobacco product consumer care about your family or country? You are a better person than what you think about yourself. As a well-wisher, all I can do is, request you to seriously contemplate to quit smoking. And, if someone from your family or friend circle is a smoker or tobacco user, try to engage with them politely and constructively and help them to help themselves.

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