Commit to Quit
Just as I shut down my laptop, brooding over being subjected to seven hours of online lectures, Savitri, my indispensable household barged into the room, anxious, agitated, and profusely sweating. “I need it. It satisfies my hunger, it’s my only friend!” She cried out. Today was the third day since she finally quit it, fragile amidst her agonizing battle against the cravings for tobacco. As I comforted her, I wondered how many more people out there, are completely oblivious of tobacco, arranging their own slow death.
Tobacco. This universally accepted silent killer causes over 8 million deaths each year, murdering up to half of its active users and several non-users on being exposed to secondhand or third-hand smoke. About 23% of all adults are smokers, which seems dwarfed by the fact that 30% of adolescents indulge in some form of tobacco, reinforcing that the average age for the first use of tobacco is just Thirteen.
The fatal pleasures of tobacco, cater to countless masses by means of a copious array of products ranging from cigarettes, cigars, and chewable tobacco ( gutka), to exotic hookahs, all equally lethal. A concoction of around 4800 chemicals, with 69 of them being carcinogenic, the cigarette smoke generates a diverse variety of dangerous sequelae, such as Coronary artery disease, asthma, malignancies of vital organs, COPD, and many more, contributing significantly to a drastic decrease in life span and diminished quality of life. In addition, indulgence in nicotine, while pregnant, accounts for about 10% of all infant deaths. Despite this, a significant fraction of all pregnant women smoke.
Regarded as one of the leading preventable causes of morbidity and mortality, tobacco use, exceeding its enormous toll of disease, suffering, and death, also burdens the global economy. Annually, an estimated 1.4 trillion U.S. dollars are spent on healthcare costs, lost productivity, fire damage, and environmental harm. Inevitably pushing lives in a downward spiral, because someone once said, “the wretcheder one is, the more one smokes; and the more one smokes, the wretcheder one gets— in a vicious circle.”
The ongoing pandemic of COVID-19 is showing us the mirror, reflecting the dire risks posed by tobacco to our health and wellbeing. Smokers face a 40–50% higher threat of developing severe disease and death from COVID-19.
On the other side of the coin, the present situation is set to be a remarkable motivation for tobacco addicts to quit it and be a winner. It’s high time we allied ourselves with the forces of change, to facilitate the transition, in our capacity at various tiers. Every little contribution potentiates the achievement of the goals set.
Charity begins at home, but should not end there. Let’s start with our family, friends, and household making them AWARE of the hazards of tobacco. As medical students or healthcare workers, we can VOLUNTEER for various government organizations and NGOs to propagate in schools and colleges, the anti-tobacco concept put forward by the World Health Organisation.
Social media, print media, and electronic media reforms are a must to curb the advertisements of tobacco or nicotine products. Counselling Parents and adolescents, to mitigate the effects of peer pressure, busting the myths of ‘being cool’ when one makes use of tobacco.
Timely interventions in the global health policies as well as state and central government laws to levy a heavy tax on tobacco products, imposing stringent rules on manufacturing tobacco products, in order to suppress and discourage its consumption while aiming to bring about a complete and effective ban on tobacco products in the long run. Successful implementation of the above action plan would bring about a mammoth boost to executing the vision of a tobacco-free world.
This, World No Tobacco Day, be a winner, and commit to quitting tobacco. As Nelson Mandela once said, “It always seems impossible, unless it’s done.”
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Written By: Taj Prabhugaunker, 2nd-year MBBS, Goa Medical College