The American Cancer Society (ACS) celebrates World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) every year on May 31. As always, the World Health Organization (WHO) draws worldwide attention to the threat while the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are poised to highlight the need for effective policies. The world as a whole is ready to lend a helping hand but what are you, dear smoker, doing this day? Blowing smoke rings in the air?
Pause for a second and think whether this day, and the message it stands for, has ever had an effect on you.
You must have come across hundreds of pamphlets and brochures underscoring the harmful effects of cigarette smoking and you might have seen yourself tossing them away without a second thought.
“Useless information”, you might have said indifferently, “I smoke and I’m healthy.”
First off, let us rebuff the notion that there is anything such as a healthy smoker. What you are mistaking for ‘health’ is just the absence of smoking-related illnesses that have not transpired. Yet.
Don’t get complacent–they will transpire soon. With each cigarette puff, you are inching towards the dreadful health risks associated with smoking. You may be lucky today but you won’t always be.
Think about it — all the smoking-related facts and data released by the WHO, CDC and the ACS is not just statistical gibberish meant to be hurled away. The data is there to tell you why smoking is injurious to health as well as all the dire repercussions related to it.
If smoking were not dangerous, you would not be seeing glaring warnings such as ’Smoking Kills’ or ‘Cigarettes Cause Fatal Lung Diseases’ on cigarette packs. Come to think of it, why would a tobacco company want to lose their clientele by giving them such scary warnings? Such warnings would hurt their sales, wouldn’t they?
The truth is that these warnings are there for a reason – smoking does kill! The bitter truth is that tobacco companies kill their best customers.
According to the WHO, tobacco use kills around 6 million people each year. This is a worrying sum because it means that 6 million people suffer from ‘preventable’ causes of death. The question then arises that why has cigarette smoking managed to stay in fashion so much, despite the dire health warnings and harmful consequences related to it?
Perhaps if it were not for the movies and their irresistibly charming characters and physically fit models stylishly smoking away on cigarettes, smoking might not have had such a strong impact on our lives.
Let us now look at why people smoke and how cigarette promotion and advertisements increase the likelihood of cigarette smoking in the population.
Why People Smoke
Despite being aware of the harmful consequences of smoking, there are millions of smokers around the world. Barring a few, almost everybody smokes or has smoked in their life. Nowadays, people who do not smoke are unheard of. Given their astonishing numbers and the widespread prevalence of smoking, doctors and researchers often wonder why people smoke.
The answer is pretty simple and straightforward. Most smokers indulge in this habit from a very young age, i.e. when they are in their teens, and cannot make a distinction between social trends and health risks. A person in his or her teens is at that young stage in life, where he or she is usually healthy. He or she does not think of, let alone rationalize, the potential addictive effects of smoking.
Nicotine has an addiction potential — its ill effects do not appear overnight but take years to damage organs. It is hard to convince teenagers of the side effects of smoking, since being in the prime of their lives, they hardly pause to consider the harmful effects of cigarettes.
Some people start smoking to fight stress or depression while others do it just for the heck of it and as a way to kill boredom. Whatever the reason for starting smoking, such people become quickly addicted and unknowingly committed to this nasty habit for life.
Impact Of Tobacco Advertising And Promotion On Increasing The Likelihood Of Smoking Among Consumers
Cigarette smoking is a huge threat to health but that’s not the manufacturer’s concern. The colorful promotions and advertisements are necessary to lure the prey – you!
Such advertisements subtly insinuate that smoking is cool, and if you do not take it up, you’ll miss out on something really ‘in’. Even looking at them, you may be totally oblivious of the convincing impact of such advertisements.
Studies consistently suggest a relationship between tobacco promotion and advertising and the likelihood of smoking in young adults. According to a longitudinal review of nine studies including 12,000 baseline nonsmokers aged 18 and younger, it was noted that the degree of receptivity and vulnerability among these adolescents was strongly linked with tobacco advertisements. Adolescents were found to be ‘enticed’ by the advertisements and developed an urge to experiment with cigarettes.
Another study found out that retail tobacco marketing and price promotion is a strong magnet for teenagers. Countries with more retail marketing not only have a high number of smokers but people also tend to have positive attitudes about smoking.
Why Is Smoking Called A Killer?
Contrary to the belief that smoking is injurious for your lungs only, cigarette smoking harms nearly every organ of your body. Smoking is called a killer because it increases your risk of developing:
- Lung cancer by 25 times
- Coronary heart disease (CHD) by 2-4 times
- Stroke by 2-4 times
- Death from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) by 12-13 times
- Asthma exacerbations
- Infertility, particularly in women
According to CDC, stroke and CHD are the leading causes of death in the US. In fact, smoking as few as five cigarettes per day puts you at a high risk of cardiovascular disease.
Smoking can cause cancer not just in lungs but in any other part of the body, be it the bladder, cervix, stomach, pancreas, liver, colon, rectum, blood, or kidneys.
According to CDC, if nobody smoked, one of every three cancer deaths in the US could be prevented.
WHO Efforts To Reduce Smoking
According to the WHO, cigarettes will now be available in plain packaging to limit their use and make them less attractive to consumers. The WHO is encouraging all countries to adopt the law and facilitate smoking cessation in their populations. Australia, UK, and France have already passed laws to implement plain packaging. Several other countries are also expected to implement the law soon.
Health Benefits Of Quitting And Potential Impact of ‘No Tobacco Day’
Quitting smoking has a number of health benefits. According to CDC, if you quit smoking today, you will:
- Reduce your risk of a heart attack within 1 year of quitting.
- Have a lower risk of stroke, i.e., within 2-5 years, the likelihood of you having a stroke will reduce to about the same as a nonsmoker’s.
- Reduce your chances of having mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder cancer by at least a half, within 5 years of quitting.
- Have a reduced risk of ulcer, peripheral artery disease, and other cancers, i.e. of the larynx, lung and cervix.
- Have a reduced risk of low-birth weight baby if you quit just before pregnancy or during your first trimester.