Tobacco Free Day

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Cigarette smoking is the leading public health problem in Western countries and is the major preventable cause of disease and death.

Smoking is an addiction, learned behavior, and social dependence. We are talking about smoking. I am of the theory that things should be said without mincing words, to be as transparent as possible, even if the information feels bad to some people.

The problem

Smoking has many problems. Let’s start by saying that most people start smoking before the age of 20. Gradually, the situations in which they usually smoke become associated with the reinforcing effects of nicotine.

Betty Boop © Solkes

So, they start smoking when they have a cup of coffee, during their break at work, or between classes at university.

They are always surrounded by other people who smoke and this makes it very difficult for them to give up their addiction.

The conditioning that occurs in such a context is one of the most important causes of relapse. 

Other factors associated with smoking are the social environment and many key moments of life in our society: weddings, birthdays, baptisms, or any type of social celebrations, including sporting events.

Smoking continues to be a symbol of initiation into adult life and an element of identification with the group.

Believe it or not, I know its not going to be strange for many, smoking continues to be seen as a coming of age milestone or symbol and an easy way to fit it.

The world day

World No Tobacco and Lung Health Day are celebrated on May 31 each year. It was created by the World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners. And they use it as another opportunity to raise awareness about the harmful and lethal effects of tobacco use and exposure to second-hand smoke, and to discourage tobacco use in any form.

I know it sounds repetitive, but exposure to tobacco in any form is the leading preventable cause of death in the world. Currently, one in every ten adults worldwide dies today.

A.Soles © Solkes

So, being such a serious problem, several organizations and governments around the world have decided to attack this problem. And how do they do it? Well, it is not an easy task.

As with other diseases, the best strategies to tackle the problem are prevention and control, which should cover two aspects:

1. Address it socially. This is achieved through policies of smoke-free spaces, free of advertising, and controlling the promotion of smoking behavior, which is carried out through advertising.

2. Disinhabit tobacco addiction. Provide effective help to people to quit smoking, minimizing the risk of relapse, with therapeutic support that is not limited to pharmacological interventions, but also psychosocial.

Who is affected

When smoking, not only smokers are affected, but also the people closest to them, the passive smokers.

Tobacco consumption kills almost 6 million people every year, a figure that is expected to rise to more than 8 million deaths per year by 2030 if countermeasures are not intensified.

Tobacco is harmful to everyone, causing illness and death, impoverishing families, and weakening national economies through increased healthcare costs.

In addition, tobacco cultivation uses large amounts of toxic pesticides and fertilizers that pollute water and cause desertification.

There are many reasons why you should quit smoking, but undoubtedly the most powerful is your health. Here are some of the most direct consequences of how tobacco affects your health.

There are four main harmful effects of tobacco:

Nicotine: the main component of tobacco, it produces dependence.

Carbon monoxide: it is a gas that comes from the incomplete combustion of the tobacco strand and also from any product in combustion, starting with the fumes of internal combustion vehicles, whether gasoline or diesel.

Irritant gases: gases that affect the respiratory system.

Carcinogenic substances: various potentially carcinogenic substances have been detected in tobacco smoke, such as benzopyrene, which is formed during the combustion of tobacco, cigarette paper, or the tar used as a binder in cigarette stubble.

Health effects

People who smoke tend to suffer from many health problems. Mainly lung cancer, but it has also been shown that tumors can appear in other parts of the body such as the larynx, pharynx, mouth, esophagus, bladder, kidney, and pancreas.

Nessa Twix © Solkes

There are also studies that show that smoking is a factor that causes a higher risk of suffering leukemia and cancers of the stomach, breast, liver, and uterus.

Smoking increases your heart rate and blood pressure, which forces the heart to overexert itself and directly increases the risk of coronary heart disease.

Many smokers suffer from chronic bronchitis and emphysema. All of these symptoms can cause serious diseases of the respiratory system, the most serious being chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Both men and women who smoke can decrease their fertile capacity, but also in the case of men, it can cause erectile dysfunction.

Women smokers have a higher risk of miscarriages and complications in pregnancy and childbirth. As if this wasn’t enough, babies born to mothers who smoke are often born with lower birth weight, which is associated with a higher risk of death and infant disease during infancy and early childhood.

Benefits of quitting smoking

Apart from the first moments in which you will have a hard time because of the abstinence syndrome, your body will quickly start to recover its lost abilities:

Within hours of quitting, oxygen in the body increases, and carbon dioxide decreases.

In just 24 hours, you will notice a decrease in accumulated mucus.

A.Soles © Solkes

In only 2 days, the senses of smell and taste will be normalized. However, you may feel some anxiety, as the withdrawal syndrome begins more strongly.

In 3 days you will feel much more energetic because your body has eliminated most of the nicotine and your bronchial tubes start to work well. You may be more irritable and feel like smoking.

In two weeks you will have controlled the withdrawal episodes much better. And you will also be able to do sports more effectively.

In about six months, your cough disappears and you will get fewer upper respiratory infections or common colds.

In one year, the risk of having a heart attack is reduced by half.

In 10 years, the chance of getting lung cancer is halved.

In 15 years, the risk of cardiac arrest is equal to that of a non-smoker and the lungs are fully restored.

As you can see, the benefits of quitting smoking arise from the very first moment, and as time goes by, they are all advantages.

How change is being achieved

Governments reduce the harm caused by tobacco by adopting and implementing the provisions of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, including those that reduce the demand for tobacco, as well as those that reduce the production, distribution, availability, and supply of tobacco.

Betty Boop © Solkes

The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) is the first treaty negotiated under the auspices of the World Health Organization.

It is an evidence-based treaty that reaffirms the right of all people to the highest attainable standard of health. It also represents a paradigm shift in the development of a regulatory strategy to address addictive substances. It establishes the importance of demand reduction strategies, in addition to supply issues.

The basic measures of this convention are:

1. Price and fiscal measures to reduce the demand for tobacco.

2. Non-price measures to reduce tobacco demand.

Conclusions amidst smoke

We are well aware that present and future generations urgently need to be protected from the devastating consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke.

Governments are using tobacco control measures under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) to reduce the prevalence of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke.

On the other hand, it is true that the tobacco industry has always seen young people as a target because they are more vulnerable to advertising manipulation. Preventing youth consumption will go a long way toward preventing global tobacco use.

Quitting may not be easy, but I believe that a plan of action is always necessary, although planning so far ahead may not be the best option. As far as I have noticed, most ex-smokers who have quit on their own have not over-planned the moment. Rather, they have taken advantage of the need to take control over tobacco, the motivation, and have acted with good results. The only failure is not trying.

A very big problem is that smokers claim that they are not harming anyone because tobacco does not alter perception, personality, or behavior. But they forget that secondhand smoke is harmful to everyone else, that being a person who smells like an ashtray all day is disgusting, that having yellow fingernails is detestable, to name a few.

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