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Tobacco has become one of the biggest public health threats globally, as well as in our country. Nearly 267 million adults (15 years and above) in India (29 percent of all adults) are users of tobacco, as per the Global Adult Tobacco Survey India (2017). About 28.6 per cent of the population in India which translates to 1 in every 5, use smokeless tobacco and 1 in every 10 people smoke. On World No Tobacco Day, let us remind ourselves that the side effects of smoking can’t be ignored.
Tobacco is a contributing factor for almost all cancers – either directly or indirectly. It’s also possibly the only causative factor leading to a 50 percent increased risk of cancer. Since it affects the body on every level, severe respiratory conditions and heart disease is a major concern. While cigarette smoking is known to be the predominant cause of lung cancer, what is less well known is that it can cause many other types of cancers, including bladder, cervical, colorectal, esophageal, kidney, laryngeal and hypopharyngeal, liver, oral and oropharyngeal as well as pancreatic cancers.
What makes the situation worse is that while smoking can cause cancer, it can also inhibit the body from fighting it. Poisonous substances found in cigarette smoke have a detrimental impact on the body’s immune system, affecting the response to cancer. When this happens, cancer cells can begin to proliferate rapidly. Poisons in tobacco smoke can damage or alter the cell’s DNA too, thereby triggering uncontrolled growth, developing into a cancerous tumour. While we see treatment options improving and medical advancements leading to better outcomes, lung cancer still kills more men and women than any other type of cancer.
As per research and studies conducted across the globe, it has emerged that cigarette sales rose for the first time in 20 years during the Covid-19 pandemic. Since people were working from home, they could smoke whenever they wanted, which meant more frequent nicotine intake. Studies also show that Gen-Z was the most stressed generation during the pandemic, so cigarettes became a stress management mechanism. Unfortunately, many youngsters relate the effects of smoking to the older generation and so for the younger population, it can feel like something that won’t affect them until far in the future.
The silver lining is that cancer and other tobacco-related diseases are not just preventable, but in many cases, the damage is reversible. Hence, quitting and even inspiring others to quit should be our objective, to keep ourselves and the world around us safe and healthy. It’s never an easy task to quit, the cravings and urge to reach out for a cigarette can be very powerful. However, with determination and support from family and friends, one can always stay committed and win the battle against addiction.
Interestingly, quitting smoking can lower the risk for 12 types of cancer including those of lung, larynx, oral cavity and pharynx, oesophagus, pancreas, bladder, stomach, colon and rectum, liver, cervix, kidney, and acute myeloid leukaemia. Within 5-10 years of quitting, any chances of developing cancers of the mouth, throat, or voice box drops by half. Within 10 years of quitting, chances of getting cancer of bladder, oesophagus, or kidney decrease. With 10-15 years after quitting, risk of lung cancer drops by half. Within 20 years of quitting, risk of getting cancer of the mouth, throat, voice box, or pancreas drops to close to that of someone who does not smoke. Also, the risk of cervical cancer drops by about half.
Quitting smoking is the most significant step to improve the length and quality of life.
Smoking cigarettes cumulatively over years can cause an economic strain for some.
Second-hand smoke can make people sicker and vulnerable to infections.
Cigarette smoke and cigarette buds are a huge contributor to air and land pollution.
So, let your body breathe free and commit to quitting NOW!