World No Tobacco Day provides an ideal platform to launch various anti-tobacco campaigns, rallies, marches, and public debates, involving people from all walks of life. It also highlights the unscrupulous business tactics of tobacco companies that primarily target the vulnerable and gullible youth community and what WHO is doing to fight this scourge. It also provides guidance on how people can contribute to the fight to gain their right to a healthy life.
advocates for the creation of more conducive environments that will help people to quit tobacco more easily. It also encompasses other related areas, such as the following:
Campaign was launched on 8th December 2020 that has culminated in this year’s World No Tobacco Day celebrations. This campaign aims to support at least 100 million tobacco users to quit the habit.
WHO plans to create digital communities in high burden countries where the tobacco problem is most rampant. It is envisaged that these virtual communities will provide social and moral support to people who want to quit.
It is encouraging to know that many private players have pledged to support this campaign. These companies include Amazon Web Services, Facebook, WhatsApp, Google, Cipla, and Johnson & Johnson, among many others. The campaign has been launched in 22 countries so far, including India.
Tobacco: Facts & Figures
- 8 million people are killed by tobacco products every year
- 1 million people die annually from exposure to second-hand smoke
- 20 types of cancer are caused by tobacco, including oral cancer and cancers of the lips, throat, and food pipe (esophagus)
- Second-hand smoke exposure increases the risk of developing
- 1 in 5 adults smoke worldwide
- 50 percent of smokers die above the age of 70 years
- Smokers are 22x more likely to develop lung cancer than non-smokers
What about E-Cigarettes?
e-cigarettes are highly notorious and just as bad as conventional cigarettes. A few facts about e-cigarettes are presented below:
- E-cigarettes can expose non-smokers to nicotine and other toxic chemicals
- E-cigarettes can explode, thereby causing serious burns and injuries
- E-cigarettes can increase the risk of heart and lung diseases
Why is it Important to Quit Tobacco?
There are numerous reasons to quit tobacco. WHO has cited over 100 reasons, of which a few important ones have been cited below. Thus, quitting tobacco brings about the following:
- Prevents staining of teeth, bad breath (halitosis), excess plaque formation, gum disease and reduces the risk of oral cancer
premature aging and wrinkling of the skin
- Reduces the risk of developing
- Reduces the risk of asthma and ear infections in children due to second-hand smoke exposure
- Reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases
- Reduces the risk of acute myeloid leukemia, and cancers of the nasal sinuses, colon, kidney, liver, pancreas, stomach, ovaries, and urinary tract
- Prevents early loss of vision and hearing
- Reduces the risk for miscarriages and stillbirths in pregnant women
- Reduces environmental pollution caused by cigarette smoke and cigarette butts
Tobacco & COVID-19 – A Dangerous Combination!
Smoking significantly increases the risk of COVID-19, since both damage the lungs and thus, will have a cumulative effect.
Smokers inhale toxic chemicals, which not only damage the airways and lungs but also deprives the body of oxygen, thereby making them more prone to developing pneumonia and other life-threatening respiratory conditions. Also, since hand-to-mouth contact is very frequent in smokers, it significantly increases the chances of infection of the oral cavity by the virus.
In communal and social settings hookahs are often shared between individuals, as a result of which infection can spread through the shared mouthpieces and hoses.
Smokeless tobacco products, such as gutka, pan masala, snuff, khaini, and betel quid are also unsafe as spitting is involved, which elevates the chances of virus transmission.
Even preparation of these products with contaminated fingers can significantly increase the risk of infection. Moreover, it has been recently reported that COVID-19 disease progression is significantly accelerated in smokers, compared to non-smokers.
Quitting Tobacco During COVID-19: An Ideal Opportunity to Kick the Habit!
Soon after it was reported that COVID-19 complications can be more severe in smokers, many wanted to kick the habit. In fact, 780 million tobacco users worldwide have expressed their intent to quit. But only 30 percent have access to the tools required for quitting. WHO is trying to bridge this gap.
Quitting is not easy. It requires sustained commitment and a firm mindset to succeed. Despite the fact that the pandemic has caused much turmoil in our societies and economies, it also has a silver lining. It provides an ideal opportunity to quit tobacco once and for all.
Experts believe that if it is possible to cut down or even completely abstain from tobacco products during the extended lockdown periods, then why not forever? The pandemic has enlightened people about the dangers of respiratory disorders and the importance of immunity. They are now more conscious about their health than ever before.
Hence, the time is opportune to launch a campaign to encourage people to quit tobacco products for good, and this is exactly what WHO is doing. All it needs is a firm resolve on the part of the tobacco consumers themselves to quit. Hence, there’s no time like the present to kick the habit.
Despite the fact that tobacco is still an ongoing problem in society, it is encouraging to note that the tide is turning. Many tobacco companies have undergone a metamorphosis and have diversified into other areas.
Most notably, the famous “Imperial Tobacco Company”, better known as “ITC” has shifted to fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), which includes popular brands, such as Aashirvaad, Bingo, Sunfeast, Vivel, Fiama, and Savlon, to name a few. Therefore, ending on an optimistic note, it is hoped that in the not-too-distant future, we could have a tobacco-free world, for which the coming generations will be thankful to us.
- World No Tobacco Day – World Health Organization – (https://www.who.int/campaigns/world-no-tobacco-day)
- WHO launches year-long campaign to help 100 million people quit tobacco – World Health Organization – (https://www.who.int/news/item/08-12-2020-who-launches-year-long-campaign-to-help-100-million-people-quit-tobacco)
- More than 100 reasons to quit tobacco – World Health Organization – (https://www.who.int/news-room/spotlight/more-than-100-reasons-to-quit-tobacco)
- Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Tobacco – World Health Organization – (https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/question-and-answers-hub/q-a-detail/coronavirus-disease-covid-19-tobacco)
- Patanavanich and Glantz. Smoking is associated with COVID-19 progression: A meta-analysis. Nicotine Tob Res. 2020; 22(9): 1653-6. – (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32399563/)