Tobacco Dependence: A Global Epidemic
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International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) has recognized tobacco dependence as a disease. So it comes as no surprise that the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization (WHO) has categorized tobacco as a Category I Carcinogen (confirmed human carcinogen).
Now, as we near the No Tobacco Day on the 31st of May, some sectors are taking up this cause seriously. As quoted in the February 23rd, 2014 edition of Mumbai Mirror, a state level committee for tobacco control had issued a circular on November 2013 in Rajasthan denying government jobs for tobacco users (smoking and chewing). This comes as a relief post an estimate stating that in India, tobacco causes 40 to 50% of all cancers in men and about 17 to 20% in women.
Unless immediate action is taken, WHO predicts that by 2030, there will be 8 million deaths every year out of which more than 80% of tobacco deaths will be in developing countries. Numerous studies and research have been published confirming the inevitable dangers of this silent demon. While we all are aware about passive smoking or second-hand smoking, there seems to be growing evidence regarding health hazards of third-hand smoking (THS) as well. THS is the infectivity that persists in the air after a cigarette butt is extinguished. You can smell the lingering pungent odor in the smokers’ hair, clothes, and upholstery hours or even days after the cigarette has been put out. Research has stated that inhaling this cocktail of toxins could prove fatal to any person’s health especially infants and children.
A research published in the Tobacco Control Journal states that THS accumulates in smokers' homes and persists when smokers move out even after homes remain vacant for 2 months and are cleaned and prepared for new residents. When non-smokers move into homes that were formerly occupied by smokers, they encounter indoor environments laden with THS polluted surfaces and dust. Results suggest that non-smokers living in former smoker homes are exposed to THS via dust on surfaces. These remnants combine with common air pollutants to form cancer-causing compounds that can remain on for many years. Apart from posing itself as a serious cancer risk, third-hand smoke has been known to trigger allergic reactions and asthma attacks as well.
This is shocking news indeed, because until a few years ago, researchers were only aware about the harmful effects of second-hand smoke. Now, THS is the new devil on the block and it will be here to stay as long as cigarettes are around.
It is scary to imagine that a small piece of paper-wrapped nicotine could do a world of harm, not just to the smoker, but to the people who choose to stay healthy as well. Do they really deserve this? Do our future generations deserve this? Definitely not. So why not stop today?