The yearly celebration ‘World No Tobacco Day’ warns the public on the dangers of using tobacco, informs the business practices of tobacco companies, and explores what people around the world can do to claim their right to well-being and healthy living as well as protecting future generations. “The Member State of the WHO, created World No Tobacco Day in 1987 to draw global attention to the tobacco epidemic and the preventable death and disease it causes”(1).
Why do people smoke?
If smoking causes so much harm, why do people choose to smoke? Prof. Vahid Mazidi Sharafabadi, from the School of Sociology at Tehran University in Iran, conducted an extensive study entitled ‘Causes of Smoking and its Solutions’. According to this study, some of the reasons why people smoke are as follows: being accustomed to smoking; it becomes a habit; it is recreation and entertainment; it is a fun behaviour; it promotes relaxation; it gives a sense of dignity and pride, etc.
The negative effects
Tobacco use has predominantly negative effects on human health. Tobacco smoke contains more than 70 chemicals that cause cancer. Tobacco contains nicotine, which is a highly addictive psychoactive drug. When tobacco is smoked, nicotine causes physical and psychological dependency.
Tobacco use is the single greatest cause of preventable death globally. As many as half the people who use tobacco die from complications of tobacco use. The WHO estimates that each year tobacco causes about 8 million deaths (about 10% of all deaths) with 600,000 of these occurring in non-smokers due to second-hand smoke (passive smoking). In the 20thcentury, tobacco is estimated to have caused 100 million deaths.
Among the WHO regions about the use of tobacco, Europe has the highest prevalence of tobacco smoking among adults (28%) and some of the highest prevalence of tobacco use by adolescents (12% - less than 16 years). While tobacco use was previously largely a male phenomenon, the gap in prevalence between male and female adults is getting smaller (9%).
Compared to the rest of the world, the WHO European region has one of the highest proportions of deaths attributable to tobacco use (passive smoking). WHO has estimated that tobacco use is currently responsible for 16% of all deaths in adults over 30 in the European region, with many of these deaths occurring prematurely.
The three dimensions
“Tobacco causes damages in three dimensions,” explained Dr. Giacomo Mangiaracina, Adventist scientist and leading expert on the study of tobacco in Italy, during an interview with the EUDnews. “First, the person (toxicity, addiction, chronic disease, tumor-causing, damage to the reproductive system), then the economy (health and social expenses, smuggling, crime, poverty, and exploitation), and finally the environment (contamination of water, air and soil, depletion of crops, deforestation, fires, and urban cleanliness).” Thus, harm from smoking is a multidimensional harm: harm to health and life, harm to the environment, and harm to a nation's economy.
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“We have to keep in mind that smoking is not a vice nor a social behaviour but a pathological addiction,” continued Dr. Mangiariacina in a recent video interview, “therefore, a smoker is a tobacco addict.”
Treating smoking is like freeing a person from slavery,” highlighted Dr. Mangiariacina. “Tobacco treatment is a liberation! The ones who quit smoking gain dignity, health, and a lot of money. Saving the money of cigarettes during a lifetime could allow you to buy a house.”
Prevention and treatments
“Prevention is very important, but unfortunately several states, who are supposed to take care of it, often do not,” argued Dr. Mangiaracina. So, prevention is left to the private sector, to private organisations. This is a handicap because private organisations do not have the budgets that the state might have. Thus, prevention has less impact and that’s a boomerang for the states, because the state earns money from the sale of cigarettes but then loses twice as much to treat the tobacco patients.
Quitting smoking is not an act, but a process that takes usually its time. The main treatment today is tobacco counselling, following a smoker step by step. It is not about methods to stop smoking, but about professionals who are trained to help smokers to get rid of their addiction. “Therapy alone is not enough, it must be accompanied by counselling,” underlined Dr. Mangiaracina. The smoker has to see his therapist on a regular basis. In many countries, there are also distance support centres, via the internet, to assist smokers at a distance - also because of the pandemic. Smokers can also be looked after from home.
ADRA Europe (Adventist Development and Relief Agency European branch) is active in the field of promoting tobacco prevention. All ADRA agencies in Europe are involved in fighting against the effects of tobacco, contributing to the promotion of the No Tobacco Day.
Adventist Development and Relief Agency International is a humanitarian agency operated by the Seventh-day Adventist Church for the purpose of providing individual and community development and disaster relief.