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Vol. 3 No. 2 - April 1997

Kick Tobacco Out of Our Lives!

By: Amit Pal

In economically developed countries, about 3 million people die each year from smoking, half of them before the age of 70, and these represent about twenty percent of all deaths. Cancers of eight different sites are directly associated with smoking, and six other potentially fatal diseases are also judged to be caused by smoking. There is no doubt that smoking kills, and attitudes to the habit have changed rapidly in the past 30 years.

One million people die in India each year due to tobacco-related diseases such as cancer, bronchitis, ulcer, heart attacks, and hemiplegias. Ten percent of school children between 11 and 15 years of age smoke. Fifty five percent men and sixteen percent women of more than fifteen years are group are regular tobacco addicts. The rate among schedule tribes and schedule castes are about twelve to fourteen percent higher than the national average. The rates in rural areas are higher by about eighteen percent than in urban areas.
Tobacco smoke contains 4,000 chemicals of which 43 are carcinogenic - cancer-causing substances. Smoking, mainly of cigarettes causes cancer of the lung, upper respiratory tract, esophagus, bladder and pancreas and probably of the stomach, liver, and kidney. Smoking is implicated in chronic myelocytic leukemia and may also cause cancer of the colons and rectum and other organs. Whether smoking will result in malignancy depends on several factors, including the frequency of smoking, the cigarettes "tar" content, and most important the duration of habit. Taking up the habit while very young substantially amplifies the risk. The risks vary from one type of cancer to another, thus on average, smokers are twice as likely to be afflicted with cancer of the bladder but eight times more likely to contract cancer of the lung.

Nicotine, an additive substance which releases from burning tobacco, attatches itself to tiny bits of tar. The tar gets into the lungs and is absorbed in the blood stream, research the brain and constricts the blood vessels, raises blood pressure, gives the ventral nervous system a small jolt, in the long run it can lead to reproductive disorders, lung cancer, emphysema, and coronary heart disease. "Smoking is hazardous to health" - the statutory warning on cigarette packs exists on paper only. Do you know:

  1. One third of all cancers are due to tobacco?

  2. Each cigarette reduces your life span by 5.5 minutes?

  3. Ninety nine percent of the population in rural India is unaware of any side effects of tobacco use?

What, then, is the remedy?

It is in this context I should refer, the need to involve more and more of our youngsters. Creation of mass awareness of the ill-effects of bad practices is a good starting point. Of course, think globally, act locally.

The 2,200 villagers of Koolimadu of Kerala, have taken it seriously. With the district administration declaring it tobacco-free, smoking has just been banned in this tiny hamlet, you run the risk of being excommunicated for a day if you flout the ban (India Today, Dec 15, 1996). Today "Koolimadu is tobacco-free zone". We need more and more Koolimadu villages. In USA, "no pack to under 18s" regulation introduced by the Federal Drug Agency (FDA), require the venders to ask "ID please" before they let the pack of cigarettes out for the money slipped in. The regulation requires the sellers of tobacco products to check that the buyers are at least 18 years old. FDA banned tobacco ads on TV. Next in line is ban on sponsorship by cigarette companies of sporting events, concerts and display of their logos on baseball caps and T-shirts.

But in our country only one word is possible - "please" - stop smoking, save family - SAVE OUR ENVIRONMENT.

This article has been reproduced from the archives of EnviroNews - Newsletter of ISEB India.

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