Friday, September 20, 2019 | ePaper

World No Tobacco Day

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Altaf Hussain :
he World Health Organization (WHO) designed May 31 of every year as the annual World No Tobacco Day (WNTD). The focus of World No Tobacco Day 2019 is ‘Tobacco and Lung Health.’ Tobacco use kills 7 million people a year, according to WHO.
The annual campaign is an opportunity to raise awareness on the harmful and deadly effects of tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure, and to discourage the use of tobacco in any form.
Effects of Cigarette Smoking on Environment and Human Health
Cigarette smoking causes environmental pollution by releasing toxic air pollutants into the atmosphere. The cigarette butts also litter the environment and the toxic chemicals in the remains seep into soils and waterways therefore causing soil and pollution respectively. Animals and plants that come into contact or absorb the toxic substances from the cigarette residues are affected as well.
A major cause of deforestation
The cycle of pollution by cigarettes begins with tobacco farming, which promotes deforestation and desertification. Tobacco farms require cleared land to grow crops. Then more wood is needed: to dry and cure the tobacco leaves by fire (quicker than using sun and air), to build the curing barn itself, and to make paper tubes and cardboard packaging for those trillions of cigarettes produced annually. All told, an estimated 200,000 hectares of forest succumbs yearly to tobacco interests (600 million trees alone for curing and drying fires), mainly in developing countries in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean-where environmental laws are terribly lax, if at all existent.
Tobacco farming accounts for about 1 per cent of land use, yet causes deforestation. By eliminating so many trees - those great absorbers of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas - tobacco farming significantly contributes to global warming and climate change. Much of this deforestation is done slash-and-burn style, in which farmers burn the trees they fell, releasing even more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Generation of huge amounts of toxic waste
The entire process of cultivating, curing, and transporting tobacco needs the use of large amount of chemical and other toxic materials. At the same time, the production process generates huge amounts of wastes such as harmful chemical pesticides and fertilizers. One of the habitually used substances in the production process is known as Aldicarb. It’s highly toxic to humans, plants and animals and can seep into waterways and intoxicate the soil for several years.
Even filthier air
Obviously, Air pollution is another serious consequence of smoking. Tobacco smoke contains over 170 toxins, including arsenic, benzene and hydrogen cyanide. Thirty-three of these toxins are classified as hazardous air pollutants and 67 are known human or animal carcinogens. Also present are trace amounts of radioactive material, as the tobacco plant absorbs lead-210 and polonium-210 from the soil in which it grows. Radiation is released into the atmosphere when cigarettes are smoked, and can also leach into soil and water through discarded butts.
Direct risks to human health
Surveys and clinical studies prove that smoking cigarettes cause several health risks for humans. The following are the health risks associated with regular smoking. Smoking is one of the leading causes of lung cancer deaths in the world.
The smoke contains carcinogenic particles which increase smokers’ risk of developing cancers of the lungs, esophagus, throat and larynx. Smoking is also associated with cancers of the bladder, pancreas, lips, kidney, uterus and cervix. Smoking suppresses the body's immune system thus increasing vulnerability to infections and diseases. For this reason, smokers are vulnerable to respiratory infections. Further, it causes numerous autoimmune diseases including rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease. It equally plays a role in the periodic flare-ups of autoimmune diseases.
Smoking leads to premature death because of the associated health risks including respiratory, cancer and vascular diseases. Smokers’ lives are shortened by at least 10 years compared to non-smokers. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 5 million deaths each year.
Smoking narrows blood vessels hence restricting blood circulation to the heart, brain and other critical organs. It also increases the likelihood of blood clotting in the legs and lungs. Altogether, there is heightened possibility of smokers becoming vulnerable to heart attack and stroke.
Smoking pregnant women or those exposed to second hand smoke are at higher risks of developing complications during birth. They may also experience a wide range of congenital disorders.
Forests and houses up in smoke
Tobacco gives us deforestation and desertification. It creates leachates of pesticides, radiation and heavy metals that lead to air, land and water pollution. But the most direct and preventable catastrophe the smoking of tobacco causes - catastrophic at least to the affected creatures and habitats - is fire. Carelessly discarded butts are responsible for perhaps 10 per cent of the world’s forest fires. This may be the saddest statistic of all. While the other detriments discussed here spring from production and consumption of the tobacco product itself, forest fires require an external ingredient: human carelessness. In fact, cigarette smoking is exactly that: an act of human carelessness. Perhaps with more thoughtfulness will come less smoking.
Air pollution through smoking
Carbon dioxide, methane and other noxious chemicals are present in second hand smoke which causes air pollution through smoking. As much as methane and carbon dioxide are not deadly to smokers, the gases do add to the general atmospheric pollution.
Smoking globally emits nearly 2.6 billion kilograms of carbon dioxide and 5.2 billion kilograms of methane into the atmosphere each year. This provides a clear picture of how smoking alone contributes to climate change. Second hand smoke as discussed earlier also poses indirect health risk such as cancer to other people and animals.

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