To smoke is to breathe in smoke through cigarettes, cigars, pipes and to let it out again. Those who inhale smoke are called smokers and those who smoke tobacco regularly are called heavy smokers or chain smokers. Smoking is not a must like food and drink. However, many people are addicted to smoking to such an extent that they say that they can live for days without food and drink but not without a smoke. There is a limit to the quantity of food and drink that a human being can consume because after a while the consumer loses his appetite but in the case of smoking there is no limit, There are smokers who light cigarettes, cigars or beedi one after the other and those who have the pipe always in the mouth .Such persons are called chain smokers.
Unfortunately many people in countries in every corner of the world have got into the habit of smoking. Young people get into this habit by imitating their elders including their parents and other senior members in the family, associates and friends. At later stages most of those who are addicted to smoke realize the ill - effects of smoking but once they start smoking it is hard to break the habit. This is the very reason why smoking is sometimes referred as the most difficult drug to give up.
Smoking and drug addiction
Although smoking does not belong to the category of hard drugs it brings extremely harmful effects in the long run.
Nicotine can be physiological, psychological or both. People who are physically dependent on nicotine find that their bodies have become used to function when nicotine is present and many of them experience withdrawal symptoms when they reduce their nicotine intake.
Urge to smoke
People who psychologically depend on nicotine may find that they feel an urge to smoke when they are in specific surroundings such as pubs or liquor shops and in particular situations such as lunch breaks or socials in which friends come together. Research has shown that smoking is associated with different roles meaning for smoker, such as social roles such as enjoyment of the company of friends, emotional roles such as helping themselves to deal with stress and anxiety and providing “companionship” and temporal roles connecting to the flow of events or time in the smokers’ day providing a break from work or activities and relieving boredom.
Harmful effects of smoking on the Human body
The effects of smoking on human health are very serious and in many cases deadly. There are approximately 4,000 chemicals in cigarettes, hundreds of which are toxic or containing poison. The ingredients in cigarettes affect everything from the internal functioning of organs to the efficiency of the body’s immune system.
The effects of cigarette smoking are destructive and widespread. Toxic ingredients in cigarette smoking travel throughout the body causing damage in several ways. Nicotine reaches every part of the body and mixes up even with the breast milk of feeding mothers. Carbon monoxide binds to hemoglobin - the red substance in the blood that carries oxygen. The affected cells are then prevented from carrying the full load of oxygen
Tobacco causes a number of cancers
Carcinogens or substances that cause cancer are contained in tobacco smoke. These substances damage important genes that control the growth of cells, causing them to grow abnormally or to reproduce too rapidly. The carcinogen benzo (a) pyrene binds to cells in the air - way or the passage from the nose and throat to the lungs, through which one breathes and the major organs of smokers. Further, smoking affects the functioning of the immune system and may increase the risk of respiratory and other infections. Damages caused to smokers are many and numerous.
The chemical in the cells that carry generic information gets affected. Antioxidants are produced in the body to repair damaged cells.but smoking is associated with higher levels of chronic inflammation. This is another damaging process that may result in oxidative stress.
Tobacco smoking contributes to a number of cancers. Tar coats in lungs are like soot in a chimney and causes cancer. A 20- a- day smoker breathes in up to a full cup (210 g) of tar in a year. Lung cancer from smoking is caused by the tar in tobacco smoke. Men who smoke are ten times more likely to die from lung cancer than non smokers
Heart attacks and strokes
The mixture of nicotine and carbon - monoxide in each cigarette one smokes temporarily increases one’s heart rate and blood pressure straining one’s heart and blood vessels. This can cause heart attacks and strokes. It slows one’s blood flow, cuffing oxygen to one’s feet and hands. Heart diseases and strokes are also more common among smokers than non - smokers. Carbon monoxide robs one’s muscles, brain and body tissues of oxygen making one’s whole body and especially one’s heart work harder
Gradual way to die
Thus smoking causes diseases and is a gradual way to die. The strain put on one’s body by smoking often causes years of suffering. Emphysema is an illness that slowly rots one’s lungs. People with emphysema often get bronchitis again and again and suffer lung and heart failure.
Smoking causes fat deposits to narrow and block blood vessels which lead to heart attack.
If a person who is dependent on the nicotine in tobacco suddenly stops using it or reduces the amount he or she uses he or she will experience withdrawal symptoms because his or her body has to be readjusted to functioning without drugs.
Symptoms include craving, irritability, agitation, depression and anxiety insomnia or the condition of being unable to sleep, increased appetite and weight gain, restlessness and loss of concentration, headache, coughing and sore throat, aches and pains in the body.
However, most of these are temporary ailments which can be endured by those who possess the will power.
Benefits of giving up smoking
It should be mentioned that life is precious for any human being and good health is necessary for any one to live long. As has been already pointed out smoking is the root cause of a number of ailments such as cancer, T.B. heart diseases etc. and by quitting smoking or stopping the use of tobacco the threat of these health hazards can be avoided.
World No Tobacco day captions refer to the health hazards of smoking. “Tobacco - health warning” in 2009” “Tobacco- deadly in any form or disguise” in 2006, Tobacco kills Don’t be duped” in 2000, “Health services - our window to a tobacco free world” in 1993 are warnings against tobacco.
Economic gains by not smoking
Secondly smokers spend a major part of their income on tobacco. The price of a cigarette is about Rs. 18/ and a person who smokes twenty cigarettes per day burns Rs. 360/+ per day and later in his life he will need more than that amount for medical treatment.
Hence by quitting smoking one can make himself and his family economically sound. The caption for 2004 World No Tobacco “Poverty, a vicious circle” indicates this.
Non smokers affected by smokers in public places
Smokers destroy not only themselves but also the environment. Some persons in the vicinity are affected adversely when someone smokes. Inmates in the house inhale the smoke puffed out by smokers.
When someone smokes in a pub or a public place the others in the crowd inhale the smoke in spite of the fact that they are non-smokers.
These people who suffer due to the smoking of others are referred to as passive smokers. The caption for 1991 and 1992 No Tobacco dDy indicates the ill effects of smoking in public places.
Global attention to tobacco epidemic
A number of states in the World Health Organization created World No Tobacco day in 1987 to draw global attention to the tobacco epidemic and the preventable deaths and diseases it causes.
In 1987 the world Health assembly passed a resolution (WHA 40.38) calling for 07 April, 1988 to be the “World No Smoking Day. In 1988 a resolution (WHAS 42,19) was passed calling for the celebration of World No Tobacco Day, every year on the 31st May.
By Gamini Jayasinghe
Dailymirror, 31 May 2010