Now is the Time to Quit Tobacco and Choose Life

May 31, 2020

This ‘World No Tobacco Day’ (WNTD), I am back again to make you all aware about the harmful effects of tobacco and encourage tobacco users to quit tobacco in all forms. This year the
WHO WNTD theme is “protecting youth from industry manipulation and preventing them from tobacco and nicotine use”. The facts and figures that follow are to alert you all and help you make an informed decision of choosing life over tobacco, especially in COVID times.

More than 8 million people die due to tobacco related illnesses globally every year. Of these deaths, more than 7 million are from direct tobacco use, and the remaining due to the ill-effects of second-hand smoke. India has about 274 million tobacco users and almost 2500 Indians die due to smoking every day. According to Global Adult Tobacco Survey of India, tobacco use is prevalent in 35% of all Indian adults in some form. Its use is more prevalent in men. Even 12.5% of all teenagers use tobacco in some form in India.

Tobacco is available in 2 forms-
smoking and smokeless forms. Cigarette, bidi, cigar, hookah, sheesha, etc. are the smoking forms. Smokeless tobacco use is more prevalent in Indian women. Smokeless or chewable tobacco is available in form of paan, khaini, snuff, ghutka and paan masala etc. All these forms are harmful. More than 4,000 different chemicals have been found in tobacco. More than 60 of these chemicals are known to cause cancer. Nicotine in addition leads to addiction to tobacco.

There is another smokeless form available called
e- cigarette. It is an electronic device that emits a vaporized solution to inhale. This solution often contains nicotine and some other harmful substances. These devices are collectively called
Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), with varying amounts of nicotine and harmful emissions. They are available under various names, such as e-cigarettes, e-hookahs, vaporizer cigarettes, vapes, etc.

Though initially marketed by their manufacturers as tools for quitting or cutting down on smoking, they themselves are classified as tobacco products. They are also as harmful as other tobacco products. ENDS do increase the risk of heart disease and lung disorders. They can also harm the growing fetus if used by pregnant women. Thus both tobacco products and ENDS are very harmful to human health and it is wiser to stay away from all of them.

Tobacco adversely affects our health in many ways. Tobacco can cause obstructive airway disease, heart disease, stroke, peptic ulcer and sudden cardiac death. It is also a cause for dental decay, increased bone loss, reduced fertility, birth defects in newborn babies, cataract, and premature ageing. Its use increases the risk of many forms of cancers, including cancer of lung, head and neck, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, kidney, urinary bladder, cervix and even a type of blood cancer. It is responsible for almost 50% of all cancers in men and 25% of all cancers in women, in India. Life expectancy of smokers is at least 10 years shorter compared to non smokers.

In addition, tobacco harms not only the person who smokes it, but also those around that person. These passive smokers are also at increased risk of cancer and cardiovascular events. Children exposed to second hand smoke at home are more likely to suffer from cough, colds, sore throat, ear infection and possibly cardiovascular disorders and cancers as an adult.

If something is so harmful to our health, it makes all the sense to stay away from it. One must choose life over tobacco and make each day a No Tobacco Day! Also, it is never too late to quit. The beneficial effects of quitting tobacco become apparent as early as 20 minutes when elevated heart rate and blood pressure drop. Within 2 to12 weeks, both circulation and lung function improve. After 1 to 9 months, coughing and shortness of breath decrease. At 1 year, the risk of cardiovascular diseases is reduced by half. After 5 years, the stroke risk is reduced to that of a nonsmoker. At 10 years after quitting tobacco, the risk of lung cancer falls to about half that of a smoker and the risk of many other cancers decreases. Thus tobacco cessation definitely benefits an individual’s health. It not only impacts public health in a positive way, but also benefits our country’s economy.

The ongoing
COVID-19 pandemic has made the world again realise the importance of health in every aspect of human life. Health is the true wealth for an individual and the nation. Research has reported that smokers are more likely to develop severe disease with COVID-19, compared to non-smokers. COVID-19 primarily attacks the lungs. Smoking affected lungs find it harder to fight off corona viruse. Thus as per WHO reports, smokers are at higher risk of developing severe disease and death due to COVID-19.

The tobacco industry over the years has tried to attract the youth by promoting its sale to young people. They have been able to influence them by attractive advertising through various social media platforms. My message to the public, and especially the youth on this
World No Tobacco Day on
31st May is to take a pledge now to keep your life tobacco free in post COVID era.

  • All forms of tobacco are harmful, even e-cigarette.
  • Tobacco can cause lung and heart diseases and many types of cancers.
  • Smokers are at higher risk of developing severe COVID-19 disease and death due to it.
  • Choose life over tobacco.
  • Make every day a no tobacco day.

Dr. Jyoti Wadhwa

MD (Medicine, A.I.I.M.S.), DM (Medical Oncology, A.I.I.M.S.)

Commonwealth Scholar (Hammersmith Hospital, London, UK)

Director in Department of Medical Oncology,

Medanta -The Medicity Hospital, Gurgaon.

(The author has written this article to raise public awareness on the occasion World No Tobacco Day)

Disclaimer: This article has been produced on behalf of Dr. Jyoti Wadhwa by Mediawire team.

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